Open education day in Zürich, Switzerland

During open education day in Zürich, Switzerland on March 19th, 2013 – an interesting initiative that invites external people to experience how education is done in different environments and thereby contributes to unboss education – I discovered several examples of good teaching. Reflecting upon what I observed, I also came to think about a few ideas to make the way education is done even better.

1. Individualization of education
In a couple of handcraft workshops, that I took part in, I noticed that teachers were good at individualizing education. Each student worked on his or her own tasks – at a speed and level of difficulty that suited the individual student. Teachers as well as fellow students helped each student individually – either by going to the individual student or by letting the individual student come when he or she needed help. I noticed that the individualization of education encouraged the individual students to take lots of initiative.

2. Use of information technology
During open education day, I saw very few smartphones, laptops, and/or tablets in use. Also, I saw very few students or teachers using the Internet, for example to search for information and/or communicate with others. That surprised me a lot. During the day, there were several situations during which students could have benefited from using the Internet. In a music workshop, for example, students could have searched the Internet to find out what a bassoon is instead of waiting to have the opportunity to get the answer from the teacher.

3. Encouragement of creativity
In a couple of handcraft workshops, I experienced that teachers were good at encouraging participants to use their creativity and explore new possibilities about what they could do with materials that were there. It may have been, I imagine, due to one teacher’s encouragement of experimentation and artistic expression, that – at one point during a workshop – a couple of students spontaneously started singing. I found it awesome that the teacher spontaneously praised them and encouraged them to keep on singing.

4. Encouragement of cultural diversity
I experienced how individualizing education can strengthen motivation to a relatively high degree. An example: In a cooking class, the teacher had the idea of asking students, whose parents come from several different countries around the world, if each of them would like to cook a meal that is characteristic of where their respective families originally come from. This idea by the teacher proved to be good: Several students showed a strong motivation to cook such a meal for their fellow students. For me, this showed the importance of how food can serve as expressing culture and to connect people in positive ways.

5. Moderation of 2-person exercises
In an English workshop, the teacher moderated several different 2-person conversations during which everyone was involved. The exercises initiated by the teacher resulted in a relatively high degree of activity and had a positive effect on the learning that was happening, for example because the exercises encouraged students to think and express themselves.

6. Use of clean energy
I was surprised to see that no buildings, which I saw during the day, had solar panels on the roof. Besides having the possibility to produce clean energy and thereby reduce costs of energy, I imagine that having solar panels on the roof would have a strong learning effect on students – and perhaps encourage students to become interested / even more interested in energy.

7. Sports / physical activity
In a singing workshop, I found it great to see how the teacher encouraged students – in creative ways – to use both arms and legs to accentuate the rhythm while they were singing. Judging from the many smiles on the faces of the participating children, the children were happy about this initiative by the teacher.

In a few locations, I noticed how students liked to play football during the breaks – including in the long break in the middle of the day during which rooms and buildings are locked. I also noticed that because many football fields do not have barriers on each of the 4 sides, the ball tended to often go very far when the students kicked the ball. Something similar happened when I was – years ago – doing a similar education as these children. As I was visiting my mother in Denmark last Christmas, I noticed that the school, I attended at that time, had come up with quite a fine solution to solve the problem of the ball running away: They had made a hole of the size of the football field – thereby solving the problem in an intelligent way. They had even painted the ground of the football field blue. See photo below:



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