Open school day in Zürich

Among several useful teaching and learning methods, I discovered during open school day in Zürich, these methods / techniques / tools stand out:
# 1: Children decide themselves how they want to learn
  • I learned that children choose themselves where they want to work on an assignment. For example, a child chooses whether he / she wants to work / learn at a single table or at a 2-person table. During a learning period of about 1.5 hours, I saw more students changing places – shifting between work at a single table and work at a 2-person table.
  • During the math assignment “36 + 28”, I observed that children used methods of their own choice. For example, one student used the method 36 + 30 – 2. Other students used other methods with which they felt more safe.
  • During a reading task, I noticed that children read in books of their own choice. For example, one child read a Lucky Luke book, while another child was reading a Guinness world records book.
  • A parent told me that her children find learning materials / education materials themselves on the Internet. For example, a parent explained that her children found learning materials on YouTube made by people, who live in Australia, and experienced that these learning materials helped them understand a particular topic well.
# 2: Teachers use different methods
  • From one teacher, I learned by observing how she does classroom management that changing between tasks helped children stay motivated. During one learning period, which had a duration of about 1.5 hours, the teacher changed relatively rapidly between work on math, geography as well as reading, speaking, writing, and singing in German and English.
  • Observing how a teacher educates, I learned that mixing up work on various subjects with movement exercises such as walking through the room, stretching and clapping rhythms that the children repeated helped the children to concentrate.
  • I noticed that ringing a bell helped a teacher to create silence and create awareness among students that a new task is coming up.
# 3: Different kinds of learning environment design is tested
  • From one teacher, I spoke with in the morning, I learned that she is – together with students – testing / trying out different kinds of learning environment design. For example, I noticed that there were both single tables, 2-person tables and 4-person tables in the room. Also, there was a free space in the middle of the room for everyone to come together.
  • I learned that room dividers such as book shelves and things attached to and hanging down from the ceiling helped children to concentrate.

# 4: Teachers and students ask questions to and help each other 

  • I learned that questions asked both by teachers and students triggered some highly valuable discussions as well as reflections among everyone. For example, when a teacher asked the question “How is it possible that it can snow in St. Moritz and during the same period of time not snow in Zürich?”, there was significant thinking and discussion activity going on. This and other questions asked by the teacher as well as by students was, to me, a highlight of the learning sessions I participated at during during open school day.  
  • During an individual assignment, I noticed that when there was a problem / challenge / task, which children had difficulty finding a solution to, he or she asked questions to a teacher or to another student. It was wonderful to see how everyone wanted to help each other to learn. 
  • During more learning periods, I noticed that one teacher helped out coaching a couple of children who needed help, while the other teacher was helping other children in the same room. I learned that the coaching done by an assistant teacher helped everyone – including the person wanting coaching, the other children, the lead teacher as well as parents.
# 5: Use of technologies
  • In a highly interesting conversation with a very experienced teacher, the teacher explained she is learning that work using various social media / platforms / artificial intelligence is replacing craftsman work with physical materials such as knitting. For example, drawing tasks using AI tools such as this is more interesting for children, for example because they are given constant feedback from technologies.
  • It surprised me that a relatively large amount of work / learning was done using paper, pencil and physical books – and that relatively little work / learning was done using Internet / tablet / smartphone / laptop and / or other technologies.
  • I saw no children with smartphones / tablets or other mobile, electronic devices.
  • There was no open wlan / wifi available.

# 6: An additional short story

A grandmother, who was at open school day with her grandson, told me a story from when she was young. She explained to me that when she was young, practically all children had lunch with their families at home. Reflecting on that time, she realized that it was possible for example because families had home based businesses such as farms and/or because grandparents cooked lunch for the grandchildren.

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Play

I wanted to learn more about play – including what the purpose of play is and what the role of technology is in play. So I did some research on the topic. This is what I found out. What do you think is missing?

Testing a swing at Herrenberg

Testing a swing at Herrenberg, Bergdietikon near Zürich in Switzerland triggered this question in my mind: If you place a swing in an office environment, how will it affect the working culture? Judging from feedback I have gotten in projects related to workspace development, a relatively simple initiative like this can help move a culture towards values such as play, creativity, openness, testing / experimenting and collaboration.

Testing environmentally friendly products and services

Visiting the Umweltarena in Spreitenbach just outside Zürich, I learned a lot testing various products and services. Top experiences: Testing a segway and a Renault Zoe. The home made cream soup in the climate restaurant tasted very well. The saying on the last slide “Zwischen Reden und Tun liegt das Meer” means “Between talking and doing is the sea.”

What does a person, who works for a supermarket, do when he or she has an idea?

At an interesting event a few weeks ago about the future of retail, I learned about some of the effects that digitization has on, for example, supermarkets. I was somewhat surprised to hear that when a person, who works for a Migros supermarket, has an idea, he or she goes to the store manager and communicates the idea to him or her. The store manager then decides what is going to happen with that idea. Being curious about how such an  innovation process works at COOP, I asked a person, who works for a COOP retail store. I was told that this particular innovation process works more or less in a similar way. When a person, who works for a certain COOP supermarket, has an idea, he or he communicates the idea to the store manager. The store manager then decides what is going to happen with that idea.

Reflecting on what I learned during the events mentioned above and reflecting on aspects related to retail innovation. two strategic dilemmas come into my mind: The strategic dilemma efficiency vs. creativity and the strategic dilemma planning vs. testing / trying ideas out.

Regarding the strategic dilemma efficiency vs. creativity, I understood that supermarket chains have a relatively strong focus on efficiency. For example, I learned that people, who work for a COOP supermarket on a certain day, meet for 5 minutes in the morning to bring up whatever they have on their mind, for example ideas to improve things. I understood that, for various reasons such as the focus being a lot more on eficiency than on creativity, few ideas are brought forward.  At this event I learned that at Migros things work somewhat similarly. Although anyone can communicate ideas through Migipedia and/or other social media, I understood that, traditionally, people often follow the hierarchical way when they have a wish to change things. And as the focus is a lot more on efficiency than on creativity, few ideas are brought forward.

When it comes to the strategic dilemma planning vs. testing / trying ideas out, I learned that supermarket chains have a relatively strong focus on planning. Also, I learned that most planning is mostly done centrally. And people, who work for a certain supermarket, hardly test / try out ideas they have, for example ideas that they think could improve the experience for people who use that particular retail store. Instead, they follow plans developed centrally.