Collaborate, Chat, Share, Learn

2 Feb


The Future of Education is via collaboration. And the future is here.

Whether it is at school or in higher education, or indeed in lifelong learning. It is as we were meant to learn, by collaborative play. The games in kindergarden, the first lessons, the sharing and the fights are all collaborative ways of figuring out how the world works and then developing a way of dealing with the world.

In younger years, or what we call primary education much of the learning comes from our peer group. This is where collaborative learning has been acknowledged in most countries by having children sit around in little groups so that they can help each other out with work.  ‘Circle Time’ is a useful tool where the class gets together to share insights, learning and develop a voice within the group.

Sadly, the traditional formal schooling system does not allow us much room for collaborative work, geared as it is towards rote learning, examinations and competition. Collaboration at schools was always in the extra-curricular activities – games, plays, assemblies and of course the pranks. The ambitious CCE regime does have the potential to correct this flaw. It is possible for teachers to design group work and assess not just for content but for team work as well. Of course this will take extra work, especially during the years when the teachers too learn how to lead these teams.

Teams are the way we work  – whether it is about organising a family picnic, a corporate sales drive or an entrepreneurial venture. Even as education systems claim to prepare us for life, they often forget this vital aspect of work – collaboration. As teachers too our workload eases if we work in effective teams. More than that, the quality of what we deliver is significantly better if planned and delivered as a team.

Like it or not, learning is becoming more collaborative as the internet spreads. Not only is information now a commodity easily accessed online, free online lectures from the best universities abroad are very popular. While skeptics say that this can never be a subsitute for a good teacher they forget to answer why – a good teacher (rare I hear) is one who collaborates in the learning process of each individual student. It is that shared learning space that creates valuable insights and of course motivation. The massive online courses too have become successful only because they spawned shared learning groups across the world. Teams of students, supported by the materials online created their virtual classrooms and shared generously with each other.

Share-Collaborate-Learn-Use-Monetise. This will have to be the mantra of the new economy as it was with the old pre-assembly line economy. This time we have the tools to do this to scale, and this will be what will lift us out of the current economic doldrums. For this, we will have to learn to share – a habit that we may have forgotten in the quest to win the race.

The beauty of learning across networks is that we hear nuggets that would never have come from within our own setting. Perspectives change how we view the facts, and the more we share, the more we learn. Cannot get simpler than that. Especially in the education sector, hashtag chats across twitter and google hangouts have helped teachers talk to each other across the world. We share tools, experiences, find solutions and build better classes and learning experiences for our students. We do so by sharing our pain points and our learnings.

In India, one such point of change – thus pain and learning is the Right to Education (RTE) Act that has many detractors even as many others acknowledge that the principle is sound. Taking responsibility for educating the children of the nation is a sign of all developed economies. Yet, there are different perspectives, that bring better understanding and hopefully a path to the future. From the point of view of a poor parent – this is a chance to get to school that they never had. Of course, 25% of private sector seats have been taken over by the RTE jaggernaut, which is something that neither pleases the school management and definitely hurts the middle class parent who now has to compete for 75% of the original (already underserved) capacity.

From the point of view of budget schools who provide valuable service at nominal fees, the RTE infrastructure requirements will put them out of (a not very profitable) business. Thousands of children will be forced to seek alternatives when they were already getting a decent education. Elite schools are worried about the academic and social integration issues. Students themselves are being subjected to a large scale social engineering experiment. Policy analysts are aghast at the lacunae in the Act, as it is stated. State governments are forced to implement – but to do so in their own way and at their own pace.

We learn as we share these perspectives. We learn as we chat, one of the oldest and most powerful tools to communication. This is what we hope to do at 9pm tonight on twitter, with India’s first #educhat (on twitter search for the hashtag #Educhat or #RTE) where we hope to have a valuable discussion on the #RTE Act. The chat is planned as a monthly, each time a different topic – this time the RTE. This chat is simply a civil conversation between peers, each one sharing their own time and insights and is open to all. A warm welcome to educators sharing their learning about teaching, administration, policy, practice and the joys of education.


January 31, 2013, Times of India blog,


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