Monday, January 22, 2018

Education Series (7/7): Self Organised Classroom

Couple of days back, Kanishk (my 8 year old son) and I were traveling within Bangalore city when we saw a traffic cop riding his bike without wearing a helmet. On this incident, father-son duo were having a light-hearted conversation among ourselves. In my improvising Kannada I told if this traffic-cop caught me for riding without a helmet, I would tell him you are not following your own rules, but advocating others. On hearing my improvised version, Kanishk corrected me by saying "Nivu helmet wear marela, mattu numge helide". (You are not wearing helmet, but telling me to wear). I was pleasantly surprised and felt very happy to see his developing proficiency in spoken Kannada, the native language of the state of Karnataka, where he is growing up.

The credit for Kanishk's improving fluency in Kannada, surely has to go to Mayur, his Kannada language teacher. Mayur creates a teaching experience for his student which is play like, joyful and simple conversation weaved into daily informal dialogue.

Wow! Mayur possesses quite a teaching prowess isn't it?

By the way, Mayur is himself a school going child, studying in grade VI.

A school kid, donning the role of a teacher, in his classroom!

I call this classroom as Self Organised Classroom.

In my mind, Self Organised Classroom is a space for community learning, which is lead and governed by children themselves, with minimal adult supervision.

So where is Mayur's Self Organised Classroom?

These classes takes place while playing football, between board games, watching TV and chatting among friends.

What are the rules of his classroom?

While setting up the framework, I put across few mutually agreed upon rules:
  1. Mayur was designated as Kannada teacher.
  2. Responsibilities of the teacher and of the students, were defined and mutually agreed upon.
  3. All the non-Kannadiga children were requested to try conversing in Kannada (for minimizing communication in English & Hindi).
  4. Whenever, someone speaks in English, Hindi, other's should remind them to follow the rule 'Kannada mataru' (speak in Kannada).
  5. On occasion, I would offer some coaching on right conduct of a teacher & of a student, on the best practices like praising efforts, celebrating each other's progress.
With this broad framework, Mayur started facilitating conversations in Kannada, by translating his friend's English and Hindi sentences into Kannada and help them to repeat it. Over a period, the children started showing good process in their spoken Kannada abilities.

Few simple rules and occasional guidance were the only ingredients for setting up a Self Organised Classroom.

Hmm....interesting, but this be replicated?

It definitely seems so!

With the similar set of rules we host another Self Organised Classroom at our home: an After-School English Support Program. This Self Organised Classroom is run by Kanishk who himself is a grade III student along with Mayur (in grade VI).

They partner in teaching English, while Kanishk brings in subject knowledge, Mayur facilitates conceptual understanding. The students in this classroom are three of their less privileged friends Malu (grade IV), Jaswant (grade V) and Yogesh (grade VI), who are studying in a nearby Kannada medium Government school.

The teacher duo, use Youtube contents like Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and other animated English learning videos, for running this Self Organised Classroom.

Upon self-reflection, I didn't create the Self Organised Classroom by design. Rather it started as a social experiment, which evolved over a period of time and took it's current shape and form. This experience has given me the following insights:
  1. A group of children can self-learn with minimal supervision, if a learning ecosystem is created.
  2. Children do take their role-play of teacher and student seriously and execute it with all sincerity.
  3. It is possible to create Mentor-Mentee relationship among children.
  4. In a group setting, children collaborate among themselves and explore learning materials (e.g. internet, books) to co-learn.
There appears to be several benefits of a Self Organised Classroom:
  1. Children develop self-responsibility, to self-learn. In other words, they are not spoon-fed, rather they feed themselves.
  2. Through this process, children develop empathy, leadership, communication, planning and organisational and social skills.
  3. Children understand the concept of rules and how to work creatively within this framework.
  4. Children enjoy the learning experience, as it is not top-down, rather a community learning.
We all can create these Self Organised Classrooms, in our own community spaces. Ideas are unlimited!....just to list a few: Public Speaking Clubs, Debate Clubs, Newspaper reading sessions, Subject specific classes, Hobby Club, Sports coaching, Computers creative as one can get.

So what are we waiting for? Let's empower our children with little bit of guidance, to form their own Self Organised Classroom and let's put back learning in their own hands.

Self Organised Classroom: Learning English from Youtube (Sesame Street)

Self Organised Classroom: Learning basics of Coding (Scratch)