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Question: Do you believe what you see?

Asked by Hootan Dehbonei

Answer:
“Dear Hootan, "Seeing is believing." We receive about 81% of our Knowledge through our sense of sight. It gets stored in the Brain as a Visual much faster if we have previous experience of the event or if we have conditioned our mind to believe in what we see.
What we see can be an illusion also. Hence one needs to be cautious in ascertaining that 'what one saw was what one thinks one saw'.
Believing has more to do with the way you have been trained to accept truths, knowledge and facts. People prefer to believe in what the majority believes in. Some prefer to believe in those who are in positions of Power/Authority. Others believe in their own experiences and yet others believe in what has been experimentally verified. Some live in a world of 'make believe' and hence only see what they believe in and believe in what appears to them and is therefore seen. How Confusing!

Question:If schools and afterschool programs were designed to create the next generation of innovators, what would they be like?

Asked by Stephen Brand

Answer:
“Dear Stephen, Innovators are Creative people who are intelligent, think divergently, think critically, think 'Out of the Box' and follow their Intuition also.
Psychological Research in Intelligence and Creativity speaks of IQ developing up to the age of 16. As regards common abilities of Intelligence and Creativity, the Growth Graph runs parallel up to 120 IQ after which Creativity moves ahead while the Graph of IQ mostly runs parallel to x-axis. This means that all Creative people have to be Intelligent, while all intelligent people may not be Creative.

A study of Creativity reveals the abilities of Divergent Thinking, Elaboration, Spontaneity, Fluency and Originality as essential.

Now, I hope it becomes easier to design a curriculum, a transaction strategy and an environment that fosters these abilities. We will have to ensure that 'We teach to Think' and our Teaching Learning Activities are designed in such a manner as lead to Higher Order Thinking and develop Skills of Analysis, Evaluation and Creating/Generating. The environment has to challenge each learner to reach his potential and go beyond. The learners will have to be reinforced at every step. Examples from the lives of great Innovators, Projects and Assignments, Tutorials and Model making will have to be included in a large major in the curriculum and there have to be ample opportunities for experimentation, discovery and innovating.

Question: What is your strategy of teaching a group of students with different learning abilities, knowledge and skills?

Asked by Kate Podkopayeva.

Answer:
“Dear Kate, Teachers and I mean all teachers have to face this problem. My teachers faced it, I faced and now I mentor teachers as to how to deal with it.
We never have a homogenous class, it is always heterogeneous. Believe me, teaching a class where there are children with the same knowledge, same skills and same learning abilities (though an impossible situation unless we have a group matched on various variables after detailed psychological testing and Factorial Analysis) would not be a challenge to a good teacher. It would be routine and monotony.
Please find after testing as to what are the Learning Styles of your students, check their Entering Behaviour and where you find that it does not suit the minimum expectations at entry level, organise a bridge course and improve upon their Entering Behaviour. If majority of students show poor learning abilities then change your objectives, your expectations and choose curricular areas that will help in improving upon their Entering Behaviour. Most important is your Instructional Procedures or Strategies. Adopt a Multisensory Approach; choose from a range of Activities on a topic, those that are obligatory and those that are optional. Give students the freedom to choose projects and activities from a Grid that allows them the freedom of choice at two levels; Taxonomical and Multiple Intelligence. You will in the process find that while all children perform activities at Lower Levels of Remembering, Understanding and Application; only a few will choose activities on Analysis, Evaluation and Creating. Similarly different children will choose activities as per their Intelligence.

You have to teach keeping the average 68% in view most of the time and the remaining 32% who are evenly distributed at the two ends of the continuum: 16% Above average need to be challenged with activities, projects and assignments as a programme of Enrichment and Acceleration and the other16%-Below average need immediate Remediation but after Diagnostic Evaluation and they need your time, attention, patience, reinforcement and care. This is the challenge to a teacher.
Please follow practices that have been tested and found useful; like peer work, group work, Use of colour and Music, Movement Breaks, enough opportunities for Review and Practice.
You have to individualise your teaching in a classroom setting. This is not difficult at all provided you have all the background information about each child and you can transact curriculum at various levels. Cheer up. We all did it. I am sure you can do it better than us.”

Question: How long can we continue to add technology to teaching and learning before we fundamentally reconsider the entire process, including the spaces and structures of learning?

Asked by Mark Friedman

Answer:
“Dear Mark, The answer in brief is "NO LONGER- A LOT OF DAMAGE HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE."

Let us pause for a while and understand the fundamental process of Teaching-Learning. Once this understanding has been acquired; add what you like but with an objective and that has to be only “to improve the process."

Teaching is an objective-oriented activity. It has a well defined purpose. It is a social activity. You need two people at least. It is meant to induce learning. Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour. It is an individual activity and needs both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. We all have our preferred Styles of learning. Our Brain Hemispheric functioning also affects the way we learn. Review and practice enhance learning. One needs to have a holistic view of the behaviouristic School of thought and the Cognitive School as also of those who talk of learning as Need-Reduction, Problem-Solving and what not. What is essential to us is that there are a lot of variables that intervene in the process of Teaching-Learning and while we are able to control a few, there are many that are beyond our control.

We have been constantly endeavouring to bring in efficacy, speed, change in this process and every decade has witnessed the growth of new strategies: Nature as Teacher, Play-way, Project Technique, Child centric methods, Tutorial system, Heuristic approach, Socratic Dialogue, Inquiry based teaching, Developing Schemas and Strategies, catering to the Zone of proximal development etc.

We did speak of and use Technology in Education. We developed a Technology of Education and a Technology in Education. I am of the view that an approach where the Laws of Learning, the Researches of Behavioural Sciences and the Knowledge of HOW learning takes place in the Brain is concerned; we should use it to our best possible advantage in the Teaching Learning Process. Then, we need to look for introduction of the Hardware and Software of Technology that can facilitate the Process and make it more effective, enhance learning, individualise instruction, give each learner the space and freedom to learn at his pace, assess learning in objective terms for Remediation and for providing reinforcement.

In fact, the use of Technology as a substitute for Teaching needs experimentation and research based evidence. I have found a display of Technology and the concerned did not have a perfect understanding of its use, its scope and its effects on the Teaching learning Process. When asked why they were doing this or that, the answer was because everybody else was doing it or it gave them a standing in the community or else it added to the marketability of Educational Institutions. Nobody was convinced that it aided learning, improved upon the quality of learning, increased accessibility or made the process more interesting and gain speed. May be I have interacted with teachers in Schools that had there compulsions to use (misuse) Technology in this way. We have to define the levels, the structures and the types of learning; before we continue with any further addition. Whatever has been added has to prove its worth and has to be used properly before we add any more.”

Question: Celebrating your Moment of Pride?

Asked by Sanjeev Himachali

Answer:
“Dear Sanjeev, I have celebrated each and every small success and that has been very helpful to me. Your Question made me relive and go back into my past. I must thank you for having sent me on this trip. It was wonderful. I feel energised to have relived these moments of pride.

One instance came out in striking contrast. I was the Principal of a Women’s College of Education. It was 1985. One of my B.Ed trainees was found missing from her Hostel. She had gone to meet a visitor and never returned from the Gate. It was raining cats and dogs and it was around 9.00 p.m. in the night when the matter was reported to me. I looked into each detail, searched all possible links and houses for the whole night but to no avail. In the morning, I got a very useful tip from a Nurse in a Hospital who also hailed from the same place outside Kashmir and I was able to trace my student. I did not discuss anything with her as the whole story had unravelled itself. She accompanied me back to college but all the students refused to go to classes if she was allowed to continue in the class. I discussed the matter with my 240 Teacher Trainees for over six hours and at last they agreed to allow her into the college but they refused to have her in the Hostel. Under the Circumstances, I had no other alternative but to accommodate her with my daughter in her room, at my residence. Ours was a joint family and many were up in arms since they thought she was a bad influence on my daughter who was an adolescent then. My daughter, my wife and my mother were the only ones who stood by me and the girl continued her studies. Meanwhile I requested her father to see me at an early date. News about his daughters’ escapade had already reached the father and he replied that he did not have any daughter by that name and I could send her anywhere rather than to him. The girl meekly watched all this. She studied hard and came very close to my wife and mother and won their complete trust. She passed her B.Ed Exams with flying colours and the news of how she had spent the last eight months with my family reached her parents. The mother and father came to my home and met my mother. My mother refused to give the girl back to them saying that since they had disowned her, we had adopted her. They begged of her with tears in their eyes. She finally agreed on condition that they treat her with respect and not discuss the incident ever with her. The girl embraced her parents and left for her home. This was my proudest moment of having been born of such a mother who in spite of all opposition and even being ostracized by our kith and kin, taught me the miraculous power of love in reforming a person. That was when I learnt that an opportunity for reform could change a life. I was hailed by all as a man true to his vocation and deservingly the Best Father Figure Principal of a Women’s College when I was not even forty. Hardly did they know that my Mother was my Faith and my wife was my strength. The little girl of 1985 is a proud mother, a good teacher and a faithful wife to a decent husband. It is a close knit family and in 2006 when I visited them in their home town, I was elated to see that she was bringing up her kids the way our mother brought us up.

Question: Sixth sense when reading emails?

Asked by Reut Schwartz-Hebron

Answer:
“Dear Reut, Both views are to be considered. One speaks of Cognitive Schemas (Piagetian) and the other of our day to day experiences of interaction and of judging people. I am not suggesting to you to study epistemology, but I am of the view that one needs to distinguish between perception, facts and intuition.

When we meet somebody the first time or receive an email or some written communication from the person, the mind works at several levels. We form an impression about the person from the words, patterns, structures he uses; his facility, coherence, clarity, precision and how he presents his views etc; all tell a story about him. Coupled with it, the mind has anticipated intuitively a picture of the man and now the visual is supported by our filling in the details from the text. That is the long and short of it.

I do not believe in any sixth sense. This is our brain at work and judging the person from the style of his/her communication. The mind has a vast store of archetypes and the communication finds its archetype. A mind that has worked at assimilating and accommodating knowledge will surely be in a position to make an, if not very accurate, at least a picture that matches the person and his personality type.

Your mind does it with greater accuracy and that gives you joy and the feeling that somewhere we have a Sixth sense in judging people from their first written communication to us.”

Question: Do you think you'd be happier if you were someone else?

Asked by Anuja Rathi

Answer:
“Dear Anuja, How can I think even of being anybody other than "ME". I do not know how happy others are because I was taught at a very young age that "comparisons are very odious" and if at all I feel like comparing, then why not compare with those who are deprived of even the basic necessities.

My God! How lucky I am! I have everything that I had aspired for. Good upbringing, doting parents, an adorable life partner and a wonderful family. An occupation that brought me immense love and respect. A passion for teaching. God has been benovelent . Sometimes, I do wish for a few things that ought to have been this way or that way but soon realise that the way they are is far better than what I think of. Since I have been in the company of sweet, innocent, lovely children and young people with vigour and zeal for over 40 years; that sometimes I wish to be one of them. But this is a very temporary feeling. Perhaps my desire to be a child again is born out of empathy and the overwhelming love I get from these kids. I deem it a blessing that I was born as a human being and have been what I am. I dread the very thought of being someone else for how so ever a short period. Thanks, I am glad and I want to be what I am.”