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Preeti Kaher – Atal Tinkering Lab’s ‘Exemplary Teacher of Change’ 2020

“I believe in the do-it-yourself teaching approach.”

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Preeti Kaher may be a teacher of one year but her ability to work with young students and understand their comprehensive power is quite appreciable. 

Working in St Teresa Convent School, Panchkula, Haryana, the reason she was selected as one of the winners is because of her way of providing hands-on experience to her students. “ATL provides young minds with a platform to enable their creativity and innovate using the do-it-yourself approach. Following this, the kids in our school have been able to come up with many science models that are approved by the AIM team,” she tells ScooNews. 

Her passion to make innovative projects is backed with her education in the field of Computer Science (M.Tech). “I found the subjects easy to teach from day 1, thanks to my background. I take 1 class per week and in our school, we’ve got 1500 student who’re a part of Atal Tinkering Labs. I teach from grade 6 onwards,” she informs. 

To teach the younger ones complicated and technical words, Preeti takes the help of interesting games to develop their interest in the concerned subject. “I start with easy games like Drag & Drop, Match the Similar Ones, etc. so they can enjoy a little play-time in their classes while getting accustomed to the technology, and come here with enthusiasm the next day. Also, because they don’t have to worry about writing any ATL exam papers, their performance tends to improve with better knowledge and no fear,” Preeti explains.

When asked why she thinks she’s been chosen as a ‘Teacher of Change’, she says, “We, the teachers, submit monthly reports on the allotted projects, I suppose the ATL team liked the projects I completed with my students. This includes Dancing Robot, Remote-Controlled Car, Sensor-Motor Trucks, etc.”

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Her message to fellow educators is that it doesn’t matter if one hasn’t taught these subjects before, a basic knowledge of science/math and learning on the internet will go a long way. She strongly feels that teachers must not limit their learning to book, neither should students. “The internet is a huge vat of knowledge, it should be used in the right way as well, even educators must learn via valid internet sources,” she signs off.

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of NITI Aayog targets to create scientific temper and cultivates the spirit of curiosity and innovation among young minds. AIM proposes to support the establishment of a network of Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) in Indian schools. 

Atal Tinkering Labs is the flagship initiative of Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog. It aims at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among school students. To learn more, visit www.aim.gov.in.

Refer to https://aim.gov.in/pdf/ATL_Teacher_Book_high_res.pdf to read more about the ATL ‘Teachers of Change.’

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5 Resolutions For A School Leader: Making 2021 Noteworthy

Having some concrete resolutions with respect to education and learning through different platforms has become a must for a successful year ahead.

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It’s almost the year-end. 2020 has been a year of many highs and lows, of small joys and big losses, and of resilience in the face of adversity. It really is the time to review the year that has passed and accordingly plan for the upcoming year. This year has been exceptional especially for educators. We have seen them across the world going out of their comfort zones and implying innovations and strategies to make online learning possible and meaningful for the students. Some exceptional stories have emerged of heroism and resilience. It is in these times of adversity that a person’s true character is exposed, and teachers have really shown us that they are learners first. Before I lay down my resolutions for school leaders, I just want to thank every educator out there for putting in their hard work and efforts, and for also prioritising learning and students above all else in these times of crisis.

Having some concrete resolutions with respect to education and learning through different platforms has become a must for a successful year ahead. The reason I want school leaders to make such resolutions is simply that the school leaders and educators are well-positioned to generate optimism and change, simply by recognizing that they are carefully watched and heard by the many people they encounter. They can use their influence to bring many positive changes not only in the educational system but also in the learning and teaching process.

So, what are these resolutions for 2021? What impact would they have?

  1. Continuous learning

​​A culture of learning within the school community helps everyone grow. As a school leader, one has to ensure that the institution is not just a learning centre for students but also for all management and teaching staff as well.

Ask your teachers to chalk out their learning paths for the year and document it. Everyone likes to grow even if it is by a small percentage. Continuous learning is keeping a record of your personal/professional growth and measuring it.

This culture shift should be started by the principal and adopted by the teachers and students alike. There is nothing more joyful for an individual than to know they are better today than they were yesterday. Personal growth is the most important aspect of positive work culture. When everyone is growing little by little the institution itself is growing a lot.

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  1. Assessment for learning

Changing the culture from the assessment of learning to assessment for learning should be a top priority for the school leaders.  When we take assessments for learning we are also giving feedback to the students so that they can plan their future lessons better and know where they stand.

In the old school method of assessment of learning, we simply take the assessment to benchmark a student and move on to the next lesson. There is no strategy to give feedback, re-teach or revisit the topics not understood. Implying the method of assessment for learning would carve the path of making active and responsible learners.

Also, in assessment for learning, we ensure that the questions are open-ended/analytical to check for student’s understanding of the topic and not just to score marks. Start a discussion with your students after every chapter/test and plan remedial for the topics not understood. You could also send out feedback forms after every chapter, wherein students would self-assess themselves on the learning outcomes.

  1. Embrace the power of ‘yet’

If a teacher or parent is overheard saying that their child can’t read or can’t draw a painting, make sure to make them realise that they are not able to do so ‘yet’. A school is a centre for learning, and we are all learning every day. This language shift should be started by the school leader and should be adopted by the staff and students alike.

This might seem like a small shift, but it will have a huge impact on the way teachers and parents think about their students. It makes the child confident and optimistic. It indulges the habit of never giving up and always to keep on trying in the students, making them lifelong learners. 

  1. Be Qualitative

Make sure that everything you do is your best work. You are doing quality work not because you want more money, promotion or any material thing, but because it matters to you and good quality work gives you a deeper sense of satisfaction and achievement.

Lead by example. Work at your best capability even when no one is looking. You are working for yourself. Make your team understand that good quality work is expected from them and no compromise would be done on that front. People should know that if the work has your signature on it, then it is high-quality stuff. Period!

  1. Remember to Smile

A school campus can be a live wire. Something would always keep on happening. There can be a lot of tension building up and sometimes things can go awry. As a school leader, it is important to remain calm and maintain a tone of friendliness. When a leader smiles and sends out positive vibes, the team gets motivated and instilled with motivational and positive energy.

Every action, every impression you leave has a huge impact on the many teachers and students you interact with. So, choose them wisely. In the upcoming new year try instilling these positive changes in your schools. Create Change! Live it for a better tomorrow!

Wishing you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

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About the author: Gautam Rajgarhia, Pro-Vice Chairman, Delhi Public School (Varanasi | Nashik | Lava Nagpur)

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Top Mental Health Influencers That Educators Should Follow On Social Media

While you must seek professional help for your mental health, we think these social media accounts can truly lift your spirits up (virtually, at least) via their words on mindfulness and talks around everyday issues bothering us. This includes Raageshwari Loomba Swaroop, Psychologist Sonali Gupta, N

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While you must seek professional help for your mental health, we think these social media accounts can truly lift your spirits up (virtually, at least) via their words on mindfulness and talks around everyday issues bothering us. This includes Raageshwari Loomba Swaroop, Psychologist Sonali Gupta, Neerja Birla, EQ by Design, Jameela Jamil, Dr. Marcus Ranney, and Arianna Huffington.

Who: Raageshwari Loomba Swaroop

Bio says: Actor, Singer & Author. It is always in season to be kind and grateful.

X-Factor: This 90s pop Bollywood singer and actor is now a fulltime mindfulness author and speaker

Viral moment: In 2000, she was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, a form of facial paralysis, and had to stop working overnight. She overcame her health condition with her strong will and got back with a bang in her career, calling the obstacle a stepping stone to move ahead.

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Famous quote: I discovered my empathy and my vision in seeing life from a broader perspective. That is the best vision to have.

Currently take-on: Her book ‘Building a happy family’ which is about mindful parenting

Favourite hashtag: #Mindfulness

Top 5 accounts followed: Laura Lynne Jackson, Arianna Davis, John Assaraf, Dr. Shefali, Tara Swart Bieber

ScooNews loves: She’s not restricted to just mental health. Her account often talks about family unity, parenting, self-love, travel, self-help tips, etc. 

Follow at: @raageshwariworld (IG), @Raageshwari1 (Twitter)

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Who: Sonali Gupta

Bio says: Clinical Psychologist. Keeper of Secrets. Columnist

X-Factor: She's among India’s leading clinical psychologists who constantly talks about parenting, juggling professions and personal life

Famous quote: I’m personally not very comfortable with the idea of labels around mental illness. I think there is a lot more to people and often labels can become limiting. In my opinion, the labels we choose to define ourselves end up influencing a lot about how we think and feel. Labels of mental illness can become a different kind of baggage for clients.

Current take-on: Her book ‘Anxiety – Overcome it and live without fear’ with HarperCollins

Favourite hashtag: #PsychHumor

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Top 5 accounts followed: Sharon Salzberg, Cheryl Strayed, Esther Perel, Marc Brackett, Dr. Vivek Murthy 

ScooNews loves: Her meaningful tweets like – ‘What allows us to remain content and centred is living by our values. Identifying and embodying those values is where the process begins’ and ‘One of my biggest learning’s from a mindfulness teacher was: Feelings can never be positive or negative. They just are pleasant or unpleasant in the way we experience it.’

Follow at: @mentalhealthwithsonali (IG), @guptasonali (Twitter)

Who: Neerja Birla

Bio says: Educationist, mental health advocate, educationist, traveller of the great outdoors, a strong follower of the Bhagavad Geeta, & always a mum at heart!

X-Factor: Apart from being the Chairperson of the Aditya Birla World Academy and Aditya Birla Integrated School, she’s also the founder of MPower, a mental health awareness initiative

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Viral moment: Her recent conversation with Amitabh Bachchan about the mental health of professionals who are doubting their capabilities and have developed a fear of losing their jobs, especially during the pandemic

Famous quote: We all tend to want to fit in, we all want our kids to be following the normal trajectory of doing well in academics but one has to realise that every child is different and as parents, we have to identify and nurture that talent.

Current take-on: Role of parents as primary caregivers to their children to lessen the impact of the pandemic

Favourite hashtag: #ABWA (Aditya Birla World Academy)

Top 5 accounts followed: Heads Together, Arianna Huffington, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Global Development Lab, Kailash Satyarthi

ScooNews loves: The way she gives equal importance to physical health in order to enjoy a wholesome mental state. She often shares pictures of her hobbies of cycling, trekking and exploring nature.

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Follow at: @neerja_birla (IG), @NeerjaBirla (Twitter)

Who: EQ by Design

Bio says: Helping schools achieve systemic change through restorative practices, neuroscience, and social-emotional skills. From the authors of #HackingSchoolDiscipline

X-Factor on the internet: Witty, honest and caring quotes for teachers

Viral moment: When they tweeted how being at home is more important than keep working all the time. The post read – “You are totally replaceable at work. You are not replaceable at home.”

Current take-on: Encouraging teachers and reminding them to take care of mental health

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Favourite hashtag: #HackingSchoolDiscipline

Top 5 accounts followed: SENIA International, The Staff Room Podcast, Tiny Friends Big Feelings, Trauma Informed Teachers, We Are Teachers

ScooNews loves: How beautifully and artistically they present such grave topics. Whether the point is to correct teachers in their teaching style or to remind them about their own well being, EQbyDesign has a way of portraying everything.

Follow at: eq_by_design (IG), @EQbyDesign (FB & Twitter)

Who: Jameela Jamil

Bio says: Feminist-in-progress. 

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X-Factor: British actress and activist with a sassy bold nature and amazing speaking skills. She’s vowed to never bow down to any number of rumours against her.

Viral moment: When she won the Vogue’s Women Of The Year, taking home the Global Disruptor award

Famous quote: I’ve always been passionate about the concept of helping the underdog. It just doesn’t make sense to me as to what kind of person would take a huge platform and not use it to do something, to change something, to help people.

Current take-on: Breaking stereotypes and advocating for mental illness

Favourite hashtag: #IWeighPodcast

Top 5 accounts followed: The Real Spoonies Unite, Disability Visibility, The Global Goals, Hello Sunshine, Alliance For EDA

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ScooNews loves: About 5 years ago, she launched an entertainment show ‘Why Not People?’ which was accessible to specially-abled people

Follow at: @jameelajamilofficial (IG), @jameelajamil (Twitter), Jameela Jamil (YouTube)

Who: Dr. Marcus Ranney

Bio says: Your Champion of Wellbeing; on a mission from the world of sick care to that of health. Intent on making this planet a healthier & happier place. 

X-Factor: He trained as a doctor at University College London and practised clinical medicine in London before finally shifting back to Mumbai, India. He, most recently, served as General Manager of Thrive Global in India, a U.S. based behaviour change technology and media company. Currently, he works in the Healthcare and Life Sciences industry as a venture capitalist and strategic advisor.

Viral moment: His TED talk ‘Let's talk about healthcare in 2030’

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Current take-on: His book ‘At the human edge’

Favourite hashtag: #WellbeingChampion, #HumanEdge

Top 5 accounts followed: Climate Reality by Al Gore, Sir Ken Robinson, World Woman Foundation, Rupa Dash, Kamala Harris

ScooNews loves: Marcus is a keen athlete and long-distance marathon runner, he holds a Guinness World Record for backwards running

Follow at: @docmranney (IG & Twitter)

Who: Arianna Huffington

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Bio says: Mother. Sister. @HuffPost Founder. Founder & CEO of @Thrive Global whose mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic.

X-Factor: She has been listed in Time Magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. In 2009, she was no. 12 in Forbes first-ever list of the Most Influential Women In Media. 

Viral moment: Her speech at Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2016 where she shared her perspective on how to view failure, scale solutions, and refuel your body with sleep

Famous quote: Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it, the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.

Current take-on: Virtual Fatigue due to back to back presence on Zoom

Favourite hashtag: #SelfcareSunday

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Top 5 accounts followed: Back to School Solutions, Lean In, Service Year, Born This Way Foundation, WHO

ScooNews loves: She does the most amazing reposts on her social media that includes memes, powerful life quotes, motivational videos and useful tips to live a sustainably productive, healthy and happy life

Follow at: @ariannahuff (IG & Twitter), @AriannaHuffington (FB)

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Digvijay Nath Dwivedi – Atal Tinkering Lab’s ‘Exemplary Teacher of Change’ 2020

“A teacher must welcome all kinds of curious queries from students.”

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Digvijay Nath Dwivedi is a Chemistry teacher to grade 11 & 12 in Mamta Modern Senior Secondary School, Vikaspuri, Delhi. He has over 20 years of rich teaching experience, which is probably one of the reasons why his school nominated him to be their Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) in-charge to the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) team. This was back in 2018.

Mr. Dwivedi, armed with an M.Phil degree in environmental Chemistry, initially faced some challenges when he began the ATL (STEM) teaching. However, he never gave up and diligently studied all the subjects and taught himself first so he could teach his students well enough. 

Though this wasn’t the only challenge he came across, Mr. Dwivedi had to convince his students’ parents, too, to let their wards be a part of the ATL classes. “A majority of parents, as well as students, had this perception that only those with a science background can sit and learn in the ATL tinkering labs. With the help of continuous open dialogues, my team explained to them how STEM/STEAM are up and coming technological advances in the world, for a child of any educational background,” he tells ScooNews. He told them that learning about STEM/STEAM and flowing with one’s own curiosity will let their children reach new heights.

And just like that, Mr. Dwivedi made sure kids of science stream additionally with those who chose other streams could participate at their will. He believes that all children who possess a curious, innovative and entrepreneurial mind and plan to venture into start-ups later in their lives should get the ‘Tinker’ knowledge to support their dreams.

Earlier in 2020, Mr. Dwivedi was chosen as one of the ‘Teacher of Change’ awardees by AIM. The reason lies with his dedication, empathy and out of the box thinking. But above all, it’s his strategic planning that takes the brownie points.

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In his school, the ATL classes happen 5 out of 7 days a week. To manage, he has prepared an impeccable timetable to adjust the classes after the school timings and has been successfully balancing his responsibility as an educator, both inside and outside the premises. Apart from this, he also makes sure the fifth day of ATL class is dedicated to teaching the children from low-income families. For this, he himself spoke to the administration and welcomed children of the lower-income community to Mamta Senior Secondary School, so those with no educational prospects so far could get better opportunities in the present.

What truly inspires us is Mr. Dwivedi’s golden rule of teaching. He never says 'No' to any query made by his students. In his class, everyone is allowed to raise their hand and voice their doubts, subject-related or not. “It’s crucial to satisfy the curiosity of young minds. This welcoming behaviour of an educator encourages them to move over coyness and become innovative & interested in things around them,” he enlightens. 

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) of NITI Aayog targets to create scientific temper and cultivates the spirit of curiosity and innovation among young minds. AIM proposes to support the establishment of a network of Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) in Indian schools. 

Atal Tinkering Labs is the flagship initiative of Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog. It aims at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among school students. To learn more, visit www.aim.gov.in.

Refer to https://aim.gov.in/pdf/ATL_Teacher_Book_high_res.pdf to read more about the ATL ‘Teachers of Change.’

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Taking The Example Of Designer Masaba Gupta, Make Kids Aware About Racism

Discrimination is a pandemic too, let us eradicate it by teaching the students better

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It is high time children are rightly taught about racism! 

Racism isn’t a foreign subject. It’s equally a matter of concern in India as well. Every now and then, we hear stories of children facing castism and getting tormented by fellow students. They are looked down at because of their dark colour and physical attributes.

Recently, India fashion designer Masaba Gupta (daughter of Bollywood actress Neena Gupta and Vivian Richards, Antiguan ex-cricketer) posted on her Instagram about the discrimination she faced as a child in her school.

Being a mixed-race child with prominent Caribbean features, she was an easy target for the bullies. She wrote on her social media, “When I was little & started to understand more about my ethnicity…the fact that I was a mixed child..half Caribbean & half Indian, I thought I was the only one of my kind.” Masaba added about her trip to Antigua as a child and realising she is not alone – “I discovered so many more of my kind. It was like looking into a mirror I could never find. And I felt a little less alone in my constant fight to understand racism-it was such a big word.”

 

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A post shared by Masaba (@masabagupta)

 

It’s sad that even in 2020, dark skin tone is not considered beautiful. A lot of us are forced constantly by society to become light-toned. This centuries-old stigma is, in fact, teaching our new generation all kinds of unacceptable life lessons which now should be voiced against. 

It’s important teachers and parents take the initiative and conduct open dialogues to teach their wards why discrimination is wrong. For example, why calling a Mongolian-descent kid ‘chinki’ or a dark-skinned classmate ‘African’ is hurtful and not acceptable. Kids should be told about the issue not from a conviction point of view but how it would feel if the same happens to them or someone they love dearly. They need to be taught the emotional and psychological repercussions of their actions when they choose to discriminate. Punishing the bully will not help the case, remember!

As child psychologists say, events like bullying on the basis of how one looks or their comprehension or even ability may cause some irreparable damage to the young brains. Not every child is alike, similarly, not every child’s capacity to endure the cruelty of bullying by fellow mates is the same. Some might come to the authority or parents and tell them what happened, which is a good thing, the elders could help them. The others might simply tolerate the unending ridicule and some might take drastic actions like fighting or even worse, harming themselves. 

This year of the pandemic has seen a lot already and since we are hoping to have a new beginning when schools reopen, let us also eradicate discrimination along with COVID-19. 

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It is high time children are rightly taught about racism!

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How The Delay In School Reopening Is Increasing Homeschooling

Homeschooling has traditionally been chosen for a number of reasons including religious, dissatisfaction with local schools, transient jobs, cost, children with special needs or who don’t learn in the traditional way.

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Education in India is changing, parental expectations are changing, and parents are voting with their feet. During the last 9 months, since the first lockdown was announced, schools have been closed to students. That means more than 300 million students have missed school or college and learning has been affected. Many students are not receiving any work, some a minimal amount and some, a good portion of the curriculum. But in all cases, parents have woken up and are looking at alternatives to regular schooling.

Financial pressure has also been an issue. Parents receiving just 50% of their salaries or even losing their jobs has meant that their education choices have come under pressure. Many can no longer afford the education provision they had previously opted for. Online learning has become the new buzzword, with schools succeeding to varying degrees, not just in the provision but in the ability of families to access it. Schools providing live lessons require the student to have a suitable device available at that exact time. Lots of parents have got only one smartphone and that goes to work with the adult during the day. Financial pressure means an additional device cannot be purchased and so the child misses the lessons. Alternatively, the device is available but internet provision is sparse or non-existent. Parents are therefore looking at ditching traditional schooling altogether. Many feel that if they have to help their children with their online lessons anyway, why continue to pay the school? Why not just do it alone and save some money? And so, parents are turning to the idea of homeschooling.

Homeschooling itself is not a new concept, some families have chosen this option for years. Even in India, 25 years ago, there were parents homeschooling their children. Although at that time, it was relatively unknown, it is becoming a much more popular alternative to regular schooling now.

Homeschooling has traditionally been chosen for a number of reasons including religious, dissatisfaction with local schools, transient jobs, cost, children with special needs or who don’t learn in the traditional way. The greatest advantage of homeschooling is its flexibility in timing, curriculum, level and focus. A homeschooled child is the centre of attention and therefore the provision can be tailor-made to his/her needs.

But what actually is homeschooling? Is it just school at home, same books, same timetable? Or is it something completely different altogether? The answer depends on who you ask as different homeschoolers do it in different ways. Alternative terminologies are often used and have slightly different meanings. Home education differs from homeschooling; learning happens ‘at home’ but not in a traditional curriculum-based manner. ‘Home education turned out to be a misnomer, as we were hardly ever home when my son was younger,’ remembers Lucy Kanachowski.

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Unschooling is a similar concept to home education where the child dictates the type of learning that happens and is allowed to progress freely as per interests and desires. Debbie Rodrigues recollects that she and her husband ‘set out to be the providers of a platform that enabled freedom of learning, exploration and learning out of curiosity’. Both home education and unschooling make use of resources in the real world, field trips and real-life experiences dominate over textbook-simulated, abstract lessons. ‘We can be creative about learning… we can perform experiments which may be deemed too ‘risky’ in a larger class,’ Miranda Kelly remarked.

So, if a parent is thinking about homeschooling as an option, what do they need to consider? With all the free and multiplying online provision now available, homeschooling is looking like an easier and easier option. But is it?

The way someone approaches homeschooling will be guided mainly by their reason for making this choice. If they are simply trying to save money then continuing to use the same books that were provided by the school may be sufficient. If they chose to homeschool because they didn’t like the ethos or atmosphere (maybe their child was being bullied) of the local schools, in this case, the curriculum may not be their major concern either. Rather the atmosphere of the home and the people the child is exposed to becomes the main focus.

Many parents, especially now, are leaving schools because they are not happy with the academic provision, be it the curriculum itself or the delivery of it. Schools are meant to be experts in curriculum delivery, providing the necessary provision for children in ways that make it easy for children to learn. But large class numbers, lack of space and teachers without training and motivation to provide life-long learning rather than questions and answers from the textbook, means that maybe schools are not doing the best they can. The explosion of online provision means much more variety of expertise is available, but the challenge now is to know which is effective and which are just fads that someone has created because they too need to earn money at this time.

This is not an easy skill, parents who decide to homeschool need to be able to assess the level of their child, along with their potential and the ways in which they learn best, then they need to match this with what is available, be it on or off-line.

Homeschooling is not an easy alternative, it takes hard work and dedication from the whole family, children and parents, and extended family too if they are local. Learning happens 24/7, especially when led by curious children. When the whole family does come together in support, it brings many advantages. ‘We can learn and grow together as a family. The children learn the responsibility of chores alongside their schoolwork and we often use teaching the younger children as an opportunity for the older children to review basic, building-block principles,’ affirms Miranda Kelly. Many home educators also join together to form communities wherein they help one another with subject expertise, skills and encouragement. It also means children get peers to socialise with and also become confident conversing with adults of differing ages.

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One concern for many who chose the homeschooling option is ‘what about exams?’ This is one reason why homeschooling in the pre-primary and primary years is much more common than for secondary students. In our exam-focused society, it seems that this is the ultimate goal, although slowly this is beginning to change. For now, there are a few options. It is possible to do the NIOS (National Indian Open School) exams or IGCSE (International General Certificate of Education) exams provided by Cambridge. The NIOS is cheap and becoming more and more recognised as a valid qualification, IGCSE is expensive and as a private student, as yet, still unrecognised by many Indian universities, even though valid across many countries around the world. Kanachowski remembers how her son, now 20, ‘didn’t do any formal exams but has now been away at college for a year to learn more about blacksmithing and metalwork. Music is his passion and he has fallen in love with traditional Irish folk music and plays several instruments competently.’

For many, I suspect, this choice to homeschool is temporary. The world is unstable right now, we don’t know when the next lockdown maybe, or when schools will reopen. And if they do what about the safety of the students, what provision will be made for handwashing, physical distancing etc.? It seems it is this worry that has led many parents to look at home-schooling as an option for this year or maybe the next few years. It is particularly essential that these parents know what they are doing. If they wish to just bide their time and teach at home what a school usually teaches in school, then this has to remain a temporary option with reintegration as the goal. But home education or unschooled education requires time, effort and a love of learning in the parent. Reintegration back into the system is then not the goal, but a life of constant exploration, wonder and learning is.

The fact that so many parents are considering the homeschooling option, should also make educators wake up and ask ‘what can we do?’ Schools need to look very carefully at their curricula and how they can be adapted to life-long learning and the development of skills, not just the retention of knowledge. How can schools begin to more effectively teach each child, rather than just deliver the curriculum? The ethos of schools and the care of students, the elimination of bullying and the promotion of kindness need to become priorities. Schooling isn’t just about passing exams; it’s about learning to live in harmony and celebrate our differences. Schooling is about ensuring that every child reaches their potential, whatever it may be.

About the authors:

Joy Townsend, Director, Academic Innovation, St. Willibrord International School

Willibrord George, Trustee, St. George Educational Trust

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How To Make Sure Schools Don’t Become The New Hotspots Of COVID, Principal S Sriram Shares Tips

These tips are useful for fully residential schools, day-cum-boarding schools, as well as day schools.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for everyone and changed our way of life in unexpected ways. Schools and children have been greatly affected by the lockdown, undoubtedly. The government has always felt that opening the schools will create fresh avenues for infection, especially among the younger children and hence, has postponed the idea so far in many states. Some state governments have taken the bold move and reopened the schools in phases, at least for the Board Examination classes so that the students can gain some practical experience in addition to the academic support and guidance from teachers. The results have not been satisfactory with many parents apprehensive of sending their children to school. Some of the schools have even reported infections within a week of reopening.

But how long can this lockdown continue? The Ministry of Education, in consultation with the state governments, is bound to reopen the schools in the near future but is faced with the challenge of creating safe environments in the premises to battle the pandemic effectively. Let me share a few thoughts and ideas that can help ensure that schools don’t become the new hotspots for COVID-19.

A general solution to all categories all schools is not possible as the approach has to be different for the three broad categories of schools in our country:

1. Fully Residential Schools

2. Day-cum-Boarding Schools

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3. Day Schools

The approach to Fully Residential Schools can be dealt with differently as all the students would be staying on the campus and can form a bubble. After taking initial precautions to ensure everyone in the campus is safe without infection and strict compliance in terms of keeping this group away from the outside world and providing all facilities within the school, one can put these schools into operation effectively.

While the majority of the schools in India belong to either the Day School category or the Day-cum-Boarding category, the challenges are far more in these segments and have to be tackled with greater involvement. I propose that the general approach to creating a safe environment in schools should be done in 5 phases:

  1. Sensitise the stakeholders with Dos and Don’ts
  2. Extensive guidelines for everyone with necessary training (Risk analysis and Mitigation plan)
  3. Propose effective on-site protocols for operations and services
  4. Effective monitoring and implementation of policies and protocols
  5. Protocols and facilities to handle emergencies (Emergency Response Plan)

The central idea behind the initiative should be to ensure continuity of learning for all students with essential services at school and ensure that there is no spread of the virus within the premises. This initiative should be exclusively used by teachers to give the students conceptual understanding of subject matter and guide them for performing well in exams in addition to providing the love and affection that they need most during these testing times. Give them opportunities to emotionally bond with other students in the classes without compromising on the social distancing norms.

Even before the authorities plan to reopen the school for children, a number of measures have to be put in place. While the schools should take all efforts to ensure that the campus is sanitized and systems are in place, they should first decide the typical schedule for students and the number of students who will be called to attend the classes. At this point in time, keeping the academic interests in mind, it is advisable only to engage the students of Classes IX and above for on-site learning. The school can either call them in full strength on two shifts or may call 50% of the students on alternate days. This way they can maintain physical distancing inside classrooms. 

In my opinion, a hybrid model of on-site schooling for essential learning outcomes and online classes for the general academic calendar can be a good start.  The school can also reduce the staff on duty by calling only those who are required to conduct lessons and basic admin support. The rest of the staff can work from home and provide additional support. The students in primary classes can continue attending classes via the online mode, given the fact that it will be a challenge to get them to follow social distancing practices in a physical set-up. 

In schools where mid-day meals are provided, they should make it a point to provide food rich in green vegetables, Vitamin C & D, Iodine and Zinc.

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The school should engage all the stakeholders 10 to 15 days before the reopening of school and sensitize them with the Dos and Don’ts. Parents and children can be reached through the teachers and share with them written literate to get accustomed to the new rules and regulations that will be put in place once the school reopens. This is a very important step and if done effectively, it will fetch rich dividends.

Sensitize all the stakeholders, especially students, about COVID-19's symptoms, ways of transmission, the complications, precautions to be taken and preventive measures. They should also be regularly briefed regarding the latest bulletins and help them practice healthy habits at living areas like avoiding touching common places, hand washing techniques, how to cough or sneeze in public places, to stay away and maintain physical distancing at all times and exercise positive mental health.

Parents should be informed at least 10 days before the reopening, the importance of self-isolation of entire family and a COVID Antigen test may be made compulsory for students. This may be arranged by the school in cooperation with the Health Department. It may be a good idea to call students only from Green and Orange zones, to begin with. The cooperation of parents and relatives living at home is very important as they can be carriers of infection if they do not follow due rules.

Arogya Setu App can be made compulsory for all staff members, admin staff and visitors that commute on daily basis. The school may permit only relevant and authorized personnel inside the premises for the time being. Transport vehicles, if any, will have to be thoroughly disinfected twice daily. The health of drivers and support staff will have to be monitored on a daily basis. Similarly, all items should be sanitized before being allowed in the premises and non-perishable goods must be kept in isolation for 72 hours before being used.

It should be made compulsory for every single person on the premises to wear a 3-layer mask, maintain physical distancing at all times and sanitize their hands at regular intervals. A self-screening questionnaire can be provided to them at regular intervals at the gate to reinforce their commitment. Posters can be displayed at prominent places in the campus to enlighten the students and staff about the norms to be followed. All staff should be trained in ensuring protocols are followed by everyone at all times. A checklist may be provided that can serve as an immediate reference tool for any exigencies.

The school should provide for adequate quantities of disinfectants and sanitizers for the use of everyone including some spare masks for students that get damaged during the course of the day. Strict checking of all personnel at the entry point with handheld thermal scanners, disinfection & sanitization is a must.  It is better to have separate gates for entry and exit. Students should move to their classes maintaining physical distancing. Circles can be made along the path to classes to enable children to maintain distance and teachers should be on duty to monitor their movement. The school should also provision foot pedal sanitizer dispensers at important places in the school. Water and Medical Waste Management protocols should be in place (strictly as per the State Govt Guidelines and Pollution Control Board norms).

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As an interim measure, common touchpoints like biometrics are to be disabled. All common areas are to be cleaned and sanitized multiple times a day including classrooms, labs, library, cafeteria, door handles, tables, chairs, staircase grips, lab equipment, common office areas and other shared spaces. All toilets should be sanitized after every use with support personnel to guide the students.

As an emergency measure, the school can tie-up with a local hospital for medical services including a regular visit by a doctor. An isolation room with necessary equipment like PPE kits & oxygen supply can be temporarily created out of the existing facilities at school. 

Once the school reopens, separate bubbles for staff/students coming from outside and residential staff/students can be created. They should not be allowed to mix and placed in different academic blocks if possible. All staff should be clearly explained the protocols to be followed in case of any symptom found in a person and the remedial measures therein.

The students should be advised to use textual/support material of their own and not share items within the group. Students may be advised to bring their own water bottles for self-use only. Teachers should also carry their own material like duster and chalk/markers. As far as possible, teachers should use electronic means to share information among the students and school authorities.

Schools should not encourage the gathering of children in the form of an assembly or conduct any internal event. There should be no break and a roster to be followed for staggered visits to toilets and other facilities, class-wise, section-wise assisted by staff.

Since the students have been forced to an unchartered environment and remained confined to their homes during the lockdown, they are bound to be in some kind of stress. Their normal routine to attend classes in a classroom environment has been disturbed and therefore, the school should make every effort to support the students through regular counselling sessions. The school should encourage students to ask questions related to the pandemic and provide them answers so that they are not misinformed. 

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The school may wish to sign a declaration form from the parents to indemnify them from any situation beyond their control. Also, a declaration form can be signed from parents with people they meet to enable contact tracing if the child is being taken out for any reason.

All staff members and students can sign an undertaking as a personal obligation in the interest of others attending the school that they will follow the norms as mandated by the government for the safety and security of everyone. 

The overall onus to keep the schools safe from COVID-19 lies with all stakeholders and not a single person. However much the school may do in terms of putting up various measures in place, it lies on the individual to take good care of themselves, follow rules and regulations and ensure all precautions are taken in the larger interest of the school.

Note: I wish to give due credits to the article published on the IPSC website on “Suggested Policies for tackling COVID-19”

About the author: S Sriram, Principal, The Mann School

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What Does A Teacher Of Future Look Like?

“It’s the year 2040. The NEP’20 has been around for two decades, and we’d see the impact on the workforce as well, let alone learning levels of students. Beyond job titles, students are exploring careers to be dreamers, doers, achievers, explorers, creator, innovators, and leaders. Their teachers…

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The world of today is defined by global changes and a borderless society. In such a situation, we are faced with newer challenges that have never been confronted by society at large. Of course, this would’ve been true of the 21st Century galloping away to newer heights, however, the way 2020 has turned out, even this statement, as the millennials would call it, is ‘far-out’. Transformation of the world economy from the old to the new, and new dimensions in every practice – be it business, cultural, even education practices – are likely to be the big delta in the world. Teachers’ role will surely evolve.

Often, I’m asked about more details on what exactly do I foresee changing. It’s a cliché to talk about technology, and about schools moving from brick and mortar to online, and students opting for a bouquet of courses and so on. Often, I’m reminded as to how automation will replace teachers, how cyborgs are all set to invade the classrooms, and how it’s the end of an era for teaching (and teachers) as we know it. And often, I hear the converse too: there's no substitute for traditional teaching methods. The wisdom that has come upon us through centuries of teaching-learning, as well as recent data-backed research studies, indicate that the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two extreme thoughts; how well a learner is engaged with relevant, real-world content and pedagogy is the cornerstone of the teaching-learning process. I’ve always felt that it’s not technology that has or will replace a teacher, it’s actually a teacher who can use and make technology relevant for engaging the learner who will replace a teacher who refuses to move ahead with changing times.

Kids today are tech-driven from a very tender age. The education system too is transforming with the help of technology. Thus, it is important for teachers to embrace technology wholeheartedly and be a part of this global academic transformation. The delta, therefore, is not the tech. If gamification, artificial intelligence, remote classrooms, et al have become the norm, what is the shift that is being sought? The paradox remains in the fore mentioned problem, where teacher preparation programs focus on using tech tools, OR, on the theory around established norms of classroom management and pedagogy. So, let me paint a picture for you as to how the teachers of the future would need to be like.

It’s the year 2040. The NEP'20 has been around for two decades, and we’d see the impact on the workforce as well, let alone learning levels of students. Beyond job titles, students are exploring careers to be dreamers, doers, achievers, explorers, creator, innovators, and leaders. Their teachers are shaping classrooms accordingly as well.

The teaching at schools has further refined, and the only level to traditionally teach would be the primary level (Nursery to Grade 2) where focus would be on developing languages, mathematics, motor skills and mind-body coordination. The focus would also be on inculcating values. Moving on, from 3 to 5, there would be learning through demonstration. Teachers use tools such as presentations, visits, exhibitions, drama, recitation, etc. As a next step, there would be an introduction of a variety of curricular and non-curricular subjects, integrated with the opportunity to chisel students with skills. Special course of study on subjects such as – what is learning and what are the methods and tools for learning are introduced. Learning completely through exploration, experimentation, project work and research. Introduction to specialized streams in science and social studies. For grades 9 & 10, there is support for children’s individual development needs through assimilation. Teachers help mentor and develop growth map of every child. And finally, facilitate higher-level subjects and learning through the specialization of subjects based on choice, aptitude and attitude only.

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Teachers of the 2040 school are no longer scribbling on white/black/green boards with backs to the students, but engaging in meaningful conversation. Flipped classes, case learning, peer-projects have all become hygiene factors. The world is fully immersed with tech, and teaching is a profession of choice amongst quality candidates. It pays handsomely too, at par with the generally sought after jobs of 20 years’ ago – your investment bankers and management consultants of the world. Collaboration, engagement, conflict, creativity, design and decision making are top of the charts for both the teacher and the learner. Every era sees a flourishing trend: the ’80s saw the automobile and heavy industries on an up-swing; the ’90s saw the rise of the Internet; the 2000s saw the emergence of technologies affecting everyday lives, including mobile phones and social networking. Similarly, the next-generation is predicted to revolve around nano-technologies and artificial intelligence-based technologies. The common theme running through each era, however, is innovation. The innovation in each era has an effect on education, management and the society on the whole. In this new age of education, it would be akin to committing a “hara-kiri” if one doesn’t innovate or follow the same style of learning or learn the same skills as their predecessors did while undergoing conventional education. Being born in Generation Y, the challenges and aspirations of our youth must be very different from those of Generation X and the Baby-boomers.

This is where the role of an academician is very important. There’s a popular saying that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.' However, every teacher must provide that platform to the student so that they may become ready! The teacher has to be the facilitator to help the student surpass the master.

What a mammoth yet beautiful task ahead! If all or even most of the above is to be achieved, the focus has to be on creating acceptable structures and infrastructure (even on the cloud) for this shift to happen in the society. With a constructivist approach, our teachers have to be trained for asking questions, learning by doing, and projects that will provide experiential learning for life. This will further help in facilitating the curiosities of the 21st-century learner. Workshops, seminars, games, activities, reading, collaborative projects, films, seminars, and expeditions would be regularly conducted to ensure that learning is not restricted to the physical classroom itself. Our curriculum and teaching then would stand on a broad base of understanding a child’s psychological, emotional, intellectual and social needs. Robots and artificial intelligence shall become a norm for your and my life, however, the one thing that will go missing without able guidance of a teacher is perhaps the nurturing of the souls. A relaxed soul seeks excellence habitually, versus the disturbed one who is constantly bewildered by the weightage of expectation. Social and soul development has been and forever shall be a way of life. The pandemic ensured that technology being a hygiene factor leapfrogged, and teachers became tech-savvy with incredible gusto and speed. PS: take a moment to acknowledge this, and appreciate the teachers worldwide for this incredible fast-track.

About the author: Kanak Gupta, Director, Seth M R Jaipuria Schools

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Neerja Birla on The Need For a Mental Health Curriculum in Schools

It means inculcating a culture of mental health conversations, practices and interventions into the lesson plans.

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Merely 4 countries in the entire world have a total population of 250 million. India, on the other hand, has 250 million children just in school.

Unfortunately, 12% of Indian children between the ages of 4 and 16 suffer from psychiatric disorders.

12% of 250 million is a staggering number – just do the math.

Children have complex but fragile eco-systems that can easily fall prey to a host of behavioural, emotional, learning or mental disorders. In fact, up to 50% of mental, behavioural and psychological problems have their onset during adolescence. The most common mental health issues that youngsters tend to face are: anxiety disorders, depression and eating disorders, along with psychosis and ADHD – these two often being co-morbid. Resulting out of these, are what we call co-occurring disorders that include substance abuse and certain behavioural disorders.

The stories of young kids attempting suicide are the most shocking and horrifying. At an age when children should be running around, playing games and having loads of fun without a care in the world, what would prompt them to even think about something as drastic and dark as ending their lives?

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It is the combined duty of parents, teachers and educational institutions to ensure the holistic development of children on a physical, emotional and mental level.

Mental wellbeing is the key to unlocking the unique potential in every child and in ensuring that they can live their life to the fullest. Assessing every child’s state of mind and coping mechanisms at every stage of their formative years and taking the requisite measures to enhance them holds the key to sustained mental wellbeing throughout their lives.

Unfortunately, teachers and school managements have traditionally not been equipped to deal with mental health issues or to manage the emotional well-being of students.

For example, children have always been pulled up for disruptive behaviour. But now, we need to have an understanding of mental health-related symptoms and signs to analyse the reason behind such behaviour before deciding what should be done about it.

Similarly, teachers don’t know that children can be afflicted by the same mental disorders as adults, but their symptoms may be drastically different.

Psychosocial Development refers to Erik Erickson’s theory of psychological development of an individual in interaction with his or her social environment and relationships at different stages in life. At every stage, kids experience a conflict that becomes a turning point in their development. These conflicts either help them develop a positive psychological quality or result in the failure to do so. When children deal successfully with a conflict, they emerge with strong psychological skills that can serve them for the rest of their lives. These skills allow for competence and motivate positive behaviours and actions.

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Also, it is a myth that only children who have learning, behavioural or emotional issues fall prey to mental health concerns.

Dr. Stephen Chou, who served on the board of directors at SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), wrote an article where he explained how even gifted children can break down when they experience failure. Sometimes, it takes only one failure for them to believe that they’re not really that gifted or good enough. After that, they may experience shame, doubt, inferiority and even guilt. This is where the proper psychosocial development of a child becomes vital, not just the enhancement of their other skills and talents.

As an educationist and mental health activist, I’ve always believed that mental health education needs to be an integral part of the school curriculum. The time has now come to translate advocacy into tangible action.

Both children and teachers must understand what mental health is and how important it is to the overall growth of children. By creating awareness, allowing children to feel comfortable with their feelings and be open about them from a very young age, we can effectively promote long-term mental wellbeing.

At Mpower, we have just launched our Minds Matter program, which aims to bring about a transformational change in our very approach to the mental health of children right from Grade 1 to 12.

The moot question to be asked, however, is: What does it actually mean to have a mental health curriculum in schools?

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It means inculcating a culture of mental health conversations, practices and interventions into the lesson plans.

The Minds Matter curriculum is based on 4 modules: Positive Psychology, Social Emotional Learning, Social Psychology and Mental Health Literacy.

As we have done with Minds Matter, if evidence-based therapeutic practices and interventions are implemented directly into the lesson plans, the curriculum can provide integrative care and create safe classroom environments, both actual and virtual, in collaboration with mental healthcare professionals, for children throughout their formative years.

The objectives of the curriculum have to be simple:

Promoting mental health awareness and literacy in kids, interwoven into their learning process,

Building the students’ resilience to deal with difficulties and stress,

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Teaching them effective life skills and coping mechanisms to combat mental health issues, and

Training and giving ongoing support to school professionals and online resources to monitor and promote mental wellbeing among students.

What impact and outcomes can we expect with the inclusion of a mental health curriculum in education?

Firstly, it will promote the preventive aspect of mental health. Teachers and educational institutions will learn how to identify and red-flag signs of mental health issues in their children: a sudden decline in academic performance, variations in behaviour and mood and disciplinary issues – to name just a few. If the warning signs can be identified early on, children can get timely help and intervention.

It will also encourage help-seeking behaviour. Children will not feel isolated or helpless and never feel the need to hide their mental health concerns from the fear of being reprimanded for it or because other children will tease them about it.

In fact, it will make children more accepting of and empathetic towards others who may be facing mental health concerns. In effect, this empathy and tolerance can help eliminate the apprehensions associated with seeking help and also stamp out the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

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By having a mental health curriculum in schools, we will not only be able to educate teachers and students about the importance of mental health, but we will also be able to have a decisive impact on the mindsets of the parents as well.

So many parents, even highly educated ones, get into denial mode about their children’s issues due to the overwhelming stigma attached to mental health concerns in India. In fact, children fall prey to the stigma of mental disorders later. It is the parents that fall prey to them first. To truly help children, it is critical that parents make a conscientious effort to approach the mental health of their children with empathy and concern. Parents must come to terms with the realities of the present generation. They face far more challenges than the parents did when they were growing up. Building a collaborative relationship between the school and the parents is extremely crucial to the success of any mental health curriculum.

We’ve all heard of the Butterfly Effect adage: ‘A butterfly beating its wings in Hong Kong can unleash a storm in New York.’

It means that – Change, no matter how small, ends up creating completely different circumstances in a complex system due to the process of amplification.

Introducing a comprehensive mental health curriculum into the school system will be the ‘fluttering of wings’ that will result in unprecedented and colossal positive outcomes in the education system in the years to come.

All in all, a mental health curriculum in schools has become an indispensable necessity, a pressing need that we can no longer ignore. The time has come for society to bring about a trailblazing revolution to our education system. After all, the mental wellbeing of our future generations is at stake.

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About the author

Mrs. Neerja Birla is the Founder and Chairperson of Aditya Birla Education Trust, Educationist and Mental Health Activist.

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A Collaboration of CBSE & Facebook to Bring Online Programs in Augmented Reality 

CBSE launched online training for students and teachers on Social Media Behaviour and Sustainability, in collaboration with Facebook, India

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As per the CBSE brochure, to further their commitment towards digital inclusion and digital empowerment, CBSE and Facebook have partnered to launch curriculum and related training in Augmented Reality, Digital Safety & Online Well-Being and introduce Instagram Toolkit for Teens.

With Facebook, there will be an online programme for augmented reality while with Instagram, workshops on screentime spent on this photo-sharing platform will be conducted, teaching students and teachers how to stay safe on social media.

The Centre for Social Research (CSR) will be leading the digital training workshop for students to understand their digital identity and how they can become responsible digital users.

Instagram’s Guide for Building Healthy Digital Habits has been developed in collaboration with The Jed Foundation (JED) and YLAC (Young Leaders for Active Citizenship). It’s a basic guide to understand the socio-emotional space young people operate in, on any social media platform.

"We will explore the essentials of how to communicate responsibly online, how to identify and respond to threats and harassment, and the tools with which they can empower themselves to stay safe and secure online," as per the CBSE brochure.

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The training programs will be free of cost for both teachers and students in CBSE-affiliated schools in the first phase from August to November 2020 in virtual mode. The registration for these training programs will start on July 6 and will end on July 20, 2020. Each of the programs will have 10,000 seats each for teachers and students. The teachers' program would commence on August 10 and the students’ program from August 6 onwards.

CBSE and Facebook will provide an online certificate of completion to participants who successfully complete the programme by the School of Innovation from Facebook.

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Details and registration: http://www.cbseacademic.nic.in/fb/facebookforeducation.html?fbclid=IwAR1oVStOVQ9hnGdluWEYpTdahaO9KbMnU8MIhhGNLM54IC7Sojjl7VfC_oU

 

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Schools & The Pandemic: Technology & Mindset Shift

This webinar by ScooNews discussed the most pressing issue of today – use of technology in the education sector

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On 1 July 2020, ScooNews hosted a webinar on the topic "Schools and the pandemic: Technology & Mindset Shift,” which was attended by more than 30,000 educationists and parents. The panellists included:

  • Dr Arunabh Singh, Director, Nehru World School (Moderator)
  • Prof. Sugata Mitra, TED Prize Winner, 2013
  • Lissa Chazot, Apple Distinguished Educator
  • Kinner N Sacchdev, CEO, Knorish

Excerpts:

When our audience was asked if they believed that technology in the education sector is here to stay or will the education go back to how it was after the pandemic, 82% said that technology is going to be a permanent part of the education sector now. 

Technology has been an enabler: How to choose between which tools we need and which ones we want

Lissa Chazot

What is interesting to note is that the needs of yesterday are not the needs of today, because as per the estimates, more than 1.5 billion learners were directly impacted due to the lockdown in about 200 countries across the globe. We need to adapt according to the discourse of current times.

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We do not just need to substitute books with devices as that will not be the way to instructional and systemic change we are hoping for.

  1. Vision is really important: To set out the purpose, WHY, that would help the school to make decisions better for the tools to be used.
  2. Opt for transversal and polyvalent tools: So the same tool can be used across different classes and can be aligned to different subject competencies.
  3. Consider students’ situation: It is a huge learning curve for students who are using devices for the first time. While choosing a tool, be considerate of the achievability of the tool, keeping it challenging but doable should be the goal.
  4. Access and accessibility: We must be mindful of those who don't have internet access. Whereas accessibility would be addressing special-needs students so that no one is left behind while embracing any kind of change.
  5. Opt for student-centric and interactive tools: This can further the learning and can create meaningful opportunities for teaching. 

Change in mindset in regards to assessment: Possibility of making learning more meaningful and lifelong

Sugata Mitra

We generally treat assessment as the last step in the learning process, that is something a learner does not know is ‘taught’ to them and to check how much has the information penetrated they are examined, and because of the lockdown this sequence has been disturbed.

The assumption that teaching has to come first, students’ need to be willing to study and to end with examination cannot work in the current scenario. 

I would like to ask, what will happen when I take a few questions from a standard exam and send it to students who are at home, and give them an hour for the answers to be sent back. The general expectation would be that students would look up the answers and send the perfect reply. But, are you extremely sure you would always get back the perfect answer in the given time?

I doubt it. Let us also add another step, before grading the answers, talk to the students individually. This would allow you to check how much the students were able to comprehend the topic.

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This is the same method that has been used in PhD for years now. You start with questions neither the student nor the teacher knows the answer to and over the course of time, find the answers together and write a paper. Based on that you are given the degree. Can we bring that method in the schools as well? This could also help with excellent quality assessment outside the school, probably better than inside the school.

Arunabh Singh

Building on that, I am reminded of what my nephew said a few days back. He suggested if everyone in the family could jump up in the air and see who managed to reach the highest length. It was actually an assignment given to him by his teacher who wanted to teach kids about measurements in this unique manner. By carrying out an activity like this, I believe, any child can learn how to measure, which is phenomenal. 

Learning in the online space: Completion rate is less than 10% of online courses, is it expected to change?

Kinner N Sacchdev

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) were designed by universities to teach at a mass level, but in my opinion, it's the wrong lengths to look at it from.

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When we ask what is the completion rate of MOOC, we are looking at it as the mirror to an authentic classroom which is not correct.

I agree with what Prof Mitra said, if the learner is ready and interested, he will look at all the formats for the knowledge. We could easily say the UI & UX design of different platforms are getting better now at completion rates. But we should ask for the sake of educators, how do we identify and make sure that there are all kinds of knowledge on all platforms, and is available to the learners?

Higher completion rates would depend upon students who are avid learners and are interested in learning the topic. 

Take my daughter, 3, for example. She loves this particular movie called ‘Ballerina’ and often plays it to practice the dance moves. She’s learning for a film! Now let us go back 20 years when there were no online courses. My daughter would have to wait for the pandemic to end, for me to look for a ballerina class so she could begin to learn. Online platforms bring us these possibilities, without having to wait for every circumstance, to go out of the way to satiate our desire to learn.

Earlier I thought online learning was not something small children can do but she has taught me that if the desire is there to find the answer, put the content in any format in front of people and the completion rates would increase.

Granny Cloud/SOLE Model of teaching: What can be done by educators to continue learning for students?

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Sugata Mitra

SOLE aka Self Organised Learning Environment has been here for over a decade now, it has spread in the world and teachers have been using this model to teach, some might have made customised changes, too. But the basic principle is, you ask a question and then you allow a group of students with access to the internet to find a collective answer.

When done in groups, children would love to find the answers as if it is a play, and would not worry about being wrong.

When in rural areas you don't have someone to ask a good question, you can use the Granny Cloud. In Granny Cloud, the experienced educators come in and talk to the children and while doing so, they formulate an interesting question for them.

SOLE is an assessment of a subject that the learner does not know, and sometimes even a teacher might not know. Ask the students the big question, to which no one knows the answer because then the internet won't know, too, and this will be a learning opportunity for the children. It is the upside-down system, examination then learning.

Arunabh Singh

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As I listen to Prof Mitra speaking, it resonates with a lot of parenting conversations we are having these days – How do parents engage with their children as learners and how to keep their curiosity and willingness alive.  

Online classes: Revolutionising the pedagogy of the classroom with a blend of technology

Lissa Chazot

Embracing change can be a very lonely process, the challenges can feel very daunting. It will help if we create a community of teachers because we are all in this together. 

Normally, the change would be accompanied by a strategic plan, professional development, etc., but we were thrown in this with little or no experience at all! You don't have to reinvent the wheel, there are resources out there that you can tap into, like the repository resources curated by the United Nations called ‘Supporting The Continuation Of Teaching And Learning During The COVID Pandemic.’

Technology adoption is a journey, where it starts with substitution. Instead of a textbook, you have online material, the board is replaced by screens and instead of physical presence, there is a camera.

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And the last step would be to be able to do things that were not possible without technology, like creating an e-book, learning from movies, doing educational radio shows, etc.

What should be remembered is that there is no one benchmark, there could be ideals which we strive to achieve, but everyone is going to be different and will bring in their individuality and address their needs; basically strive for creativity.

Arunabh Singh

One thing is sure that information is plenty and people across the world are ready to share their resources. Everybody wants to have new ideas and could also be looking for ideas that have worked in another context.

The non-existence of offline tutoring: Platform for educators in India to set up their own academy

Kinner N Sacchdev

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Online learning is becoming inevitable now! We need to break it down and understand that there is very little difference between online and offline. India that has always been a land of gurus will be a hotbed for creating content for the world. After all, technology has made content creation so easy in the present times.

When you talk about paying for content in India, we are already paying for tons of content, we just need to realise that not all skills require a physical presence. Some of the most valuable ed-tech companies are based in India now. 

We realised that these institutes would really want to build their own websites and platforms and use it for themselves. Being able to make syllabus, online classes, assessments and whatnot, we, at Knorish, wanted to bring the best user experience.

Here are some tips for creating a course and delivering online:

  1. Find your niche and carefully select what you want to teach online. Also, have a learner’s mindset.
  2. Learn your devices and technology: These are getting better every day.
  3. Learn how to get your word out on social media platforms and communicate about your content.

Equity and divide of access: How to weave subjects like music/art into active learning?

Sugata Mitra

Do a search on the topic of incorporating subjects like music and arts into active learning and you will come across people who have written about them, for example, the book I authored called ‘School In The Cloud.’

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The right amount of screentime

Sugata Mitra

There is no right and wrong amount of screentime. My grandmother would say the same about books, now it is being said about the devices. It is about the usage of that screentime to learn more.

Kinner N Sacchdev

In every device nowadays, there is a compulsory blue light filter, which has been scientifically found to reduce the strain on the eye.

How to fight Education Ban?

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Sugata Mitra

I feel one of the major aspects of this ban could be the fact that not everybody has the accessibility to new-age learning devices or high-speed internet. We need to willingly address this issue. 

Lissa Chazot

There are obviously a lot of reservations regarding technology adoption. For schools, it has been found that for the younger years, a blended approach of online and offline works the best.

Kinner N Sacchdev

I would like to say that we need to curate good content for kids because otherwise, these online shows will carry on. It is inevitable since children are locked in homes. It is better to give them knowledgeable content.

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Arunabh Singh

This is clearly a block mindset on the part of the government, it was a hasty decision. There has been a hashtag trending #RightToLearn and I would like to tell all the educators to use this hashtag and get your voices heard.

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