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Tag Archives: constructivism

Discussing Reconstruction in Philosophy by John Dewey

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We are initiating a discussion on John Dewey’s book Reconstruction in Philosophy’ from 26th May. We invite you all to read this book with us and contribute in our discussions by sharing your thoughts and reflections by posting comments on the subsequent posts based on the discussion on the book.

Looking forward for your participation.

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Education For Peace

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News reports on kinds of violence being afflicted on almost all communities seems to dominate our lives. Merciless attacks by terrorists, unforgivable acts of violence against women evokes emotions more violent emotions amongst us. But then the question is will violence help? We all know that it won’t. A violent suppression of some communities is the main cause of this violence. Had we been given our due attention as children were treated equally men would not have imagined treating us like objects? Had the developed and the powerful been more just and less greedy and exploitative, we could have avoided such destruction. But this discussion is pointless because past cannot be changed. We can work for a better future and since I am a teacher I will try to explore the role of education in bringing peace in this world. The following section is derived from Richard Sennett’s framework as given in his book ‘The Craftsman'(2008).

Can craft centred education help us create a more peaceful world? Craft entered education is experiential in nature. This experience results from manipulation of raw materials through intellectual Imagine ourselves crafting an object. We will begin our work through an exploration of the raw materials and imagining how well we can use them to create the desired object. Playful manipulation of the object will help us understand its nature and properties. Then based on the nature of the material we will try to discipline our body in order to prevent breakage of the material. David Horsborough in his book on his experiences of teaching in Neelbagh has described this in a beautiful way. He says that the material exerts its discipline on the child and informs the child when (s)he is not using it in the right way. In the process, we learn from our mistakes and make a mental note of each mistake. We learn to deal with failures and strive harder to reach our goal. This facilitates continuous reflection. We slow the speed of our thoughts and life to match the speed of process we are engaged in. When all the hard work and patience pays in the end, we look at our crafted object with love and delight. It acquires a special place in our life.

This process helps us see in other crafted object that we come across handwork, creativity and passion of another being. Thus we develop an eye for appreciation of another craftsperson’s work.

Can destruction take a back seat in such minds? Can we see this education help in creating a peaceful world?

Imposing Furniture and Pedagogy

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Our classroom seating arrangement influences pedagogic interaction. We have known this for a while, but sometimes the rigid educational structure does not allow us to make changes so specific to our classroom.

Every time I enter my classroom (I teach post graduate students), I cannot help but remember John Dewey’s statement about furniture that is made for passive recipients. Furniture that is heavy and imposing, where students try to fit their bodies in. Furniture that is pointed towards the blackboard, thus fixing the seat of the teacher as well. In such a classroom, it is difficult to talk about constructivism and active participation. No wonder my students still have not develop ownership in their learning because they stare at me with blank faces expecting me to fill them with knowledge, something that they so unquestioningly believe that I possess.

Today, I have decided to change this seating arrangement for my class at least. These imposing desks which force me to teach instead of facilitate discussions will have to be arranged in a better way.

A Magazine For the Children and By the Children- II

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A few days ago, I shared with you that I am facilitating children from a nearby village to bring out a children’s magazine. Our work began on 4th January with our (me and the group of children) first meeting in which all children showed great enthusiasm and volunteered for various activities. There are around 18 children in the group, aged between 8 to 14 years. We only work for two hours each Sunday.

This magazine is an experiment for me. I wanted to understand and implement Nai Talim (Gandhian scheme of education) through this magazine. Therefore, the magazine is produced in-house with zero budget. Everything from writing to designing the blueprint is done by hands and once the scanned blue-print is printed then we will add colour to the magazine by hand.

Today, the trickiest part of the magazine, that is, designing of the blue-print was completed. We saw the first look of our magazine. This moment was precious for all of us. After looking at the blue-print, a child said that we should sell this magazine at Rs 20/- as we have worked so hard on it. Another child immediately corrected by saying that the pricing will be decided based on the printing and colouring costs. Well, as this child said we will finalize the pricing of the first issue of our magazine on 7th February when we have the list of expenditure in hand. On 7th February, we have the tedious task of completing 200 copies of the first issue of our magazine by adding colour. Then we will be given copies for distribution by the distribution team.
This journey has been a huge learning experience for me. I hope children enjoy reading it.

A Magazine FOR the Children and BY the Children

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On 1st January 2015, I shared with you about my idea of encouraging reading and writing amongst rural children on Sunday morning workshops. There have been some exciting developments on this front. After writing this post, I thought that on the forum meant for discussing Gandhian philosophy it would be apt to bring out a magazine based on the principles of Nai Talim.
Nai Talim is a scheme of education proposed by Mahatma Gandhi in 1937. Mahatma Gandhi proposed crafts to be the medium of education, that is, through the practice of crafts students will learn disciplinary knowledge.
The three principles of Nai Talim are:
1. Self- awareness
2. Self-reliance
3. Self-discipline
All these principles are held together by experience and social responsibility. I thought a magazine would be the best idea to experiment the potential of Nai Talim. So, I floated the idea, of bringing out a magazine and the selling it in the village, in the workshop amongst children and other facilitators. Everyone accepted it enthusiastically.Their energy and enthusiasm made my day.

But with it began a difficult journey. Difficult because if it was to be done through Nai Talim then students will have to be trained in all skills related to publishing a magazine.
Besides reporting, children volunteered to take responsibility of different tasks. Our work began two weeks ago when students went to collect information about their village. A group of children suggested interviewing the village head and prepared a questionnaire for it.
Today was the third week and we managed to compile 15 entries in the form of information; interviews; opinions; cartoons; social messages; drawings etc. It was heartening to see this. However, I understand a lot of work is still left to do with only two more Sundays to go before the preparation of final copies.
Based on Gandhian principles, minimum machinery will be used and everything will be in-house, as a result it printing cost will be very less. As of now, we have taken a desktop with printer and scanner on loan for bringing out 200 copies. That will be the only expenditure incurred on the magazine. Everything else will be done by hand, including designing and preparing a blue-print.
All this work will be done by the children and for the children.
Lot of work needs to be done, and I am a bit anxious now.
Wish me Luck.

New Semester, New Course

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With new year began second semester of the post-graduate course on education in my university. I was asked to teach ‘Educational Administration and Management’ in this semester. I do not have a particular liking for this course and I had explored fewer literature in this area in the past. So, some days before new year I began desperately looking for material to use in my class. I did find some readings but they are all in English and medium of instruction in this course is Hindi. I am still looking for relevant literature in Hindi, in case anyone is aware of any good translations done in this field, then do let me know.
However, while preparing myself for classes, I realised how interesting this course is. I have devised an interesting strategy to deal with the dearth of reading material. This strategy is of creating our own materials in the class. The course deals with the existing educational administration in India, so I have begun with asking them to collect information on various organisations and structures used to develop policies and implement them at different levels in education. Together we share this information, discuss it, question and analyse it. The information is generally collected from websites of these organisations and other relevant government documents. Initially, I thought students may not like gathering information. However, I was surprised to see their enthusiasm. They are all ready with their specified topics and enthusiastically present in class, which is then discussed. After discussion, students are given twenty minutes time to write their views; questions and learnings. The presenter also distributes the material she collated in the process. In this manner we are trying to develop our own materials.
However, we also read texts in class even if they are in English.
So, far this seems to be working for us. If you have better ideas, then please let me know.

Dealing With Fear of Writing

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I learnt to read and write in school through decoding. I began with learning alphabets and then joining these alphabets to read simple words without any meaning or context. Then after two years of this kind of training, I began to read simple sentences with little meaning. In the process, I learnt two things. Firstly, reading and writing is a complex formulaic process that I know nothing about. Secondly, meaning is unimportant in the initial stages of reading.

Together these two learnings affected my confidence, as for me the process of reading and writing was now mystified and my own knowledge of language was not acknowledged. I was also not able to make much sense of the reading writing exercises that were given in school. Soon, I stopped intellectually engaging with language. But I managed somehow to sustain my interest in reading. Writing however remained a frightening experience for me and it still is.

In college, while training to be an elementary school teacher I came across constructivist approaches to reading and writing such as whole language approach; language experience approach, emergent literacy and process writing approach. I learnt about these and used them as effectively as possible in my grade one class. But I remained a reluctant writer. I was scared of writing my experiences of using these approaches.

Recognising my fear for writing, I remembered what Rousseau had said that if the teacher herself does not love her subject she will give pass on message to her students. Afraid of this, I promised myself to make reading and writing a more meaningful exercise for my students. Then while working with Dalit girls of rural Uttar Pradesh, I learnt that writing has a lot to do with confidence. I promised myself that I would make reading and writing fun for these girls, so that unlike me, they begin to enjoy writing. I wanted them to write for themselves. This happened but I still could not overcome my phobia for writing. Reading Frank Smith’s ‘Essays into Literacy’ also did not help me much.

I moved on but in every stage of my life writing became an inescapable reality. Now a doctoral student, I cannot but have to face my fears. In the meanwhile I began teaching MA programme students, and through them I realised how systematically all of us learnt to curb our voices in school which developed into our fear for writing.

So, in order to deal with this fear, I decided to take up a writing challenge for fourteen weeks. I must thank Brandon Sanderson for inspiring me to do this. I watched a clip of his 2013 lecture titled ‘Build Good Habits’ in which he asks his students to take up the challenge of writing 3000 words a week for fourteen weeks. My challenge begins from 1st November 2014 till 8th February 2015. In this period, I vow to write 500 words everyday. I vow to begin my day with writing.

I am hoping that by the end of this challenge I will be able to get rid of my phobia for writing.

Wish me luck.