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A classroom is a microcosm of the universe, and a classroom is an excellent space to inculcate practices that can help students throughout their adult lives. As correctly pointed out by Henry Ford, “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Students need to be made comfortable working in groups.

It is true that learning can be meaningful only when the process is attuned to the needs, goals and strengths of a learner. In fact, the focus of the present-day education system has shifted from a teacher-centric approach, where the teacher is the sole holder and diffuser of knowledge, to a more student-centric approach with each student being at the helm of their learning process. However, that in no way tries to promote an isolation of learners from their peers and their teachers. Students ought to understand early in their lives that individual goals fit in well within a larger set up, and can be furthered and enhanced through collaboration and engagement. Learners can critically understand their thoughts in close relation to the world of others to become practical problem solvers of tomorrow.

Thus, adopting a collaborative learning approach could help teachers inculcate life skills and critical thinking skills in learners.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is an approach that involves two or more individuals coming together to understand a common learning concept and complete a common task. They bank upon each other’s resources, expertise and skills to fulfil the task. There is joint ownership of responsibilities and failures, if any. They work independently on different  parameters and evaluate each other’s work to improve the quality of output.

In a classroom ecosystem, a learner with a doubt could first approach their peers before going to teachers. Such an exercise is not to keep teachers away from students’ learning process, but to nudge learners to resort to their own collective wisdom as a community. This would encourage a student to understand and value their neighbour’s resourcefulness and give proper credit to them. Teachers could give challenging tasks to students in the classroom and ask students to work as a group. Students could see their tasks and thoughts getting challenged, and thus get an opportunity to think through the loopholes.

Let’s see how teachers could design an effective curriculum to facilitate collective learning.

How to collaborate in a classroom?

Phenomenon-based learning is a holistic approach that changes the focus of learning from individual subjects to phenomena, topics and events like energy, media and technology. Learning theories could lead to knowledge that is superficial. However, when life practices are within a pedagogical framework, learning could fulfil the purpose of raising responsible citizens.

A teacher could assign a group of learners with an inter-disciplinary topic like the source of drinking and washing water in their area, and ask them to present on it. This would enable students to work independently and collectively. Discussion and collaboration within the team would help them develop their communication skills. Moreover, the benefits of phenomenon-based learning is not limited to collective learning, and is complemented by constructivist approach and enquiry-based learning.

Further, hands-on activities can help students to learn in groups. Sharing equipment and other components could help them develop a sense of sharing resources in real life too. School excursions could help collaborative learning ventures as students’ interaction with peers would not be limited to academics outside the classroom.

Benefits of Collective Learning

Celebration of Diversity: A small group of students could be culturally and socially very diverse and thus, collaborative learning projects could open up the world to learners as they begin to gain a new perspective on life from their peers. Students also get to reflect upon their lives and values against those of their classmates and learn to acknowledge differences without being critical.

Interpersonal Development: In a group enterprise, it is essential that students learn to work with all types of people and relate to their peers so that the project at hand benefits from their structured interaction.

Confidence, Communication: Collaborative learning projects at an early age can help students boost their confidence and self-esteem, besides improving their sense of ownership at work. The task of presenting their ideas, defending them, and collaborating with others to expand their horizons also requires good communication skills, which also get a boost in these activities.

Establishing a culture of collaborative learning is not difficult. Neither is the process a resource-intensive one nor is assessing collaborative learning work  difficult. A teacher needs willingness and an open mind to carry it out. Moreover, the availability of technology only makes collaboration easier. Students can connect with their peers on social media or through a learning management system. Among the many benefits of collective learning, the most important one is that it is able to fulfil the real purpose of education – nurturing responsible citizens who can collaborate with their fellow denizens to solve complex social, economic and political problems.

The author is Beas Dev Ralhan,CEO & co-founder, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd.
 
The process of imparting education has undergone gargantuan change over the past few years. Education has evolved greatly from its earlier tropes of rote learning to the present day innovative procedures. Technology has impacted every facet of daily life over the last few years – from personal and business interactions to school systems and the ways in which we learn something new every day. Considering how fast technology has evolved over the past decade, mankind is yet to see the best of it.

Edu tech is certainly ushering the new age of learning in India. It is estimated that the ed-tech market will double in size from the present USD 20 billion to USD 40 billion by the end of 2017.

Today, innovative methods to improve and facilitate learning can be found in abundance. One can safely say that, we have embraced technology in education where it is used for both teaching and learning, with an aim to transform the ways in which teachers and students gather, access, analyse, present and transmit information.

The key drivers of growth in digital learning in India are:

● With nearly a billion people connected over mobile phones, widespread use of internet and its easy availability has lead to considerable rise in digital learning.

● The incorporation of best-in-class content, real-time learning and feedback methods and personalised instructions has ensured steady growth of online learning.

● Rise of the current crop of ed tech firms, garnering the interest of mass. People have started stepping towards digital learning as the ed-tech firms are providing them the comfort of 'live and interactive' anywhere learning in digital format.

● Digital learning aims to break the numerous barriers that are preventing people from receiving quality education in the physically bound classrooms.

This explosion of digital learning has had the following impact:

● The impact of new technologies has been mostly positive as they have given educators the opportunity to enhance their knowledge, skills, and therefore, enhance the standard of education through constructive learning environment, empowered with digital storytelling.

● Audio visual aids along with interactive, educational simulations have helped understand concepts and theories enabling a better scope of learning.

● The students gain knowledge from masters of the subjects from world class institutes without geographical and monetary constraints.

● Students have also benefitted by learning from eminent corporate leaders, business academicians as well as the industry connoisseurs. These experts share their valuable insights on the relevant, practical and must know aspects of the corporate world, enabling the students to gain comprehensive and specialised knowledge.

● Digitisation has led to bridging the rural and urban gap as now even rural children have the access to education.

Conclusion

With the prime minister's Digital India initiative to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge-based economy, the education sector in India is perched to witness major growth in the years to come. Embracing technology has led to an increased efficiency and effectiveness of the teaching-learning process. Technology is leading to a prompt pedagogical change, while addressing issues that affect learning, teaching and social functionalities. Technology can therefore, be seen as a tool alongside a catalyst for change. Students should embrace technology for their benefit and teachers should be open to introducing it into the classroom to innovate their teaching practices.

The author is Mitsuyo Tamai, founder of Kiwami – Japan based out-of-school learning institute.

 
• An English-medium class XII sociology textbook of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education ascribes “ugliness and handicap” as the main reasons why Indian parents have to pay dowry for the marriage of their daughters. “If a girl is ugly and handicapped, it becomes very difficult for her to get married. To marry her, the girl’s bridegroom and his family demand more dowry. The helpless parents of such girls are then forced to pay up,” explains the author.

• A class IV environment science textbook prescribed by Delhi government schools advises students to kill a kitten as part of an experiment. “No living thing can live without air for more than a few minutes. You can do an experiment. Take two wooden boxes. Make holes on the lid of one box. Put a small kitten in each box. Close the boxes. After some time, open the boxes. What do you see? The kitten inside the box without holes has died,” reads the text.

• A class IX Hindi textbook of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education compares a housewife to a donkey. “A donkey is like a housewife. It has to toil all day and, like her, may even have to give up food and water. In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents’ home, you’ll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master.” 

• A class X social science textbook, published by the Chhattisgarh Board of Secondary Education, says unemployment has spiraled after independence as more women have started working. “Before Independence, few women were employed. But today, women are employed in all sectors that has increased the proportion of unemployment among men,” it reads.

• A class IV Hindi textbook of the Gujarat State School Textbook Board defines the Urdu word “roza,” which denotes fasting during the holy month of Ramzan, as “an infectious disease that causes diarrhoea.” A class XI Hindi text describes Jesus Christ as a demon. 

• A class X English-medium physical education textbook of the Karnataka state board says badminton ace P.V. Sindhu “wone” bronze at the Rio Olympics in 2016 instead of silver, while badminton champion Saina Nehwal’s name is inter-changeable with that of Sania Mirza, the international tennis star.



 
 
“Creativity is dying a slow death as the Indian educational system emphasises rigorously on rote learning rather than critical thinking and problem solving,” says Mitsuyo Tamai, CEO of Japan-based tuition centre Kiwami.

“People must understand that good grades don’t equate to proper learning,” she said, adding that the onus of education is being defeated in this competitive environment.

Headquartered in Delhi, Kiwami applies a creative method called ‘Tamai’ incorporating Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based learning through videos, movies and 3D animations for teaching mathematics and science till Class VIII.

“We enhance the imaginative skills of students through diverse evaluation programme such as ‘SOROBON’ (Abacus) which augments the calculation skill of every child by the power of imagination,” says Tamai.

“Students consider ICT tools very helpful as it aids them to comprehend assignments easily, especially for those with special needs or difficulties,” she added.

 

 

Global competition system

Kiwami claims that as of 2015, nearly 30,000 students across different countries have benefited from its teaching methods and materials.

“Our uniqueness is that we conduct two global standardised tests thrice a year. This way our students will know where they rank in the world and will be motivated to study more,” she said.

 

 

Future plans

“We have tied up with 10 Kendriya Vidyalayas and are already providing our services at a reasonable price to leading names in the private sector, such as DPS, Ranchi,” Tamai said.

With presence in Singapore, the US, Thailand and Vietnam, Kiwami now intends to expand its learning centres pan-India within five years.

The author is Mitsuyo Tamai, CEO of Japan-based tuition centre Kiwami.