I was indeed honoured to be invited as the keynote speaker at NETQ6 EARLY LEARNING NETWORK in Padua, Italy. My topic for the keynote was about our developmentally appropriate ipad projects and how we listen to children’s voices through their drawings by documenting their thoughts and emotions at Podar Jumbo Kids. The learning journey started with the NETQ6 EARLY LEARNING NETWORK conference in Padua University. It was organized by Network For The Quality In Early Childhood Education and had speakers from Italy, UK, Poland, Turkey, Northern Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Romania and of course from Jumbo Kids, India. I must thank Mr. Stephano for a wonderfully organized conference. The main conference sections covered the following topics:
· Developmental models in early education for learning disabilities http://littlesmilingminds.com (Italy)
· In a Children’s Hospital like in School... Let’s do Robotics! (Italy)
· From 2 years old to children centers (UK)
· Verbal and communicational games with using of Logodogo - from a word to a sentence, from a letter to reading (Poland)
· Role of developmentally appropriate technology in early years education (India)
· Pre-school Social Skills Support Project (PSSSP) (Turkey)
· Overcoming Barriers to Learning at Country/State level (Northern Ireland)
· Pedagogy from the point of view of children to assure successful learning from the very first (Germany)
· Practical applications of software and apps from the Aragonese website of Augmentative and Alternative Communication ARASAAC
· Let’s make art one of the 100 languages of children (India)
· Creative Robotics (Italy)
· Overcoming Barriers To Learning (Northern Ireland)
· How to create materials for parents on the basis of a flip teaching model (Spain)
· Using free resources to create educational games (Romania)
I was impressed with the keynote by Professor Daniela Lucangeli of Padua University on Developmental Models in Early Education. The session touched on brain research and Vygotsky, both topics that interest me and are used in my curriculum work. Some points that she brought forth which are truly path breaking are about how children have selective attention and a teacher’s knowledge about this type of attention in children can help create better learning environments. She spoke about the amygdala and emotions that accompany learning. So aptly put by her that the emotion that should accompany learning should be curiosity and not fear. She quoted Eric Fisher on how rage and fear does not damage learning and creativity but boredom does. And my most important take away from her talk was her philosophy of how the process of learning should be- Outside, inside – Inside, inside- Inside, outside. Which simply means that learning comes from outside to inside a human being, then time needs to be given for that learning to manifest, stimulate, sink in inside the individual and from inside would come insights, connections to the outside. And that is how learning will come full circle. If teachers understand this simple formula then they would know how to ensure that their teaching style is not all talk but talk-relate- and let the kids talk about their point of view/connections.
The early years team from Northern Ireland had a session on Begin with children- early years media initiative for children. A pertinent point that they are raising in their country; children’s voices, are they heard in media? They have developed fantastic videos and puppets that teach children about inclusion and emotions. These puppets help young children to understand what it feels like to be excluded and encourage them to respect and include others who are different.
In Germany- there is no word called disability but hindered and in Italy the word Ritardo means delayed. Sensitivity to needs of all children was visible in the work of all the speakers. The ARASAAC program of pictograms to teach kids language is a useful tool for autistic children.
The session on learning in children was educative as I revisited the difference between exploration and a guided tour. Most teachers have a formal teaching style in which they do everything and explain everything to children; this distinction will help me groom teachers to understand that subtle but important difference between teacher centric and child led classrooms. A simple mantra to teach teachers- Support on demand, not automatically.
Play way is such a loosely used term these days and many teachers fail to understand play way is Learning by playing as a fundamental part of the beginning of educational processes. The Learning process of children in a play way philosophy is self-motivated, intrinsic and self controlled. To consider and respect the point of view of children as important to becoming an active part of the learning process.
The Italian workshop on creative robotics was indeed an eye opener about how learning of math, science, language, and concepts can be done with simple robotics with young children. This was really amazing wherein kids learn to make simple robots complete with circuit etc. These circuit sets are available readymade from Amazon but children age 4 and above learn to fix them and use them to make different robots. Concepts of animals, people who help us, are all done with robotics.
As I attended this workshop I thought about Leonardo Da Vinci, a painter and inventor and here in Italy I experienced Reggio Emilia and Robotics, art expression and technology, both used in developmentally appropriate methods. Indeed this conference was ‘brain-fuel’ for me and the learnings and inspirations I gained from all the speakers will definitely find a place in our work at Podar Jumbo Kids. Thank you Dr Podar for supporting such global explorations and for ensuring that we believe in the hundred languages of children and never steal the ninety nine.