We asked them to give it a try….now they keep asking for more!!

mala-anu

- by Mala Balamurugan 

Mala Balamurugan is a former Corporate Banker ,currently a mother of two  and a homemaker. Mala realized that the field of education is where she wanted to be and has completed her B.ed and M.com. She is a Parent Representative and an active  member of  the Discipline Committee. Her daughter Anaghaa Balamurugan is currently studying in class 4, and her son Shlok joins Shishuvan in the coming academic year. She joined Shishuvan two years and thoroughly enjoys coming to school, even when she is unwell.

 

You must be wondering what this title means!! Maybe try a new food, a new hobby, a new sport…??

How about getting your grey cells ticking..you ask questions to your children, don’t you?..Now here’s your chance to answer!!

■        Sitting down with __________ provides children with a time for quiet and calmness in their busy lives.

■        ________ can stimulate  imagination and play.

■        _________ provoke curiosity and discussion.

■        ________ provides inspiration, thought and reflection

■        _________exposes children to a wide range of language features and vocabulary.

■        _________ fill a child’s mind with knowledge.

The answer to all this is just one word….did you guess it right? I am glad.

As a generation we are struggling with getting our children to hold a book in their hand, read, explore, think and walk on less travelled paths. We have been looking at ways to get them to leave that notepad, the mobile, the TV aside; even if it was for a little while. Many of us don’t know how to keep them gainfully occupied with something that does not harm them.

Most of us were looking for an opportunity that could help us do this. We had stopped believing that our children could have fun by just sitting calm – without a gadget or technology.

On 15th Oct 2015, World Reading Day, a day being celebrated in the memory of Dr. A P J Kalam; Shishuvan launched its maiden initiative of a Reading Challenge with the help of the British Council. The school’s Learning Resources Committee ( formerly known as the Discipline Committee ) was given full freedom and responsibility to run the challenge with the support of the Leadership and the Library team.

When we launched the programme we were not that hopeful of getting many registrations though we really wanted the parents to give this programme a try. But to our surprise we were able to convince over 200 parents and children from Sr.Kg to Std 7 ….and what a journey it has been!!

Children were to read atleast 6 books in 6 weeks, but many of them surprised us by reading so much more. As we were wrapping up the programme we glanced through many reviews written by the children and were so proud of the growth and enthusiasm in children. The best part was that they were themselves amazed at how they were able to read so much – so quickly.

The bookworm had bit them!! They had realised what we as parents and a school were trying to teach them for years…

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. 

The British Council conducted various workshops where we saw craetive young minds at their best. The session where they had to write their own limericks brought out the writing skills in so many. Our children surprised the facilitators by their talent, wit and humour. One of the facilitators commented that I never expected a sr.kg child to know and use the word “douse fire” when asked what will be another term you use to say put off the fire!! The magic of books had started rubbing off on them:))

The titles and the variety of BCL books, caught their interests and they realised that there can be so many different genres of books out there. By the end of the challenge many were so charged up that they wanted to read as much as possible and push their own limits.

The library staff shared:

Children wanted to keep exchanging new books and read different genres. Wherever they would see the library staff they would say…”Can we take another BCL book?”

The parents shared:

“Our children have learnt so many new words and are able to comprehend so much better. And the best part is they were gadget free!!”

I spent so much more time with my child during these 2 months, watching her read, reading some books by myself, reliving my childhood!!

 The children shared:

I didn’t know I could read fat books and complete them too!! The books were different – some stories scared me, some made me laugh, some were magical- but all were wonderful!! Can we keep reading more?

What else could we have asked for?

Even if we were able to ignite the minds of few children this year, we are hopeful this will inspire and motivate others to join the world of books and reap benefits of this silent friend for life!!

Thank you Shishuvan for this wonderful opportunity and experience!!

A peek into the Reading Challenge……

BCL (2) BCL (3) BCL (4) BCL (5) BCL BCL OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Digital Parenting Workshop

-         Lamia Bagasrawala, School Psychologist, Shishuvan School

Parents at Shishuvan are one of the most significant stakeholders in the school. They are as open to learning and exploring as they are to contributing to the growth of their children and the school. And this is what makes facilitating parent workshops enjoyable and stimulating! It’s been almost a year since I’ve been conducting Parent Workshops for parents of students in Middle School and High School and the experience has always been heart-warming. The refreshing interactions and discussions each time as well as the eagerness of the parents to learn more has always left me delighted.

This semester I decided to cover the topic of Digital Parenting for parents of students in the Middle School. As part of Personality Development (P.D.) classes, some of the topics of cyber safety were covered with the students. Additionally an introductory workshop on Cyber Safety had been conducted with the parents in the first semester. The introductory session covered up the technical chunks of parental controls, appropriate use of the Internet and the problems arising out of the misuse of the Internet. This seemed like a lot of information and one of my colleagues happened to question the need for my follow-up workshop as most of it was covered in the introductory session. This is what got me thinking about Digital Parenting through a whole new perspective. I realized that Digital Parenting was no different than Parenting itself. What makes it seem fascinating and slightly intimidating is a) it is unknown territory – since this is practically the first generation to be growing up in the digital age in India and b) we as parents and adults are also active users of the digital media too – so it’s not just kids. And this is how I shifted lens from monitoring and managing online behaviour of children – which I still consider essential and a pre-requisite for cyber safety – to modelling the appropriate behaviour in the family.

The workshop conducted with parents of students in Std. 5, 6, 7 respectively on separate days in January 2016, gave the parents a glimpse of what appropriate norm setting and behaviour management while using digital devices looks like. Parents were introduced to strategies and provided practical examples for modelling the appropriate behaviour. All this was of course achieved in the true Shishuvan style of group work and discussion based activities. Parents got into groups and enlisted points for some everyday behaviours and phenomena like – things they keep in mind while going on a detox diet, things to remember while creating a business agreement, verbal and non-verbal behaviours while engaging in real time interactions and code of conduct on the dinner table. These insights were shared and used as the starting point to explore the similarities and connections between parenting and digital parenting. Associations between day-to-day norm setting and digital management were created through this activity. It was interesting how this also helped create a base to explore individual differences. The concept of NETIQUETTE, Digital Detox and Contracting were discussed and parents were also left with examples for each as well as a sample of the contract. Parents also put down one clause that they would like to include in their digital contracts. The emphasis throughout the session was on the need for parents and families to demonstrate appropriate media use behaviours consistently in order to motivate and elicit similar behaviours from the children.

It was indeed a pleasure conducting these workshops and as always, I returned with a lot more learning and lot more food for thought. To all those adults desiring to bring about a change in their children’s behaviours, let’s reflect on what we do. It may not always be the only way to go ahead, but it can serve as a great starting point. Children See, Children do! And this video sums it up really well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d4gmdl3zNQ . Here’s to creating a safer and healthier generation of digital children!

VII - Digital Parenting1 VII - Digital Parenting VI - Digital Parenting2 VI - Digital Parenting V - Digital Parenting1 V - Digital Parenting Digital Contracts

Hooked

 rushabh meha python workshopfounder, erpnext | the best code is the one that is not written

This is the journal for the fourth session of my computer programming class at Shishuvan.

The last session had ended in a crisis. We made a sorting hat (yes, like in the Harry Potter books) function that had loops, conditions and classes. By the end of the session, most of the kids were stumped.

In this session, the attendance was down to 20 (from 30), so clearly even if the found things confusing, they were still having fun and wanted to learn more. We started this session by making the sorting hat working once more. The kids got down to their machines and started typing out the code, either from their own files or from the sample I had shared earlier.

Code Mechanics

Even before someone learns to code, there are basic mechanic skills that need to be picked up. In this class, I was quietly observing how the kids were doing on that count.

Typing

If you are not familiar with the QWERTY keyboard, then typing each word takes effort. Half of the brain cells in your active zone are hunting for the next letter and the other half are trying to keep up with what is actually appearing on the screen. All of this in the middle of you are frantically trying to make sense of the underlying meaning.

Anyone learning programming has to be good at typing. Your brain can think much faster than you can type, so if type slowly, your brain will get bored. Its like what athletics is to tennis. If you are not a good athlete, you can never play good tennis.

Spellings

Some of the most common mistakes the kids made in the program were spelling mistakes, or using different cases (upper / lower) or using singular nouns instead of plural. It takes some skills to consistently use the right spellings and if you are not good at English, this is hard to achieve.

You also need to be a good reader to catch spelling mistakes. When I review code at work, the first thing that catches my eye is spelling mistakes. After years of programming, I have learned that a small spelling mistake has the potential to spoil the better part of your day. The kids will have to start learning this too.

Program Layout

Since Python eschews braces to mark the beginning and end of a code block and uses white-space (indentation). Hence the layout of the code becomes very important. A child block is written “inside” a parent statement. For this you must first understand what is a code block.

if this is true:
    a code block starts here
    and is executed until
    something is written outside
    and ends here
this is outside the "if" block, and will be executed in any case

These are things that are never explicitly taught, but understood in practice. It takes some visual judgement to quickly start identifying code blocks. An experienced programmer can understand a lot from just looking at the layout of the code, but for new programmers, its one more thing to learn.

There is only one way to get good at code mechanics, writing more code.

Playing and Composing

We learn music by playing tunes composed by someone else. Once we can identify and play the basic notes, we are asked to copy music. If we do not copy correctly, it does not sound right, and that is how we learn aesthetics. As an aside, it is interesting to note that we are never actually taught to “make” our own music.

As we noted earlier, humans learn by copying, so even if the students were copying things from each other or from me, they were still learning. If they did not copy correctly, the program would throw an error or would not bring the desired result. This is where “learning” actually took place.

Programming, unlike music, has a lot of space for variation. You can choose your variable names, context (I noted some kids where coding up Percy Jackson stories) and still learn to code. To expect kids to write up their own code is probably too early. I think once they have enough confidence, they will automatically leave the copying business and get down to creation.

Conclusion

The highlight for me this session was that some kids were actually “hooked” to programming. They were not just hungry, but even desperate to learn more. Some kids where clearly experiencing the thrill of discovery.

A little girl, whose best friend had probably ditched her by not coming to the class, was sitting quietly all by herself in a lonely corner. Since I was pulled by the more energetic kids, I was unable to help her. I kept thinking that the poor girl must be regretting coming to this session, and must be just waiting for her parent to come and pick her.

Towards the end of the session though, she suddenly started typing out the code and was trying to make it work. Another kid helped her fix her mistakes, and together they made it work.

She was the last one to leave.

I can’t imagine how much this little girl wanted to code. Even though we are moving much slower that I thought, the kids were clearly hooked. We will keep having ups and downs, but the determination I saw today was amazing.