Coordination, Innovation, Celebration

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Saturday, 22 December 2018

WHAT ACTUALLY MATTERS IN LEARNING?


Last January, I got a golden opportunity to participate in Fulbright TEA Fellowship administered by IREX and funded by the Department of State, US. As part of the fellowship, I was placed at California State University, Chico, the cultural, economic, and educational centre of the northern Sacramento Valley and home to both California State University, Chico and Bidwell Park, the country's 26th largest municipal park and the 13th largest municipally-owned park. During the fellowship, we reaped countless benefits from academic as well as personal tours across California. Observing classes in some local schools and their academic calendars, I asked myself a question ‘What is the commonest challenge that is faced by teachers everywhere?’ The simple answer is a syllabus.

An overload of content
In the case of California, the problem is magnified in certain subjects like science, history, maths, where the knowledge base continuously expands. This problem of content ‘overload’ requires teachers to make choices constantly regarding what content to include and what content to rule out. So, The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social  Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (hereafter referred to as “the Standards”) are the result of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfil the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of standards in kindergarten to grade 12 to help ensure that all students are literate and college and career ready no later than the end of high school. This describes what a student typically has to know and be able to do at each performance level.


Very highly ambitious content demands can seem daunting to teachers to teach and achieve targeted results. Apart from the amount of content identified, some objectives are stated in a way that makes them difficult to address. Some objectives are too big. For example, look at this one from a grade 10 textbook of Social Studies ‘At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify the causes of girl trafficking in Nepal.’ But how many causes? What about the solutions? Such a statement is simply too broad to provide goal clarity and guidance to instruction and assessment. To make the matter worse, teachers at Nepal’s institutional schools are compelled to teach three English textbooks: English communicative course, English grammar and English literature. Each of these contains at least 25 lessons. In total, 75 lessons have to be taught once a year. How feasible is it? Some states of America have endeavoured to address this problem by publishing and identifying more specific grade-level benchmarks and specifying performance indicators. Nevertheless, the challenges of content overload persist. Grant Wiggins and Jay Mc Tighe propose that learning results be considered in terms of understanding the “big ideas” and core process within the content standards. More specific facts and skills are then taught in the context of the larger ideas and questions. This approach provides a means of managing large quantities of content knowledge. It is a relief to teachers.

Planning Backward [Flipped planning]
Being a teacher, we want our pupils to explore essential and sensible questions and come to understand important ideas contained in content standards, then we have to make plans accordingly. Success can be derived only from perfect planning. If a student fails an exam, it isn’t student but the teacher’s plan has failed. Hence, curriculum designers are recommended a three-stage background design process for curriculum planning. The concept of planning backward from desired results is no longer new. We’re all well aware that successful people in the world are result-driven. They’ve plan A and plan B with the end in mind. It’s like deductive and inductive methods. Backward planning asks teachers or curriculum designers to consider these stages—identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence and planning learning experiences and instruction.





For backward design, teacher planning is focused on classroom activities. And activities should be engaging, hands-on, and child-friendly. Although this approach is old, studies have shown that the use of backward design for planning courses, units and individual lessons on purpose leads to more specific and clearly defined goal, more appropriate assessments, and much more purposeful teaching in class. It’s true many teachers believe their job is to cover the course. Contrary to this, a true teacher’s job is to teach for learning of important things out of the content, to ensure students’ clear understanding and make necessary adjustment to cater to the need of each student based on his or her results. Textbooks make a good resource but it shouldn’t constitute the syllabus any more. This sort of planning drags teachers out of their comfort zone.


“Big ideas”
A ‘big idea’ is directly linked with fundamental concepts, principles, theories, and processes that should serve as the major part of curricula, instruction, and assessment. Big ideas mirror expert understanding and anchor the discourse, inquiries, discoveries, and arguments in a field of study. They provide a basis for setting curriculum priorities to focus on the most essential content.
Big ideas work as the “conceptual Velcro for a topic of study. Big ideas integrate discrete knowledge and skills into a larger intellectual frame and bridges the gulf existing between specific facts and skills. Concentration on these larger ideas helps students see the purpose and relevance of content.
Isolated facts don’t transfer. Big ideas are so powerful that they embody transferable ideas, applicable to other topics, inquiries, contexts, issues and problems. Since we are humans, we can never impart all the knowledge on a given topic, a focus on the ‘big ideas’ helps to manage information overload. Big ideas provide the conceptual thought lines that give a solid foundation to a coherent curriculum.
A ‘big idea’ is inherently abstract. Its meaning isn’t always obvious to students, and simply covering a book or a syllabus won’t guarantee student understanding. “Coverage” is unlikely to cause genuine insight; understanding must be earned. Thus, the idea must be uncovered – its meaning discovered, constructed or inferred by the learners, with the support of the teacher and well-designed learning experiences.


Knowledge versus Understanding
When we plan backward, we’ve to know clear differences between ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’. They’re frequently used as synonyms. Knowledge just refers to the ability to recognise or identify something; for example, a new word in a text passage of an article or a book, which you “know”, probably from the standpoint of having seen it before, but you don’t know how to use it.
Understanding goes deeper about something. To understand something you’ve to gain knowledge and put it into practice. ‘Knowledge’ is more inclined to theory, whereas ‘understanding’ is more inclined to practice.
Understanding also is revealed when students autonomously make sense of and transfer their learning through authentic performance. Six facets of understanding—the capacities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathise, and self-assess—serve as indicators of understanding. It has many different connotations. Many aren’t aware that Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues avoided using the term in their taxonomy of the cognitive domain because it was seen as imprecise.

Responsive teaching
As a teacher, it’s our sole responsibility to offer our learners flexibility in the response mode. The more flexible were, the more confidently students become and they show how better they have understood what we’ve taught them. Some pupils are better spoken. Some students may have limited writing skill. And if we document student response in writing for evaluation, our judgement won’t be fair.
It’s important to note that although we may offer students options to demonstrate what their knowledge is and what their understanding is, our evaluation rubric has to be same. Responsible teachers need to work hard to find a balanced approach between individualised assessments and standardised, ‘one-size-fits-all’ measures.
Yes, there is an urgent need for balance between student construction of meaning and teacher guidance. A teacher has to plan for all three types of learners—visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. In addition, a teacher has to be adept at choosing instructional strategies that address the needs of all types of learners, manage classroom for conducive environment and create an atmosphere of democracy in the classrooms.

A final thought
We have to change the stereotype that we cannot teach old dogs a new trick. Teachers always have to be receptive to new ideas. They’ve to reflect on their teaching. We once were students. We’ve to put ourselves in their shoes to better teach. There’re many reasons to keep up with the old habits. So the first step is to determine whether we’ve the willpower to do better?  There should be a principle of substitution at work not one of addition. We shouldn’t eat junk food and then take medicine later.



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Sunday, 7 October 2018

Dashain For children




https://lnkd.in/f4rkAff  (Find the whole article through this link)

Dashain is one of the major festivals celebrated in Nepal when schools give the longest holidays. For youth & adults it more of relaxation but looking it from children's perspective; what does it mean for them? My write up on "Dashain For Children" published in Republica, page no 6 , 6th October 2018/Saturday's opinion section.It's an outcome of years long experience with children from an educator's perspective, I look forward to have your valuable suggestions & feedback hashtagfestivals hashtageducation hashtagholidays !

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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

कविता

बेलुन जस्तो यो जिन्दगी ! आश भरेको छु ।
जिउँदो देखिन्छु  किनकि, सास भरेको छु ।

अस्तित्वको अभिभारा पूरा गर्नलाई
पेटमा केही चामल र, मास भरेको छु ।

मायाको यो रंगीचंगी दुनियाँको माथी
ताराहरु खोजी खोजी आकाश भरेको छु ।

के गुनासो गर्नु मेरो मुटु खाली देख्नेसंग ?
मगमग बसाउने सुवास भरेको छु ।
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KIDS STORIES

Originally posted in Writers' Diary 

I am trying to make a series of stories which starts from a funny old woman’s kitchen (Japanese Folk Tale); goes through the series of adventure, moral lessons, glimpses of magic spell stuffs, fun and ends with totally new characters on scene ready for continuation of series. I am being helped by an enthusiastic student too. :)

Part I : The Funny Old Woman 

Once upon the time, there lived a funny old woman who liked to prepare rice dumplings for her husband. She pased most of her time in her kitchen and in care of her husband. She used to laugh “Tee-Hee-Hee”. One day she was preparing rice dumplings for her husband. Accidentally, one of the rice dumplings fell down onto the earthen floor. It rolled down into the small hole on her floor. She tried to pick it up, but the hole grew wider and she fell down through the hole. She stepped on a new place, which looked like her neighborhood.

Actually, it was not her neighborhood. She was on a inclined road. The sides of the road were green paddy fields. She began to run down the road crying: “My rice dumpling!”. At a place, on the side of the road was a ‘Statue God’ who asked: “Where are you going old woman?”. She didn’t care much about the question. She looked at the Statue God and asked: “Have you seen my rice dumpling?”. “Yes, it was rolling down the road.” – replied the Statue God and added: “But don’t go further for there is a wicked Oni who likes human flesh and blood.”. She thought that was funny and laughed “Tee-Hee-Hee”. She began to run down the road saying : “My rice dumpling, my rice dumpling !”.

Same incident happened when she met second Statue God. She was running down crying, when she came across third Statue God. The third Statue God asked her to hide herself behind him, as there was Oni curiously walking up the road. Soon after, she saw a giant-like Oni climbing up the road and therefore she hid herself behind the third Statue God. “Hey Statue God, I can smell some humankind here.” , said Oni. “I am not sure.”, replied the third Statue God. “But I am sure, here is the old woman” , Oni saw the funny old woman and picked her up. “I will be angry with you and will never forgive you if you kill such a poor old woman.” – said the third Statue God. “She will be happily staying in my kitchen preparing food for me and my friends” , promised the Oni. The funny old woman laughed “Tee-Hee-Hee”.

He took the funny old woman with him till they reached a river. He caught the boat and put the old woman into it. He rowed it with a paddle. They reached another bank. Another side of the river was greener with dense forest. They walked together towards Oni’s home. There were other Onis who were waiting for the Oni. They were his friends. He asked the old woman to prepare food in his kitchen using his magic paddle. She had to put a grain of rice in a pot and fill it with water. On the fire, she had to stir the pot with one grain of rice and water. The rice began to multiply by two. 1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128-256-512-1024- and so on. She used to laugh “Tee-Hee-Hee” when she noticed rice multiplying while stirring it.

Some days passed, and she began to miss her husband and her kitchen where she used to cook her favourite rice dumplings. One day she noticed that nobody was in the house except her. She quietly came out of the house with the magic paddle under her girdle. She walked down through the dense forest until she reached the bank of the river. There was a boat without its paddle. Looking at the magic paddle funnily; she said “It helps.”. She rowed the boat slowly with the rice-paddle. As soon as she reached the next bank, she looked back to see the Oni’s place as she would never come back again. What she saw on the other bank of the river was the fiercest Oni ever with red-red eyes. Oni couldn’t swim across river; so he kneeled down to suck the entire river water. He did so and made the river muddy. The funny old woman was helpless and began to cry with funny face. The Oni couldn’t stop laughing and he again filled the river with water.

Poor helpless woman thought of running away from there and she marched up with pace. She saw three Statue Gods on her way but she didn’t talk with anyone. She saw a hole nearby the road on the field terrace and struggled more to reach the other end of that hole. She cried with happiness and ran to her husband’s bed as soon as she reached in her kitchen. The funny old woman and her husband began to pass their days in home with happiness. Sometimes she used to laugh “Tee-Hee-Hee”.

Part II: Flight to Heaven 

One day the old couple thought of selling the magic paddle. One of their neighbours paid a huge amount for the magic paddle. Then the old couple bacame very rich and established a restaurant named ‘Food Paradise’. They kept 4 staff in the restaurant and the funny old woman became the attraction of the restaurant doing some supervision and cooking town’s famous rice-dumplings. She began to earn more money as the restaurant was very popular and earned fame in the short time. Days passed on and the funny old woman began to become greedier. One day, she went to her neighbour and asked that neighbour to sell the ‘magic paddle’ back to her. That neighbour refused in soft words “I am sorry lady; what I can sell you is a magic broom. Using this; you can save your time and money in your restaurant”.

She purchased that magic broom. Her neighbour’s Tom Cat followed her while she was going home. “Stay back!” she shouted. Tom Cat said: “I always play with the threads of brooms, kind lady!”. She allowed the Tom Cat to go with her. Next day, she redesigned her restaurant with proper corner to the magic broom and Tom Cat playing around it. One of the regular customer liked it and said: “Impressive!”. In the evenings, she used to clean the restaurant with the magic broom. The broom moved and cleaned as the wish of its master. The funny old woman was happy to get the magic broom in her restaurant.

One day, suddenly her husband died of heart-attack. That was the graviest moment in the life of the old woman. She began to stay in her house in grief with her relatives. The restaurant was being run by staff members and the Tom Cat. One day when all relatives returned to their homes, the old woman returned to the restaurant and suddenly rode on the magic broom. She said: “Broom, Oh Broom ! Take me to a ride! To a person who made me bride !”. The magic broom accepted the master. Soon, she was riding on the broom with the Tom Cat behind. The Tom Cat felt wonderful to see the clouds beneath and gradually he began to miss the mice and rats of the restaurant. He asked the old woman: “Let us return, I want to go back. “. But the old woman denied. So, he slid down the rainbow down the earth and reached the restaurant. In the sky, the thunderstorm hit the woman and she turned into ash and smoke. The magic broom was just as normal for it had magical power in it. It fell down and dropped just in front of the restaurant.

The Tom Cat then became its master. The intelligent cat then sat on round table with staff members of the restaurant. They appointed him the head and assumed joint-ownership of the restaurant. They also renamed the restaurant “Magical Cat Food Paradise” and redesigned the restaurant with more care on menu and surroundings. They purchased a land around them for making a parking space. The Tom Cat, the magic broom, and the restaurant began to become popular in the village and nearby towns.

Part III: Magic Spell of Jealous Neighbour

‘Magical Cat Food Paradise’ was a popular dine spot in the local area and nearby areas. The Tom Cat, and his human colleagues were very happy working with each other in a nice restaurant. One day the jealous neighbour who had purchased the magic paddle from the old woman visited there. The Tom Cat offered him free drinks and food. He was very happy to have free drinks and food. He became very jealous as his ex-domestic Tom Cat had then become the most successful animal in the village. He found the new setting of the restaurant very much impressive. He promised that he would be their regular customer.

The jealous neighbour returned home and began to think something very harmful to the ‘Magical Cat Food Paradise’ and especially affecting his ex-domestic Tom Cat. Suddenly, he put a magic spell in the paddle that he owned. “Paddle, Oh Paddle! Multiply a grain of rice! to eighteen grains and two lice!” During his visit to the restaurant he put an offer forward to the Tom Cat: “Mr. Tom Cat, I am thinking of selling my magic paddle to somebody else. Are you interested in buying it?” The Tom Cat was more than happy to get that offer. He said: “Let us do it. How much do we have to pay?” Then The Magical Cat Food Paradise purchased the magic paddle as they were happy thinking that their rice grains would be saved.

The Tom Cat and his human colleagues had a meeting and they planned a festival in their restaurant. Soon, they began to decorate the restaurant for the Christmas Party. Tom Cat had a car and a driver to drive him to town and nearby areas. He was carrying invitation letters for renowned customers of his restaurant. The jealous neighbour was looking all these and was being happy that the Tom Cat and his restaurant would serve lice with rice to their customers during the Christmas Party. He was counting days to witness such situation.

In the Christmas eve, the jealous neighbour arrived quite early in the restaurant. Everybody including the Tom Cat were very busy for the final cleaning job. The guests began to come. The wealthiest cat of the town came in and shook hands with the Tom Cat. “Where is your master?” asked the jealous neighbour. “Well, this restaurant has invited cats only. Are you invited?” replied the wealthiest cat of the town. The jealous neighbour had nothing to say and he went out without being able to answer. He was still looking out of his window to see what would happen then after. Soon after that, the restaurant was occupied with famous cats of the town. They drank and ate. They liked the lice in rice. Most of them seemed very much thankful to the Tom Cat for organising such party for only cats. One of them made a comment: “I like the rice most; its delicious ! “.
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Saturday, 21 April 2018

MY SOLAR LANTERN STORY

NOTE: This story was originally posted in Writers' Diary.

My Solar Lantern has now got an important space in my room in the evenings. It glows at evening adding to the ambiance of my room. My room seemed like a deserted gloom in the evenings; nevertheless my Solar Lantern is now there in the corner being evidentiary of me getting new energy.

I bought this Solar Lantern while I was visiting the city of York, in England. York has been a source of inspiration in my life. Even a day of roaming around the parts of the city, esp. National Railway Museum, the Minster Church and etc had made a remarkable impression in my mind. I still remember the song performance : ’stary stary night’ on the footpath, York Visitor Information Desk, and two caring people taking picture of me at the city walls area.

York has got life in it. What I found more interesting there was ‘Poundland’ where we get many things, each item in a pound !! I entered there, as a lucky national of Nepal (a Southern country). I bought a frying pan, a body spray and this Solar Lantern.

The most catching thing: It was printed on the cover of this lantern like there is no need to replace the battery. It sounded like it works forever.

After I returned to Nepal, I kept it at the top of my house. Its glowing at evenings looked nothing, as number of such Garden Solar Lanterns makes a nice ambience in the evening-garden with much landscape design and other arrangements. The fantasy for me was that I am naturally overwhelmed with things caring mother earth. The Solar Lantern was such thing which could reduce the use of fossil fuels, or biomass. But to what extent? The answers could be nearly equal to zero.

However, what sort of fantasy I have made with the particular Solar Lantern; is an example. I hope so.

Time passed on. Busy life schedule began. One day I noticed that one of my nephews pulled the LED off from the Solar Lantern. Then after, the whole remaining things were ready for disposal. My room had been in mess those days. Fortunate Solar Lantern was not disposed off. One day I found a LED when I was removing dirt from the corners of the room. I just collected the other parts of the Lantern and went to a repair service.

The man who was busy on fixing the FM radio questioned me: Are you sure that you will mend this? I replied: Yes, Just for amusement, hehe. He took NPR. 15 for fixing it and asked to keep it under the Sun for complete 4 hours or so. I did the same and waited till the evening.

The very day was lengthy for me. I didn’t have any work to be done for that day. The Lantern did not glow in the evening. Initially, I was worried. Silly I, I then remembered to switch it on. Still it did not glow. Ahh, it was automatic, I then covered the Solar Panel with palm, and then it glowed being sensitive to the darkness.

Amazingly, the LED that I found was not white one, it was red LED. So, it was dimmer than it was before with the white LED. It had already taken much of my efforts; I found a place in my room to add some to the ambience of my room. Before that, I had taken some pictures of red glowing Lantern using my Chinese Mobile Phone.
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