3 Rules to Spark Learning

You know, questions and curiosity like Maddie’s are magnets that draw us towards our teachers, and they transcend all technology or buzzwords in education. But if we place these technologies before student inquiry, we can be robbing ourselves of our greatest tool as teachers: our students’ questions. For example, flipping a boring lecture from the classroom to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter just wrapped up in fancy clothing. But if instead we have the guts to confuse our students, perplex them, and evoke real questions, through those questions, we as teachers have information that we can use to tailor robust and informed methods of blended instruction.
So, 21st-century lingo jargon mumbo jumbo aside, the truth is, I’ve been teaching for 13 years now, and it took a life-threatening situation to snap me out of 10 years of pseudo-teaching and help me realize that student questions are the seeds of real learning, not some scripted curriculum that gave them tidbits of random information.
In May of 2010, at 35 years old, with a two-year-old at home and my second child on the way, I was diagnosed with a large aneurysm at the base of my thoracic aorta. This led to open-heart surgery. This is the actual real email from my doctor right there. Now, when I got this, I was — press Caps Lock — absolutely freaked out, okay? But I found surprising moments of comfort in the confidence that my surgeon embodied. Where did this guy get this confidence, the audacity of it.
So when I asked him, he told me three things. He said first, his curiosity drove him to ask hard questions about the procedure, about what worked and what didn’t work. Second, he embraced, and didn’t fear, the messy process of trial and error, the inevitable process of trial and error. And third, through intense reflection, he gathered the information that he needed to design and revise the procedure, and then, with a steady hand, he saved my life.
Now I absorbed a lot from these words of wisdom, and before I went back into the classroom that fall, I wrote down three rules of my own that I bring to my lesson planning still today. Rule number one: Curiosity comes first. Questions can be windows to great instruction, but not the other way around. Rule number two: Embrace the mess. We’re all teachers. We know learning is ugly. And just because the scientific method is allocated to page five of section 1.2 of chapter one of the one that we all skip, okay, trial and error can still be an informal part of what we do every single day at Sacred Heart Cathedral in room 206. And rule number three: Practice reflection. What we do is important. It deserves our care, but it also deserves our revision. Can we be the surgeons of our classrooms? As if what we are doing one day will save lives. Our students our worth it. And each case is different.
So these are my daughters. On the right we have little Emmalou — Southern family. And, on the left, Riley. Now Riley’s going to be a big girl in a couple weeks here. She’s going to be four years old, and anyone who knows a four-year-old knows that they love to ask, “Why?” Yeah. Why. I could teach this kid anything because she is curious about everything. We all were at that age. But the challenge is really for Riley’s future teachers, the ones she has yet to meet. How will they grow this curiosity?
You see, I would argue that Riley is a metaphor for all kids, and I think dropping out of school comes in many different forms — to the senior who’s checked out before the year’s even begun or that empty desk in the back of an urban middle school’s classroom. But if we as educators leave behind this simple role as disseminators of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry, we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their school day, and spark their imagination.

One thing that can transform education systems

Only thing that primarily differentiates human beings from other animals is their ability to learn. Although all animals can learn some skills but we have outpaced them all by all growth that we have made. So what is that one thing that makes us to learn and do so much more than any other animal. Almost all animals can wonder to some extent about what it is when they see something. Some animals can also wonder How it is done when they need to do something for e.g. we now know that chimpanzees can use tools to get their foods. We even have proofs that chimpanzees can learn language to some extent. But there is one thing that no animal except human being, has asked so far or will ever ask and that is Why

This one ability to ask Why and trying to go in depth of it has made all difference. No other animal raises his head in night and asks what are these blinking small lights in sky? why do I walk, can I fly even without having wings? Why do I need to depend on seasons to get food? Why can’t I grow my own food. This why has made all our progress or for that matter survival possible. 

Now that we know that this asking why is the only differentiating factor between us and other animals, let’s think for a moment how many of us actually ask Why, and if we agree that we don’t do it often, let’s agree that now we will ask why we don’t ask why, that’s what this article is all about. 

This ability to ask why and desire to know is called Curiosity. Curiosity has been the basis for all human growth and learnings. Nothing could have been achieved if human being were not curious about their environment and surroundings. The newton was curious about falling of apple, so were Adam and Eve about the fruits from tree of knowledge. Galileo was curious about universe. So anyone who knew something was driven by desire to know. This basic curiosity is basis for any learning. But do we see this in our education system any more. The children who are going to schools, do they have curiosity to know the content that we teach them. Let’s think for a moment, how many of us actually were excited in morning while going to school that today we will get to know in which year Akbar was born. Still they kept on teaching us. 

I would like to quote famous American educator Abraham Flexner from his paper The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge 

“……….throughout the whole history of science most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.” 

Curiosity comes very naturally to all of us. No one needs to teach it to a child. As he or she grows, we build barriers to it. To quote from book Curious: 

“Curiosity starts with the itch to explore. From a very early age, we display a yearning to conquer the unknown. A 1964 study found that babies as young as two month old, when presented with different patterns, will show a marked preference for the unfamiliar ones. Every parent knows about the child’s compulsion to stick tiny fingers where they are not supposed to go, to run out of the open door, to eat dirt.” 

If curiosity comes so naturally to us, why we lose it as we grow. To a great extent, society needs to be blamed and to some extent we ourselves. Why would society be against curiosity? Because curiosity is unruly, it doesn’t follow rules. Those who are truly curious don’t follow rules set-out by society, they are ask why? And that’s where problem starts. If you don’t agree with me, try recalling what society did to Galileo or Darwin. They were never accepted at large during their time. A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity. 

Secondly, we degrade in curiosity as we age, due to our own laziness built into our DNAs. Curiosity takes effort and our natural instincts is to keep putting efforts always unless we consciously try to. As we grow older, we tend to rely more on what we have learned so far rather than purring efforts to question everything. 

For limited purpose of this article, we will focus on need of curiosity in education. 

There is a big epidemic in education in developed countries, not that there is less supply of school education. The problem is on other side, yes demand is going down. Children don’t want to go to schools they are dropping out. According to latest statistics every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day. If you think the problem is only for developed countries, figures for India are more disheartening. According to survey, between age of 10 to 14 years one in every three children drop out of schools because they are not interested in education. Drop-outs for other reasons are far lesser than this reason of dis-interest. Can you imagine that children don’t want to learn? Isn’t it fundamentally different from our picture of children asking so many questions, always trying to know more. We have failed them, we are teaching them what we want them to learn not what they are curious about. Our education system has taken one essential element out of education that is curiosity. We have made education dead and boring. There is need to bring this back, that’s the only way to create true learners. We don’t need more schools and colleges, we need better ones. We need to find ways to make children hungry to learn, question and create. This one thing i.e. Bringing Curiosity back in our education systems, can change it drastically. Jigyasa is dedicated to that purpose only.

Gaurav Sangtani

The Secret to Learning Anything: Albert Einstein’s Advice to His Son

In 1915, aged thirty-six, Einstein was living in wartorn Berlin, while his estranged wife, Mileva, and their two sons, Hans Albert Einstein and Eduard “Tete” Einstein, lived in comparatively safe Vienna. On November 4 of that year, having just completed the two-page masterpiece that would catapult him into international celebrity and historical glory, his theory of general relativity, Einstein sent 11-year-old Hans Albert the following letter:

 

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your

Papa.

Regards to Mama.

 

Nine Things Educators Need to Know About the Brain

Nice Article taken from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_things_educators_need_to_know_about_the_brain

Here is summary:

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Nine scientific insights that educators might want to keep in mind:

1. The brain is a social organ.

Our brains require stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. A brain without connection to other brains and without sufficient challenge will shrink and eventually die.

2. We have two brains.

Good teachers seek to balance the expression of emotion and cognition, encouraging overly rational students to be aware of and explore their feelings while helping anxious students develop the cognitive capabilities of their left hemispheres to regulate their emotions.

3. Early learning is powerful.

Much of our most important emotional and interpersonal learning occurs during our first few years of life, when our more primitive neural networks are in control. Early experiences shape structures in ways that have a lifelong impact on three of our most vital areas of learning:attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem.

4. Conscious awareness and unconscious processing occur at different speeds, often simultaneously.

Conscious awareness and explicit memory are but a small fraction of the vast amount of neural processing that occurs each millisecond. Because of this, it is especially important to teach students to question their assumptions and the possible influences of past experiences and unconscious biases on their feelings and beliefs.

5. The mind, brain, and body are interwoven.

Physical activity exerts a stimulating influence on the entire brain that keeps it functioning at an optimal level. Exercise has been shown to stimulate the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus and to pump more oxygen through the brain, stimulating capillary growth and frontal-lobe plasticity.

6. The brain has a short attention span and needs repetition and multiple-channel processing for deeper learning to occur.

Curiosity, the urge to explore and the impulse to seek novelty, plays an important role in survival. Because our brains evolved to remain vigilant to a constantly changing environment, we learn better in brief intervals.

7. Fear and stress impair learning.

Evolution has shaped our brains to err on the side of caution and to trigger fear whenever it might be remotely useful. Fear makes us less intelligent because amygdala activation—which occurs as part of the fear response—interferes with prefrontal functioning. Fear also shuts down exploration, makes our thinking more rigid, and drives “neophobia,” the fear of anything new.

8. We analyze others but not ourselves: the primacy of projection.

Our brains have evolved to pay attention to the behaviors and emotions of other people. Not only is this processing complex, but it is lightning fast, shaping our experience of others milliseconds before we even become consciously aware of their presence. We automatically generate a theory of what is on their mind—our ideas about what they know, what their motivations may be, and what they might do next. As a result, we are as quick to think we know others as we are slow to become aware of our own motives and faults.

9. Learning is enhanced by emphasizing the big picture—and then allowing students to discover the details for themselves.

When problems are represented at higher levels of abstraction, learning can be integrated into larger schemas that enhance memory, learning, and cognitive flexibility. Starting with major concepts and repeatedly returning to them during a lecture enhances understanding and memory, a phenomenon that increases when students create their own categories and strategies of organizing information.

Read Full Article at: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/nine_things_educators_need_to_know_about_the_brain

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

Sharing with you come of interesting excerpts of Abraham Flexner’s paper “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”.

“……….through out the whole history of science most of the really great discoveries which had ultimately proved to be beneficial to mankind had been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.

“Curiosity?” asked Mr. Eastman. “Yes,” I replied, “curiosity, which mayor may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It is not new. It goes back to Galileo, Bacon, and to Sir Isaac Newton, and it must be absolutely unhampered. Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity and the less they are deflected by considerations of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest which may indeed be said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.”

Financial Education for Kids

Should children be told about Finance in their earlier education?

There can be different views of this. Some will say children should be exposed to realities of financial world very early in childhood. Others will not agree to it and will say that their childhood should not be distorted with money matters.

This debate will continue, but efforts have already started to give children flavor of Financial world. Recently came across animated series “Secret Millionaires Club”. In Secret Millionaire’s Club, an animated Warren Buffett is a mentor to a group of kids who have adventures in business and learn financial lessons along the way. You can view all episodes at: http://www.smckids.com

The series has very useful lessons for children from none other than world’s best investor ‘Warren Buffet’.

“It’s important for kids to develop good financial habits from an early age and that is what Secret Millionaires Club is all about,” Buffett said. “It’s not intended to teach kids how to read a balance sheet, it’s meant to provide a fun way for kids to understand business and develop good habits from an early age,” he said while talking about the series.

Besides the animated learning series, the site has many useful games for learning about money.

This is not the first time we are seeing Financial Education for kids. There are already many resources available, such as:

Rich Kids Smart Kids : The site and concept is developed by very famous author “Robert Kiyosaki”. He is famous for his book “Rich dad Poor dad”.

The Mint : Launched in 1997, the site provides tools to help parents as well as educators teach children to manage money wisely and develop good financial habits.

The Financial Fairy Tales : Gives financial education to kids through fairy tales.

But the question still remains. Should children be exposed to Financial Education in early childhood. What are your views? Leave your comments.

Story of The Animal School : It tells a lot

Here is a Beautiful Story by George Reavis. Read it and it will tell lot about the present scenario of Education and what is the problem ‘Jigyasa‘ wants to fight.

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Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of “a new world”.  So they organised a school.  They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying.  To make it easier to administer, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent at swimming.  In fact, he was better than his instructor, but he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor at running.  Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school, and also drop swimming in order to practice running.  This was kept up until his feet were badly worn, and he became only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The deer started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much extra work in swimming.   The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class, where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down.  He also developed a hernia from over-exertion and then got C in climbing and a D in running.

The eagle was a problem child, and was disciplined severely.  In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well,  and also run, climb and fly a little, had the highest average and was top of the class.

The moles stayed out of school, and fought the rates because the Governors would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum.  They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the rabbits and the lemmings to start a successful private school.

Does this Story tell something to you…

Moving Education starts Computer Education for Less-privileged Girls

‘Moving Education’ is joint initiative of ‘Jigaysa’ and ‘Innovative Foundation for India’. Recently ‘Moving Education’ started its first project for Less-privileged Girls from Rishikesh. The project is for two months and these girls are being imparted basic Computer education to enable them to earn their livelihood. The beneficiaries of this project are 11 less-privileged girls. These girls come from families which are less financially empowered.

The project is started at ‘Sunrise Computer Center’ and ‘Moving Education’ will fund the education for these girls. ‘Moving Education’ will also try to provide these girls proper employment.

Complete details about the project can be see at ‘Moving Education