Using Out of Eden Learn to inspire learners who lack confidence
For almost a year, I was on the look-out for a project that I could tie in to the curriculum for my English language learner. Although, she is a college-going student and currently in the phase of repeating the Applied ICT exam, she had badly internalized failure. Owing to hearing loss at birth, she experiences difficulty in written and spoken English. There was this gap which seemed impossible to bridge-Hers was a 10 years struggle, of failures and trials. I couldn't possibly think of giving up on her, when she had entirely given up on herself. Apart from my role as her English language tutor, I provided her counseling and skill-based real life tasks. When I introduced Out of Eden Learn to this 20 year old student, she didn't give in that easily. Paul's striking use of metaphors in his dispatches put her off. Through scaffolding and structured instructions, accessible website and the fantastic project coordinators on hand, Sarah Sheya and Vincent, she got very excited that her request for transcripts was not only okayed but also Paul's introductory video was captioned the very next day! Its been a year and a half, and there has been a tremendous boost in her confidence; for instance when she steps out into a restaurant or converses about 'culture and stereotypes' with her Michigan friends. Once the accessibility barrier was removed, my student moved quickly through the next 4 footsteps. An uber-talented artist with a natural flair for 'weaving' textiles, Mash07 showed keen interest in Paul's dispatches despite his 'heavy English'. In one of our discussions about the fervent use of figurative language in Paul's narratives, she reiterated that the skill of a journalist is 'to capture audience's attention and make them breathless'. Thereafter, she produced her own neighborhood map which reflected her historical and social position in her community, as a frequent traveler between Dubai and Lahore. Her map was later exhibited on all major social media handlers, in short, her role in providing a Pakistani snapshot to the wider audience. She couldn't be more grateful for the learning spark that kindled in her.
From my perspective as an educator, and which my student understood well after many emotion-ridden counseling sessions, we all learn differently and we need to accommodate for a repertory of learning styles. We need to slow down and wonder, 'will this content or task be accessible for 'all' our students?' If not, lets use our intuition from our differentiation toolbox. What might take a year for some students, could take two years to accomplish. The reward is always going to be there, that of intrinsic and sustained motivation to keep searching, exploring and extending opportunities for our learners.
Gratitude: I am thankful to my local university advisor who visited the Project Zero Classroom at Harvard University last year, and also had the great fortune to meet Howard Gardner. Knowing my deep admiration for Gardner, he shared the Out of Eden Learn project with me so we could add our nuanced perspective from Pakistan. Finally, thanks to the visionaries and leaders behind the project who strongly believe in humanistic values.
Khaula Rizwan, Lahore, Pakistan