Incorporating the 4Cs (Collaboration, Critical thinking, Communication and Creativity) in learning does sound fancy and interesting but making the children work together is a challenge. I recently observed a BeeCreative class for the students of Grade 6 at Kaasthamandap Vidyalaya. The students were divided into teams of 4 and had to come up with their own games using only paper cups. Later, using a rubber band tied to four strings, they had to build a tower without directly touching the cups and the rubberband.
When the teacher asked all students to write their names in a small sheet of paper for using them as a randomizer, a lot of questions came up.
“Sir, can we write with a pen?”
“Ma’am, can I use sign pens?”
“Do we have to write our last name too?”
My first reaction was “Why are they so specific? Why does it even matter what colour or ink they use?”
As adults if we were to look at how seriously the students took the task of writing down their names, it might not matter as much. We have other important things to worry about. Right? But, imagine a 30 year old being asked to fill a bank voucher, s/he will automatically be more cautious.
“Today is the 15th right?”
“All capital letters?”
“Do I sign here or?”
The thing is, the small sheet of paper is very important to the kids for two main reasons I think. First, they were given one each by the teacher. Second, usually they’ve been taught to write or not to write with certain instruments, in certain formats, with a certain criteria. Also, one is told about things that one should do and shouldn’t do.
If you’ve been given certain rules to follow, one is told to abide by them. You can’t do the things listed otherwise! And as human instincts, one would try to avoid things that might get the person in trouble. “Trouble” here means being scolded by the teacher for having performed a task differently. But, eventually after realising that it will not get them into trouble, they feel free and well, might even make little flowers beside their names.
After the task proceeded, I noticed how the students were not very comfortable working in teams, and were putting up a fight for bringing their ideas into practice. Most of them were struggling to come up to a conclusion but seeing another team finish early somehow ignited the fire inside them and they incorporated each others ideas.
From a very young age, one is fed with the idea of competing, taking care of one’s belongings and fighting for it, even if it means you might get hurt in the process. And believe it or not, the sense of competition catalyses the whole process of building.
Witnessing students working together is always very inspiring but convincing them that it’s okay if someone else comes up with the same idea is a task in itself. After a while, the students were enjoying it, each member in the team trying to hold the end of one string and pick up the cup. Also, realizing that it’s okay if you fail and that there is no prize up for grabs, gave them the freedom to come up with CRAZY ideas. The students in one team after completing his task was going to other teams to show them how he did it. If you look at the rules of the game, he wasn’t allowed to do so but in the bigger circle, he was communicating his ideas and collaborating with someone who he wasn’t assigned to be with. Social constructivism might get the results you want from a student but it limits their ideas. Once, you let them believe that there is no task or punishment, they will let their imagination run wild. After a while, they were using their elbows to pick the cups and I was going,
“Hey, you can’t do that!”