Not a textbook, but a travel guide

Imagine you want to travel to Goa. But this will not be your regular trip, for it will be run by a textbook. You see, this special textbook will ensure that you follow the syllabus, that you visit all the important tourist spots of Goa. The textbook will tell you where to start, where to go next, what exactly to do, will carefully leave out what is not required and ask you the right questions, so that you get to know exactly what is required. Prepare for an effortless, yet effective journey.

Wait, before you start opposing this idea of your trip being driven by a textbook, realize the fact that every traveler (like you) to Goa will be following pretty much the same textbook. Some of you will strongly disagree with the above analogy. You will emphatically point out that visiting a place physically and visiting a place through a textbook are totally unrelated things. You may say the textbooks are meant for the serious job of providing education to children. Education aka life is not fun vacation trip.

Your argument is interesting. But my simple question why schooling is not a fun trip? Let’s make some choices here. Is our (school or teacher’s) job to make learning easy for the child or more challenging, to make it prescriptive or explorative, to make it standardized or child-centric? Let us get back to travelling to Goa through a textbook. Here is how we would like it.

The process may look like following steps –

1. Dream about the place and what you would do there.

2. Chit chat and share the information.

3. Time for some questions and doubts – Will I? Would it be? How would? What is the best?

4. Search and research for some target information.

5. Let’s start the journey, let’s explore – each one going where each wants to.

6. Break time – let’s exchange notes – get peer reviews – what’s thumbs up and what’s not!

7. Let’s travel more – what we wanted but did not do in the first round, what others showed as interesting, etc.

8. After we come back – we brag and review – collect all the pictures, write our travel blogs, take stock of our thoughts and mostly relive the journey. Also make a note of what we missed that we can catch up next time we are in Goa. And you may ask where will the textbook fit into this journey?

Maybe nowhere, maybe everywhere – but the journey will be done with our kind of textbook. Our textbook is actually a travel guide – which (on any topic) – starts with maps, is full of pictures, loads of questions, and choices of where, and how to travel. It gives very little, but invites us to imagine, inquire, investigate, explore, experiment and express

Since we are on travel, let us take the example of wind which is a topic in the curriculum.

Since we are on travel, let us take the example of wind which is a topic in the curriculum.

1. The travel guide will have some mind maps on various aspects of wind – these give an overview as well as keywords that the child can explore.

2. The travel guide will be resplendent with images related to wind but of all kinds – right from wind in nature, art, history, forms, application, diagrams, products, designs, scientific photos and maps, etc.

3. Further the guide will have say some 250 ‘why, what, how, when, where’ questions – with enough space for children to scribble and doodle, what they imagined, or searched or concluded (their theory).

4. The guide will also have quotations, poems, stories, anecdotes, examples, and some trivia.

5. Finally a lot of space for children to make their maps, notes, data, and their reflections.

The travel guide tries to inspire children to plan their own journey – so nothing in the guide will be important or prescribed. We would rather invite children to know how to question and to question what is known.

The travel guide does not makes things easier for children, contrarily it makes it open – which makes it challenging and requires greater effort (which is what makes learning fun). It also inspires different children in different ways making the learning not confined to the syllabus, rather it becomes the nucleus of growth.

In essence a travel guide is short, simple, indicative and opens the world of learning for each child to explore. Each child then embarks on his or her unique journey.

And yes, the next time you are planning to go to Goa, do not head for the beaches, first buy our travel guide.

A man traveling to a new island asked a local, “What about this Island?”

The local replied, “What about the Island? It is not about it, it is about you dear, it is about you.”

This article is also published in the Teacher Plus magazine