An interview with Shaikha Latifa Al Khalifa – Co-founder & CEO Clever Play
Clever Play is an online and offline STEAM education platform for children. Clever Play is a big advocate of STEAM education– which basically is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, which we think is the future of education.
How different is virtual learning for younger and older children?
Children of all ages have had to adapt to the virtual learning space but younger ones have more challenge to adapt; the older kids being more technologically advanced and digital savvy. But yes, there’s a lot of things educators have been doing to keep younger kids engaged.
What are the ways to keep children engaged via virtual learning?
Transition from a traditional to an online video conference has been challenging for teachers as well as students. One thing that I feel works is re-thinking the lesson format in a virtual setting. Giving students more autonomy, more control and ownership of their learning journey. One way that the teacher can do that is by giving children the freedom to choose topics and projects they’d like to dig deeper into. As an informal educator, that’s something that I find students gravitate towards because they feel they are taking control of their learning path. Diversifying the delivery also helps; switching it up from audio to video, presentations and text also brings an exciting element to online learning.
Gamifying the learning through virtual classrooms is also now doable. If educators create enjoyable competitions, it will encourage collaboration, teamwork, skill sets and so much more. I think there are a lot of challenges but also so much opportunity to rethink what learning can look like in a virtual space.
How are parents finding the entire process?
While some parents are enjoying that their children are learning at their own pace, some are finding it difficult because unlike traditional schooling, time management gets a little tricky. Parents aren’t sure if their kids should be in “home mode” or “school mode”.
Do you think prolonged virtual learning is effective?
I think personalization, collaboration and informal learning is basically the future. I’m leaning towards a blended learning model where the brick and mortar schools have a time and space but at the same time embracing online learning since there is more scope for students to learn at their own pace – craft their own learning journey. I believe learning doesn’t stop whether you’re at home or school – and with online learning you can do that and make sure that you can learn from the comfort of your own home while not limiting yourself to the traditional curriculum.
Is there a better understanding now on the relevance of project-based learning over traditional schooling?
Yes, absolutely. For a few years now project-based learning has been revolutionizing learning. It allows students to come up with solutions to real world problems. Project based learning is all about building skill based competencies which are important today. Today we’re not talking about knowledge, we’re talking about the acquisition of skills. Google knows everything today. That’s why we need to teach our children skills – so they can learn how to learn. Project-based learning offers that opportunity to build in-demand skills, contribute to real world problem solving, and learn by doing.
How do we educate children for the changing world?
While we can’t predict what the future is going to look like, we can equip them with what I call super skills. The best way to do this is by imbibing in them human skills. For example, what is the competitive advantage students have over robots? It’s the human touch. We can imbibe in them the human touch by investing in their creativity, imagination, critical thinking, problem solving – for which they will always win over robots. Change children from passive learner to active lifelong learners – open up their appetite for learning so they learn wherever they are. So they can learn, relearn and unlearn for most of their life.
How to merge playing and learning for children?
Honestly, I don’t see the difference. I’m a big advocate of play – I believe play is learning. Children learn best through unstructured play wherein they don’t know they’re learning but they are. It’s also important as educators and parents to praise efforts over results – in school and play. Effort matters more than result ever will. I truly believe that the best kind of learning happens through play.