Sunday, 8 September 2013

Teaching Learning

By Brian Mendonça

What does it mean to learn something? A toddler learns to walk, a child learns to talk, a teenager learns to ride a scooter or bike. In our earning years we learn a job or skill. Sometimes we even ‘learn’ to keep quiet! In other words learning also means the selection of survival strategies in a challenging situation.

A child’s world is full of play, full of amazement, as there is always something new to learn. In the process, the glass at the dinner table may topple over, the wires at the socket may come unplugged, and the neatly folded clothes may find themselves on the floor in dismay.

As we grow, we lose that capability to fascinate ourselves in child-like wonder. We become mechanical. We have our own routines. Learning itself becomes a routine.

How does one retain that zest for life and living, since we visit this planet but once? How do we pass on this skill of learning in perpetual bliss to others?

This, to my mind, happens when one believes in life-long learning, viz. a dynamic state of constant nourishment, where we are always learning new things, be it in a knowledge area, in relationships, or in culinary expertise.

What are the models that allow this to happen? The educational system is built on the top-down approach. This is changing. Today, open classrooms exist virtually on the internet.

‘Take the world’s best courses online, for free,’ says the home page at While typing this article I have just signed up for a course starting 1 October 2013 titled, ‘From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance’ offered by the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, founded in 1924. This is a 7 week course of a manageable 2-4 hours per week taking you through composers from J.S Bach to George Crumb. Registration is simply typing in your email address and password. Students who successfully complete the course receive a statement of completion signed by the instructors, who in this case are Jonathan Coopersmith and David Ludwig from the Curtis Institute.

IT enabled online learning enables learning at our own time and pace, and in the comfort of our own place. The Goa University deftly utilized the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) format for its path-breaking ‘Paradigm-Shift in Education and Learning in the 21st Century’ which concluded last week. Through Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (MOODLE) -- which is a free software, e-learning platform -- we were clued in to the posts on the 10 day workshop, 24x7, and were able to upload assignments from home. The amiable Professor Arvind Kudchadker, who conceptualized the course, spoke of the shift from the traditional classroom to the ‘constructivist’ classroom where, in a bottom-up approach, learning emerged from the proactive interface between student and teacher.

Which I why, I was musing, that Teachers Day celebrations need to move away from placing the teacher at the centre of the learning process. From now on it’s 50:50. 
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 7 September 2013. Pix source: QSA conference 2012

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