In one of the only few unconferences that was hands-on, Sunoj introduced Karkhana’s design thinking cycle aimed at people interested in thinking about how hands-on classes in science could be used to encourage innovation/discovery and other cognitive skills like critical thinking.
Participants were asked to balance the tip of one pencil on the tip of another pencil, and provided a few other materials: plasticine, nuts and wires. While we did have some fighters who did not give upon failure, some participants soon started giving up and saying things like “this is not possible”. But with constant hints from Sunoj, and evidence (from videos of Karkhana students) that it was possible, all participants were able to balance the two tips. The major difference between kids and adults doing this exercise was the lack of noise adults made.
During reflection, participants described their personal process of figuring out how to balance the the pencils. Most reflection mimicked the design thinking cycle we use to teach our students at Karkhana. One participant described how she kept switching from thinking and playing and using Sunoj’s hints to improve her process. Think, Make, Play, Improve is a simple cycle that allows people to get better and better at what they do by thinking, making, and playing (i.e. testing) in short intervals but continuously.
Interesting observations emerged as people reflected on their own learning processes. Some participants had been hesitant when told they could observe and copy their friends’ ideas due to the pressure to be “original” and “independent”. At Karkhana, students are encouraged to copy as long as they understand what they are copying.
We also reflected on the materials that were used for the activity. The activity used cheap, affordable and reusable materials which participants claimed was refreshing as educational tools have become more and more high-tech, and focus less and less on the delivery of classes.
Finally, we touched on some of the techniques of discovery learning. At karkhana we use the technique ‘Ask three before me’ which encourages children to clear their doubts and curiosity with peers before asking the teacher. The discussion ended inconclusively with questions raised about when is a good time for teachers to intervene during students’ discovery process, and how to refrain from the urge give answers right away.
Here’s to finding better and better ways to teach and learn