Adaptive Learning

Here’s an interesting article exploring the popular Mindspark adaptive learning Maths programme developed by Ahmedabad based Educational Initiatives, for which I was invited to give my thoughts and inputs:

The Alternative – Article on Adaptive learning

Included in the article is a link to the most recent ASER Report 2012, for anyone who hasn’t had the sobering chance to read that yet.

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Styrofoam & Polystyrene

Those of us who work in education, or in any way associated with children, are duty-bound to ‘walk our talk’ and set the best possible example we can. It is for this reason that I have expressed in earlier blog posts my unhappiness that schools waited for the intervention of the Supreme Court before removing ‘junk food’ from the menus in schools.

Another area where schools have to make massive leaps forward in their practices, in order to match the rhetoric of their teaching is in relation to environmental practices. Children today are not foolish or easily taken in. They are increasingly exposed to school curriculum within which they learn about perils of climate change caused by man-made factors and the benefits of reusing and recycling. They are encouraged to take personal responsibility for things like reducing water wastage, switching off lights and sometimes planting trees. However, at the same time, they see evidence every day that in the actual practices of the schools in which they study the environmental factors of the school practices are not given utmost priority.

Sometimes there’s a need for a firm hand and strict policies that encourage people to expend effort in finding new innovative ways to do what they do. I was therefore impressed to see this article from New York about how the Mayor intends to outlaw Styrofoam from that city; NBC News – New York Mayor

In my view, while he’s at it, he should also target polystyrene where the non biodegradable character is, as far as I’m aware, just as bad.

Whilst the article talks in some detail about the anger and sense of persecution of the fast food industry, the first thing I’m pretty certain of is that this enforced change will lead to positive innovation. I’m old enough to remember when a Big Mac or a Burger King Whopper came in a Styrofoam box. Those are long gone, but the burgers keep coming and lost nothing as a result.

Also, there’s another place that will have to adjust to the elimination of Styrofoam and polystyrene and that’s schools. No more use of these un-environmentally friendly products to adorn school noticeboards, to form the backdrop for children’s projects or 3-D models of their school. It will take a little adjustment, but has to be the right thing to do. What’s more, when these products are eliminated from school it will get that bit easier to look children in the eye honestly when we’re talking about them playing their part for a greener environment and for ways forward in the future that don’t perpetuate the negative ways of the past.

Parent – School Relationships

When the relationship between a school and parents is strong and healthy it can have very positive impact on the development, learning and success of the children. However, it’s a relationship that can be fraught with difficulties and sometimes appears near impossible to get right. Sometimes, there can be very different views about where ‘the line in the sand’ should be drawn when it comes to what is or isn’t school’s business.

Here’s a classic case – a news story from Scotland I spotted a couple of days ago: Deadline News Article – Scottish School

A couple of years ago we saw a tragic story play out in a prominent Delhi school. A Senior School student, a known asthma sufferer died as a result of an asthma attack that took place at school. At the time the vast majority of press comment was condemnatory of the school and its management for failure to save the girl and for lack of adequate precautions. Matters were taken to the courts and rulings given that declared every Delhi school would be obliged to have a doctor. There was great ‘outrage’ and anger directed at schools and their management in general.

I write this as a person who lives with asthma myself for both me and my son. Right now, he’s out playing with his friends and I haven’t seen him for over an hour. There is no doctor or nurse accompanying him and he is probably not within 1 minute of a nebulizer or an oxygen cylinder. Does that mean that I’m an irresponsible parent? Does it mean that I have a lesser duty of care towards my own child on a Sunday afternoon than I have towards other people’s children at 1.15am on a Wednesday morning?

The argument about ‘a doctor in every school’ was an interesting one. Doctors make good money in India. Schools cannot pay good money. Therefore, what kind of doctors would schools get, especially in the kinds of numbers for each and every school to have one? What about days when the doctor is off work, for any reason? I’m afraid people in ‘high position’ make themselves look rather foolish when they hand down such orders.

I have also been mystified over the last few weeks to open my daily paper and see the latest figures for deaths and hospitalizations due to swine flu/ H1N1 virus. While the newspapers are reporting and the figures are not insignificant I cannot help but contrast the current seemingly total disinterest in either the disease, it’s implications or the advisories on precautions with the mass hysteria that confronted us just a couple of years ago on the same issue. Then, I and my colleagues in education were besieged almost day and night, accused by journalists and parents of insensitivity, callousness and being uncaring for children because we dared to open our schools and refused to join in with mass hysteria. That can be contrasted with the struggle I know a School Head had this week to explain to a parent why she shouldn’t have sent her child with flu symptoms to school.

Schools, like many Institutions are a meeting point between individual and collective rights and duties. In an age when there can be a tendency to seek to defend individual rights far more speedily, schools and those who lead them increasingly find themselves with the thankless task of seeking to raise a voice for the interests and rights of all (including where they are dependent on duties of individuals) that people are less and less willing to acknowledge,

Critical Thinking Skills for Children

I wanted to share this great series of videos that I came across. They were produced in Australia and are targeted at introducing children of approximately Classes 8 to 10 to the concepts andf principles of critical thinking:

Io9.com – Critical Thinking in 6 Animations

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