Home Diaries Understanding Perspectives: teachers and students in a changing learning environment

Understanding Perspectives: teachers and students in a changing learning environment

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Imagine a grumpy man with curly grey hair and neatly dressed, but with a long stick in left hand while his right hands usually covered in white because of chalk dust. You ought to listen to whatever he says, nod to whatever he teaches and all you need to do is keep your bulky notebooks up to date.

Do you think your learning would constitute understanding as well?  Would you be empowering yourself? Above all, would you love learning?

Learning, for me is exploring the unknown, understanding the basics, being able to develop relations with the constituted variables and finally igniting ideas that can be translated into work using the acquired knowledge. You can be a learner at any stage of life. In fact, learning is a life-long process. It can be formal or informal. While you could be taught to learn, sometimes you also learn from the experiences. Perhaps the concept of learning is very vague.

In this regard, I visited ‘Karkhana’ that has been working to design learning experiences for children aged between 9 to 14. There, I met teachers and students who participated in the learning process. Its classrooms were different from that of other places; there were no books, instead the children worked on their laptops, individually and in teams based on the theme they were given. The white desks complemented perfectly as their copy where they scribbled their creativity and translated their ideas into designs.  Happy and curious, every child carried out coding of their programmes in their laptops and experimented with their models to learn about the topic. At the end, everyone gave presentations on their respective models and explained what they had learned. Also they were asked to give feedback on their classmate’s product and presentation.

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Jenny Bista is one of the students in Karkhana and she is here for 5 weeks now. Eleven years old Bista said that learning was fun there since it involved using tools and not merely writing. “Today we designed a Robocat,” she said with excitement. “Here, we do whatever comes into our heart. Unlike in school, we do not lose marks. Also, teachers here do not shout at our mistakes, but correct us,” she further said. She also mentioned that learning things in a different way is what made classes at Karkhana interesting.

When it comes to learning, every child is unique and has their own potential. In Karkhana, students learn by working in teams, observing and giving and receiving feedbacks. Thus, there is always scope for improvement. They see each other work and this helps in better understanding. As the session comes to an end, they make a final product. However, there is no assessment, there is no comparison. They just focus on improvement.

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While it is pretty obvious for students to get bored and uninterested in learning, it is equally challenging for a teacher to deliver their content to the students. One of the teachers in Karkhana, Aakriti Thapa explains, “In an average, there will be around 24 students in a classroom. Every student in the class has a unique interest. They have their own style of learning things. It becomes almost impossible to create 24 different learning environments inside a single classroom with a single teacher. As a teacher at Karkhana, I am constantly researching on the ways to open as many options as possible for students to learn in my classroom.”

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As a teacher, one constantly tries to figure out the best way to deliver their content. Does this hard work dig pool of expectations from students? “The only expectation I have is for students to have fun when learning. You can’t expect students to learn if they perceive it as a burden. The biggest mistake that our educational institutions make is portraying learning and fun as mutually exclusive,” she explained.

Thirteen-year-old Aneek Rajbhandari is one of the oldest students there. He said, “Here, we are not forced to do anything. There is a limited learning, and focused more on practicals and applications. The teachers are interactive. We focus on visualization and no opinion is wrong here. It’s just that each one’s idea is different. Hence, we incorporate several ideas to generate the best idea.”

Roshan Bhatta, another teacher at Karkhana said, “Learning happens only when teachers manage the environment of their classroom in a way that it lets students apply the knowledge in their own way. It is not necessary that my students learn things exactly the way I learned it.” Exercising flexibility to students so that they can come up with their own ways to figure things out stands prominent in the learning process.

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Sushant Barayal who is in Karkhana since three months said that learning is easier for him here since he gets to explore things his own way. “Everything is explained practically and at the same time, whatever I learn here, I try to apply in my school projects and the projects that I do at home,” he said.

Hence, the modern educational system also demands changes in the teaching-learning process. Echoing the same, Hasin Shakya, a teacher at Karkhana says, “A good teaching help students understands how to acquire knowledge rather than giving knowledge to students.” Teaching should let all the students dream and fly high rather than just confine them within the curriculum, home-works and assessments.  Learning should be fun.

Teaching is more than imparting knowledge, it is inspiring a change. Learning is more than absorbing facts, it is acquiring understanding.

Photos Courtesy: Karkhana

By Anusha Kadel