Maverick Teacher Global Summit, India

MTGS India 2016
Koen Timmers

Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 finalist

Maverick Teacher Global Summit 2016

 

I was invited as one of 35 maverick teachers to attend a Global Summit at the Agastya foundation campus, near Bengaluru, in rural India. The summit brought together a group of academics, teachers, TED speakers and policy makers from UK, Finland, USA, Canada, Russia, Latvia, Belgium, India, Malaysia, Uruguay and South Korea.

During 7 days we explored and created pedagogies for the future to support education for a sustainable world. Concretely, 7 groups were assigned 1 UN sustainable development goal and my team was assigned “Climate and Ecology”. Agastya’s unique 172-acre creativity campus is at Gudivanka Village, Kuppam and boasts several labs dedicated to hands-on learning activities in science, math, ecology, media and art. The campus also houses accommodation, an auditorium and even a planetarium.

During our stay we had the opportunity to be part of several inspiring activities: eco walks, a Hindu service at the Agastya temple, keynotes, cultural & music programs and yoga. Every participant had the opportunity to plant a tree.

I had great conversations with my roommate Pekka Peura, a famous Finnish educator who developed a model for personalized learning. But also with Tony Parkin, coordinator Gavin Dykes (program director for the Education World Forum), Chris Couch, Tommy Young (Presidential Math award) and many more.

A memorable moment was when Gavin introduced me to Bill Frakes, masthead at Sport Illustrated and winner of the World Press Photo Award. Bill’s pictures of Obama and many sports heroes can be viewed at his website. I was photographed by Bill Frakes and interviewed by Laura Heald. The result can be found at http://blog.strawhatvisuals.com/Maverick_Teachers

 

ABOUT EDUCATION and INNOVATION

Our educational journey started very well by 300 students welcoming us with a song. During the first days we needed to frame the challenge. During a philosophical debate we talked about the essence of education.

“The educated is the person who has learned how to learn, learned how to adapt and change, realized that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives basis for security”

Carl Rogers

Innovation is about change which is the essence of growth. We had a keynote from Arvind Gupta, an inspiring man who creates toys from trash, part of learning by doing.

Great education is not to but to uncover learning.

Education is about empowerment and the ripple effect. In must have a factor of playful learning in which the child learns through exploration. Some people argue that doing is the essence of learning. Others give priority to empathy. While some try to implement collaboration and are willing to spark curiosity. Some believe that basic education is to make a human being who has good values, who’s sensitive to what is happening around him or her and who can contribute to the society. We talked about livelihood and it became very clear that every continent and country has different needs and other education systems.

What makes a good learner? What knowledge, skills and attitudes should a learning to learn approach develop? The 5 Rs for Lifelong learning model include Readiness, Resourcefulness, Resilience, Responsibility and Reflection. Last but not least we discussed the role of assessment (is there a role?) and the lack of thrust of both teachers and students.

I believe that education needs to be a mix of offering knowledge, skills and affection in which the teacher is a pedagogical engineer who needs to match a creative learning style to the right learning situation. He needs to find the right balance between instructing, collaborative and playful learning which needs to be student-centered. Oh, and learning happens at all times. It doesn’t have to be forced between four walls. In my life resilience and perseverance took an important role and so I’d like to find a way to bring these in my student’s lives.

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

We agreed that education needs to be student-centered and more than just delivering knowledge. Empathy needs to be brought in the classroom. We were exploring the different factors of climate and ecology.

While we spoke rural government school children we asked them to list some climate and ecology issues. They came up with several kinds of pollution, lack of water, deforestation, etc. One concern in particular caught our attention: sparrows are disappearing in India. Tony remembered this is also an issue in London. After doing some research we found out that the sparrow is disappearing in countries from all over the world and for different reasons. I argued to the group this would be an interesting subject for our project.

Dr Parimi knew about a story in Telaguru called “Chivari Pichuka” which means “The last sparrow”. The story told of the circumstances of the death of the Last Sparrow while it encountered various problems caused by the creature with two hands.

We agreed to make the project open ended. Rather than the teacher offering answers to the students, students have to search for reasons themselves. Tony created the learning activity and Veronica and Sushama collected extension activities. An incomplete list of factors why sparrows are disappearing:

  • Sparrow being eaten by human as an aphrodisiac
  • Sparrows eggs being eaten by monkeys
  • Pesticides
  • Widespread use of concrete
  • Increasing suburban predators such as cats and crows
  • Felling of trees
  • Radiation of cell phone masts
  • etc

The interesting thing is that sparrows are disappearing for other reasons in different countries.

“Buckingham Palace, reputed to be the richest wildlife area in central London, has seen its sparrow population dwindle to zero.”
The Independent

As part of the introduction of the learning activity, the students would hear (or read) the story of the last sparrow. Then they will need to do 3 things:

  • Interview their (grand)parents about their memories of the sparrow
  • Create stories, drawings and maybe even videos or songs about sparrows
  • List the reasons for what THEY think the sparrow disappeared. This is probably the most essential question because this wraps up all issues about climate and ecology: pollution, deforestation and lack of water.

Students will collaborate to find reasons. The lessons will also be hands-on. As part of extension activities, students can:

  • Make dust and water bowls at home so attract sparrows
  • Create sparrows in origami
  • Put grains in their garden to attract sparrows

The Burhani Foundation (India) started the project Save Our Sparrow (SOS), an initiative in which they distributed 52,000 bird feeders across the world on a non-profit basis. And there is even a world sparrow day on March 21.

I proposed to make this project global by creating a website which bundles 3 topics:

  1. Bundling the students’ stories and images.
  2. Offering resources to the teacher: learning activity, proposed activities, links and facts. This will keep the teachers in their comfort zone so they can start the (series of lessons) very hands on.
  3. Arise awareness of the fact that sparrows are disappearing.

We recorded a video of dr Parimi reading the Sparrow story. We also did a try-out with Indian students. They divided in 3 groups: one created a video, a second did a survey and a third talked about their feelings and created a drawing.

Then we visited a school in a village. Last but not least we got feedback from Agastya teachers.

Rather than making a mock-up I decided very last-minute to create a fully functional website. I arranged a domain name and webhosting in my room at the Malika house. The layout was created during the third day and the functionality was developed during the fourth day. All information and contributions are freely accessible. Students and Teachers can sign up very easily. Students can add stories and images which will automatically be available on the website and can be filtered by country. Teachers can access and download the learning activity, extension projects and all other kinds of resources like links, videos, etc.

*** Why don’t you take a look at our website at www.sparrow.nu?

During the last day we presented the project to an audience of 300 distinguished guests, Indian teachers and students in the auditorium. Our project was received with great applause after we showed them our work and website.

The PowerPoint presentation we showed while presenting: https://1drv.ms/p/s!ArWDu8MiRkr5sEb7BpRzTzWd76hC

Dit is een ingesloten <a target='_blank' data-cke-saved-href='https://office.com' href='https://office.com'>Microsoft Office</a>-presentatiebestand dat mogelijk is gemaakt door <a target='_blank' data-cke-saved-href='https://office.com/webapps' href='https://office.com/webapps'>Office Online</a>.

 

During our stay 2 Dutch boys, Robert and Sven from Flatland created a very cool drawing which captured every inspiring moment and project.

 

At the end of our journey we received our certificate.

 

Next Steps

Back home, we consider creating a Skype Lesson which will allow lots of participating schools around the world to discuss their stories via Skype. Some people spontaneously started posting pictures from sparrows in their garden, so we will soon add a new feature to our website so people from all over the world can post their images.

by PLN Education