Movies as a teaching aid

Most children (and adults) love movies. Movies can make us laugh, cry, jump up and dream. Movies bring many elements including story telling, characters, emotions, visualiztion, sound and others together.

Movies are a subjective expression of the writers, actors, camera-persons, technicians and directors. Often, there are layers in the expression of each of these players. Critically interpreting a scene requires one to go beneath the obvious. It requires one to go beyond just describing the scene, to explaining it. To use one’s imagination to view the scene from the eyes of the creator.

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(The same arguments holds true for art, literature or music !!)

Teaching children to understand those nuances can be fun way to develop the critical thinking as well as finer appreciation of art. Not just art, may be of life itself.

Power of AND

When we talk about improving the education system, we often encounter extreme positions. “Let’s get rid of exams” says one reformer, “Let’s not have sections” says the other. While these ideas work in pockets, they can’t be scaled. Also, they miss some of the intrinsic strengths in the current education system.

Indian education system lays a lot of emphasis on hardwork, working under constraints and practice. Infact, most Asian cultures emphasize learning any subject like math is about putting in the effort necessary. This is an important aspect of developing a growth mindset – that anyone can learn anything, rather than a talent mindset.

We need to keep that. That’s what allowed Asians to thrive when presented with a better environment in the West.

We keep that … AND add critical thinking … AND creative expression … AND research mindset … AND experiential learning.

AND is the key operator here. Blindly aping the West is a recipe for a tragedy.

They will know nothing about a bird

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You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts” – Richard Feynman

How true. Watch the text books children are given and the homework they are doing – you will see this at play. A new way of learning is needed where the child can deep dive into the topic, play with the underlying elements, see it in action, re-construct it for himself / herself and apply it in creating something real.

Only then we will have our children learn anything at hand for life and have a lot of fun along the way.

Understanding Constructionism

Seymour Papert defined a concept he called Constructionism [1], [2] in his proposal [3] to the National Science Foundation. This concept can be a very powerful learning model to rethink how kids learn.

The word constructionism is a mnemonic for two aspects of the theory of science education underlying this project. From constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product. [4]

Constructionist learning is when learners construct mental models to understand the world around them. Constructionism advocates student-centered, discovery learning where students use information they already know to acquire more knowledge. Students learn through participation in project-based learning where they make connections between different ideas and areas of knowledge facilitated by the teacher through coaching rather than using lectures or step-by-step guidance. Further, constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are active in making tangible objects in the real world. In this sense, constructionism is connected with experiential learning and builds on Jean Piaget’s epistemological theory of constructivism. [1]

This can be translated into 3 key ideas as we think of a new way of learning and teaching:

  1. Learners need to reconstruct what they learned … assemble the pieces like building Lego models … and they finally assemble a mental model of how things work in their own mind
  2. This activity of recontructing is more effective if the end product is a tangible real life meaningful object
  3. The role of the teacher is to facilitate that reconstruction and call out the reusable pieces as you go along (Interestingly this is very closely related to the concept of learning thru Chunking and connecting the chunks, Barbara Oakley talks at length in these videos on Chunking [5])

References:

  1. Wikipedia page on Constructionism (Learning Theory)
  2. Situating Constructionism by Seymour Papert and Idit Harel
  3. Educational Psychology Open course by Atlantic International University
  4. Constructionism: A New Opportunity for Elementary Science Education
  5. Learning to Learn: Videos on Chunking