Connecting the Dots!

I enjoyed listening to the Ted Talk, and was reminded of a small group task which one of our teacher assigned us in our senior secondary school. The task was simple, to pick up the text books kept on one side of the lecture hall and to carry them across the lecture hall and stack the books over there. She did not mention anything else about the task and continued reading something on her table. We were around 15 students in the class that day and we were not quite sure why were we asked to do this silly exercise. However, we did not question the teacher and obeyed the instructions. Once we completed the task, she asked us to repeat the task by carrying the books back to their original place. We were a bit annoyed but we still did not question and as ‘good students’ repeated the task assigned to us. Again, when we finished she asked us to repeat the task. Few of us were becoming impatient but were not brave enough to question the teacher that why are we doing it. After repeating the task for about 10 times, one of us finally figured out, we are doing something wrong and that is why we are being asked to do it again and again. By then we were all tired of doing this task as well. The classmate, who sensed that we were doing something wrong looked at the teacher for any hints, however, the teacher acted as if she did not see that student. The classmate thought for a bit, looked at us, and then asked all of us to stand in a horizontal line instead of each of us picking the books and carrying it to the other side of the class. Then he mentioned let us just pass books to each other instead of each of us walking across the lecture hall. This time we completed the task according to that classmate and were able to complete the task more effortlessly and saved time than before. The teacher at this point smiled at us and said did you learn something by completing the task.

This task was not the part of our regular class but we did not even thought once why we were assigned this task, and just followed the instructions. The teacher wanted us to understand the importance of teamwork. She had an objective while assigning this task. However, we did not know the hidden objective, still, we blindly followed the instructions. And when I was listening to this Ted Talk, I realized that this activity had another lesson which was to question. Question our-self, our peers, our teachers before we begin a task. In fact, this is more important than completing the task. Through this story, I would also like to highlight that being a ‘good student’ does not mean not questioning your teacher or your peers but to question, commit mistakes, learn from the mistakes and make new mistakes.

I had a great time with all you wonderful people!

Being Critical of Critical Pedagogy!

When I was reading chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, it was more like I was reading the applications of ‘Mindfulness’.  One of the issues brought up in this article was about power dynamics in a class setting and how certain actions of the student could make them disrespectful to the teachers. It actually happened with me and my friends in one of our history classes in high school. I remember some of us (students) questioning on the events that our history teacher was discussing, and which we did not agree to but were stopped in between and were seen as bad students who did not respect teachers and consider themselves knowing more than the teacher in the class. Us questioning was seen as disrespectful to the teacher which was never our intention (of course).

In theory and for discussion purposes, critical pedagogy seems to be so ideal and so important but it is hard to implement. The onus is on the teacher to take charge of what is been taught, why is it being taught and how it is being taught. But, it is difficult to implement it in the class. And it is difficult because it is not easy to take criticism from students. Teachers are considered to be the ones who deliver knowledge to the students and the preconceived notion is that teachers cannot be questioned. It is time to change the stereotype and make the class, an environment to be a two-way process for both teachers and students.

 

My biases, I did not know of

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way that they learn.

Ignacio Estrada

I was not planning on writing the blog post this week but after reading several blogs, I had some questions and several thoughts which I would like to pen down through this post.

When I was reading the post titled ‘How the hidden brain does the thinking for us’, I was reminded of an incident in one of my classes (Grade 1) where we were awarded a ‘Red Star’ when we did well in a class test and were given a ‘Black star’ when we did not. Although the intention of this exercise was not bad i.e. to encourage students to perform better in class. But it did create a bias early on in my and my classmates’ mind that getting a black star is not good. And that bias might have impacted my decisions several times in my life. I would have gone on an auto-pilot mode without even thinking that I might be doing something which may hurt someone’s feelings.

Another incident which comes across my mind is that when I was around 7 years old, playing with my cousin who was a year younger. One of our relatives came to visit us and brought gifts for both of us. They bought a car and a kitchen set. Who do you think got the car and who do you think got the kitchen set?  Well, the guest just kept the gifts without mentioning which gift is for whom. My brother, who was younger to me, wanted to go first, although I was not very happy with him choosing first, I let him do so. However, I did this for a reason and that is I was very sure that he will choose a car and the kitchen set will still be mine. But it did not happen the way I thought, he chose the kitchen set instead. And rest is history (We settled our scores without involving the elders and may not be relevant for this post). But my point here is that who told me that he would choose a car and not the kitchen set? Well no one directly, but, most of my family members indirectly.  This was another bias created by most of my family members by bringing in toys which were related to home decoration, home-building, barbies, etc. for me. While my cousin brother had toys which were mostly cars, guns, etc. But the readings for this week have taught me about something which may be important for knowing to be a teacher but is also important to know otherwise.

When I read these posts, I realize how difficult it is to overcome one’s biases and make a class, a place which is safe for each and every student in there. The readings have made me more respectful towards the teaching profession and I would like to thank them for creating an environment which is open and safe and where we can speak up without being judged or discriminated. I would like to conclude by saying that discussions on such topics should be done more often and with people having an opinion not similar to yours. This will not only educate you on some of the issues you were unaware of but also understand their perspective.

 

 

 

Discovering one’s Authentic Teaching Self

When I started penning down my thoughts for this post, I imagined myself as a teacher, teaching something I want people to know about, something which I will be able to contribute as a teacher, and providing my students sufficient information so that they can make a decision on whether their like/dislike that particular subject. I think it is important for a teacher to realize that the subject he/she is teaching may not be the favorite subject of the students and so it should not be implied that the students will have the same passion for the subject as the teacher has.

Further, when I began thinking about what kind of teacher I am or want to be. I started to recall all my previous teachers and what I found common was that all the teachers had a more narrative style of teaching, however, their styles were different from each other. Maybe that is the reason I still remember what I learned in those classes and could connect to those lessons in real life scenarios. For the same reason, I would like to imagine myself more as a ‘storyteller’ than a teacher. Though, I realize that it does not work always. But I would like to interact as a storyteller as and when possible.

I would like to share a small instructing experience from my Masters here. Although it is not related to storytelling. I was an instructor in my Masters for a surveying lab of the undergraduate students which was more like an instruction-oriented class where there were set procedures to use equipment and perform the analysis. Most of the activities for this class was conducted in groups and it was a bit tricky to know if each of the group members is involved in conducting the experiment. In every lab class, before I began instructing the students, I used to point out to my students, what is the relevance of the exercise and at the end of the 3-hour lab would randomly pick a person from each group to talk about the fun and the boring part of the exercise. This was just a small action to make them speak up about their experiment and be more involved in the activity. In order to make most group members participate, I would give an extra point to the group, if all the members spoke something. This made them take a little more interest than they would have been. The point I am trying to make through this example is I cared less about their procedures or analysis as it could have been learned by any manual whenever they would need to do it. But it is important for them to understand the objective of the exercise.

In the future, when I would teach, I would try to incorporate the narrative style to deliver what I want the students to know and at the same time make sure that my students should know why they are doing, what they are doing.

Network Learning

Networked Learning is gaining attention these days but started becoming prominence from early 1990s. Here, the key term is ‘network’ which means making connection and building them. To my understanding, the process of network learning include making connections not just with people and organizations but with information as well. These connections are necessary to expand one’s knowledge and share their understanding of a topic in their network for people to gain knowledge.  Applications of networked learning ranges from medicine industry to city development.

I am PhD student working on development of smart cities in developing nations and a lot of smartness in smart cities is brought by technology. World wide web and access to cheap internet has opened up a number of avenues to increase the efficiency not just in delivering the final product but also in the planning and development phase. Moreover,  web based/app based platforms provide us a medium to collaborate as well as coordinate our efforts to achieve products which are efficient and better than the available products.  there are platforms being designed where the implementers including the municipalities can interact with their peers and get critiques as well as suggestions for improvement, in addition to directing them to resources where the issues can be resolved.