In this blog, I want to explain the concept behind our approach to improving quality of education in government schools. We call this initiative, Multi-Dimensional Learning Space or MDLS.
Multi-Dimensional Learning Space (MDLS) is a during-school and after-school program that provides multi-dimensional learning opportunities to school children to explore, experiment, discover, and learn in multiple ways.
The concept of Schools as multi-dimensional learning spaces is based on the foundation that
- All subjects are equally important
- Learning doesn’t start or end at school
- Teachers are critical in facilitating the learning process
- Varied teaching and learning methods motivate a wider range of students
The vision of Schools as Multi-Dimensional learning space is to offer a wide variety of academic inputs and non-academic exposure to children from an early age so that they do well not only in studies, but also learn about themselves, discover their interests and abilities so that they can take ownership of their lives and careers with awareness and confidence. Through this we hope to bring about individuals who are capable, confident, inquisitive, and value aware.
Let me explain some of the key aspects of our program
Key aspects of MDLS
A smart/experiential classroom
A smart/experiential classroom consists of a projector and screen, computer, speakers, digital content and low cost science, math, social science kits. Now, how does a smart/experiential class would help while teaching you ask?
Let's look at a class, where the teacher plans to teach the concept of electromagnetic induction and its application in DC motor. Instead of starting the class with the usual theory behind DC motor, what if the teacher handed out to students a battery, magnet, a coil and everything needed to create a simple motor in less than 2 mins and asks the children to connect them in a specific way. Children would have a lot of fun seeing the motor function and will be bursting with a lot of questions! Now, the teacher could start with a simple question, “What happened and why do you think this happened?”, and very likely, the teacher would have the attention of the whole class.
The theory on electromagnetic induction and DC motor can also be reinforced using videos that show various motors in action. For digital content such as these videos, we collate content which is available in the internet in abundance. We also partner with NGOs that already focus on creating such content.
Low cost Science/Maths lab
There is tons of material available on internet focussed on low cost models, experiments that help see math/science concepts in action. “ We have created a kit based on such low cost experiment models. Mapped to the concepts children learn from 5th to 10th grade, our kit helps children learn more than 200+ concepts through experiments. Since the kit consists of low cost material, such as, balloon, water bottle, candle, thread, cycle spoke, cycle tube, etc. they are easily available and for cheap. Every child gets to touch and feel all the equipment of their lab. If they break something, it is easy and cost effective to replace. It also encourages children to look around and create more such experiment kits.
Computers are ubiquitous in this digital age. Everyone reading this blog has access to at least couple of computing devices at home and office. But computer is still a distant dream for most children studying in Government schools. In one of the taluks we are working in, we noticed that only 20 out of 200+ higher primary/high schools have working computers. Also, children who had access to computers in these 20 schools spent their time working only on Microsoft Paint. Learning computer skills is not just about learning how to use computers, but also unravelling the mystery behind them.
Computers are a great way to teach logic to children. With MIT’s Scratch software, we now have a curriculum to teach logic and programming to children.
While exploring cost effective ways to make computers accessible to children along with a meaningful curriculum, we came across Raspberry Pi, the low cost, low power computing device. Raspberry Pi solves two key problems related to making computers ubiquitous in government schools. The first is the cost. Even with a brand new monitor, we can build a computer a sub 10K INR. If we use recycled monitors, we can bring the cost even lower. The second is power consumption. Since government schools in rural India get power only for couple of hours during the day or don’t get power at all, any device that consumes less power is an ideal candidate. Also,
Improve reading levels though a unique library program
While just making books available to children in itself is a good first step to inculcate reading habits, a well-structured, activity based learning program can go a long way. Hippo Campus reading foundation has developed one such reading program, which we want to implement in all schools as part of our MDLS program. The program, called GROW BY Reading, starts by colour coding all the books in the library using six colours, Green to Yellow (GROW BY- Green Red Orange White Blue Yellow).
Children are first assessed on their reading levels and mapped to one of the colours. The children are encouraged to pick books from their level. This way, the child always picks books that the child is capable of reading and understanding and hence developing the interest to read without getting discouraged. Once a quarter or once every 6 months, the child is assessed again and if the child is able to read fluently in their current level, he/she is moved to the next level.
Teacher training, regular follow up and supporting infrastructure to enable teachers
Teachers in school are the primary source of information to children and any initiative on quality will not be successful or scale up without the involvement and support of teachers. Corporate trainings have taught us that trainings are very effective when they are followed up with continuous application and support in everyday tasks. Teacher training is no different. As we train teachers on using technology aids for teaching or use alternate methods of teaching, we also want to follow it up with continuous support. So, as part of the MDLS program we hired resource persons, who we call 'Motivators’ to support school teachers. Each Motivator will be responsible for all activities of the program for 10 – 15 schools. The Motivator will provide additional trainings at school; help teachers with technology, provide technical support, help with use of content, experiments and more. The Motivators will also complement teachers by teaching specific subjects or specific topics. Along with trainings at school, the after school learning space setup at Taluk level for children will also act as a resource centre for teachers.
Teacher enablement and development is a big part of our agenda and we want to equip teachers with multiple methods of teaching along with the infrastructure, tools, support and related training.
Theme based week to provide a platform to create and demonstrate
Theme based activities likes science week, art week, math week and social science week act as a platform for children to do projects and showcase them. While theme based competitions are not new, we want to ensure that these activities are not looked at as competitions, but dedicating a week for a given subject, where teachers and students collaborate. Through MDLS, we enable and foster such theme based activity weeks
Exposure and counselling towards local economies and careers outside the local economies
When 'what next after 10th’ is a life-changing decision for children whose parents are educated, imagine the plight of children who are first generation learners! While exposure to available career options is important, it is also important to expose children to careers in their local micro-economies. The prosperity of a country is dependent on distributed local rural economies and not just urban economies. As part of our program we have created a career counselling program which includes a comprehensive career options chart along with details on hundreds of career options including those available in local economies.
In summary, while it is important to meet the curriculum goals, the goal of this program is to ensure that children are Capable, Confident, Inquisitive and Value-aware. To that extent, all our activities are geared towards these four main goals and we hope these will see fruition with desired results. With a well-structured and well-documented process, we would like to see all schools turn into Multi-Dimensional learning spaces.