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19/01/16 Issues

Co-creating the future at CTS 2016

I am back at my desk after being part of a superlative experience at #ChangeTheScript (CTS 2016), a two-day international conference hosted by Dream a Dream 8 and 9 January 2016, Bengaluru, India. #ChangeTheScript is a platform that brings together teachers, educators, young people, academicians, social entrepreneurs and volunteers to deliberate bold new alternatives in reimagining learning.

A brilliant rainbow of carefully picked experiential workshops; the dynamic young duo of Mamata and Rakesh, the anchors of the conference; the beautiful setting at The Ancient School of Wisdom, the friendly team of staff and volunteers from Dream a Dream and enthusiastic delegates contributed to the energy of the conference.

In setting the context for the conference, Vishal Talreja, Co-Founder and CEO of Dream a Dream screened Still Face experiment. This quickly got us to focus on the importance of listening with empathy and validating the feelings of a child. He drew attention to the positive reinforcements that are most often deprived to children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds. To offset this disadvantage and make learning possible, building life skills was presented as an enabler.

Karen Morrison, Co-Author, Making Thinking Visible was the key note speaker on ‘Co-creating the future we dream about’. She interspersed her presentation with wonderful antecedes and quotes that stressed on the importance to understand the child and encourage the inquisitiveness in the child. Some memorable quotes from my notes are:

‘If you do what you've always done, you get what you've always got’

‘Don’t accept me as I am’

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”

Brilliant panel discussions with four young people moderated by Arjun Durr from Ashoka brought out the challenges in traditional classrooms. As part of their shared vision for learning, Arpit from Muni International School explained how creating a bully free classroom encourages learning. Soumitra, student of class 9 from Dream a Dream programme clarified that ‘being weak and intelligent are the perception of the teacher and not students’. Against the backdrop of the recent floods in Chennai, Akshaya from TVS Academy expressed that education should teach them solve problems. Pallavi, Dream a Dream graduate shared her experience where managing a business enterprise as part of her school curriculum not only helped her to enjoy school but also do well academically. These made us ponder the fundamental premise of ‘Why do we keep children inside four walls to educate?’

An amazing journey of personal exploration by Brinda Jacob, The Studio for Movement, Arts & Therapies with Belinda, Smruthi, Monica and Sudha was an extremely invigorating. The sessions explored the potential of ‘stay in the here & now and tap into what is to discover new insights’. The delegates were left with little option but to dislodge themselves from their comfort zones. We participated in a variety of carefully synchronized and frenzied physical movements, music, photography and arts. This was also a perfect antidote to drive away any post lunch blues of conferences. The session also demonstrated that learning happens in a safe physical, emotional and intellectual spaces.

‘It is no longer about reading out of a textbook and asking children to memorize it, but creating a space for learning through play’ summarizes the innovative approaches and understanding of Reimagining Learning #Play2Learn presented by Zelda Yanovich, Lego Foundation.

A series of parallel breakout sessions deliberated on a range topics that included Visible Thinking, developed at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education, ‘Growth and Fixed Mindset’ that affect education of first generation learners from low-income families, creative ways to channelize the interest of the child and children taking on shared responsibility over learning.

The next set of breakout session included making use of school buildings as a learning aid, listening as a tool for learning, the feel, imagine, do and share (FIDS) model of engaging children in solving social issues and ‘co-create workshop’ facilitated by a group of delegates perfectly demonstrated the spirit of the conference. The sessions reinforced the fact that learning does not end in classrooms but happens when one constantly engages with learning.

The conference was a celebration of diversity that left us wanting to know more. I truly believe that we are going back reassured that we are not alone in our journeys of creating joyful experiences for children in reimagine learning.

#ChangeTheScipt is a movement, a though process to create a world where each individual is appreciated for who they are, to change schools so that students may learn new types of knowledge and skills required in an unpredictably changing world. It is a collective committed to providing the right abilities, social and emotional skills for children and young people from vulnerable backgrounds overcome adversity and flourish.

Mahesh Chandrasekar, Director – Research & Advocacy, Dream A Dream