5 Things to Look Forward to in the Recreation of Education

October 18, 2022

Here's everything we learned at Leaps of Knowledge 2022!

Leaps of Knowledge returned to the physical stage on October 8th, 2022 with the theme Recreation and a focus on purposeful partnerships. This collaboration between FrogAsia, Teach For Malaysia, PEMIMPIN GSL, YTL Foundation, and other partners, invited all in education to explore what a recreation of education could look like, together!

The theme Recreation is a response to the needs of education in our time. It captures and represents two fundamental motifs: recreation as in bringing something new into being, which involves designing learning experiences for today and tomorrow and pushing the boundaries of what we know education to be. 

It is also rècreation, as in leisure - inspired by scholé, which is the Greek word for ‘being at leisure’ and the origin of the word ‘school’. In Ancient Greece, education was not merely about preparing people to be productive in society. The goal behind the pursuit of education was to seek truth and enjoy the process. 

So what might a recreation in education look like? Here's what Leaps of Knowledge showed us: 

1. Learning is co-created by students and educators

A good question to first ask ourselves is, how can we recreate education without knowing who we are designing it for? One of the key ideas discussed was listening to what students want from school so that educators can co-create the learning experience with them. The day started with an insightful session where the audience did a live poll expressing their thoughts on this generation of students. Two students, Irina and Thaava, then took the stage to share what they really thought. 

The concept of listening to students and co-creating education was also echoed throughout the five HEART workshops and also during the mainstage panel session. The panel was facilitated by YTL Foundation’s Director Dato’ Kathleen Chew and featured creative thought leaders: Joanna Bessey - Head of Enfiniti Academy, Lim Soon Heng - CEO of KL Shakespeare Players, Aishah Sinclair - a renowned media personality and parent. 

When we co-create learning with students, the role of the educator changes. During Workshop E, Co-founder of Atom & The Dot, Sheena Moh, talked about the need for a shift in how educators perceive their role.  

“As educators I think there needs to be a shift in the way we think of our role as educators. Not so much in a traditional sense of a teacher but more like a coach. How do I motivate them? How do I encourage them? How do I scaffold their growth and understand their strengths and weaknesses and push them to the next level?”

- Sheena Moh, Co-founder of Atom & The Dot

2. Educators initiate meaningful conversations with each other and model it for students

“I think a lot more conversations between teachers and parents and the community needs to happen for us to figure out is the sweet spot to make things work together.”

- Alina Amir, CEO of Arus Academy

The HEART workshops screened 5 episodes from The HEART Series which tackled different themes in education. The participants also had the chance to break into small group discussions to share ideas of how they might reimagine learning for their schools and communities and learn from partner organisations during a fireside chat. 

In one workshop, a young teacher who struggled to work with some older educators with fixed mindsets shared his story. Through that, he met a teacher with 30 years of experience in the same workshop who shared what it’s like from her perspective. Recreating education will require educators to initiate meaningful and honest conversations like these with each other. This is so they can exchange innovative ideas, share their stories of failure and success, and celebrate the big and small wins together. 

When we exercise having open conversations with each other, we model that for children as well. During the HEART Panel, Aishah Sinclair encouraged educators (parents and teachers) to have conversations with the child about what is interesting in their lives. By having conversations about what they like, it helps them feel a little bit more confident that they can talk about the tougher things in life with a trusted adult as well. 

This also gives students a safe space to discuss issues that matter.  During Workshop A, co-founder of Architects of Diversity, Jason Wee, who organises workshops on nation building, addressed the need to go beyond just moral and civics subjects when teaching character in a digital age. He talked about how many ‘keyboard warriors’ are just people without the right platform to process their thoughts and feelings. When educators provide a safe space to have meaningful reflections and tough discussions, it shows students that it's possible to articulate thoughts and hold conversations that could be tough but meaningful. This helps them speak the truth in the right way, through the right platforms.

To support educators in starting meaningful discussions with each other, we launched The HEART Course - a free online course which creates a space where educators are excited to connect over ideas in education and start conversations that bring change to their classroom, school, and community. 

In five sessions you can WATCH discussions and best practices from global thought-leaders following five themes in education. There also conversation prompts to help your group of educators DISCUSS ideas after each video, and toolkits to APPLY what you have learned. Each session also has a growing curation of resources from over 30 education partners in Malaysia and beyond. Educators like yourself can CONNECT with these partners to bring students’ learning beyond the classroom!

Get started with The HEART Course here.

3. Educators have the courage to try something different

“The ‘learning’ is more important, not the ‘teaching’. So how can I make the student learn? That’s the pedagogical approach that a teacher should always have in mind.”

- Anuthra Sirisena, Malaysia Teacher Prize 2022 winner

Leaps of Knowledge 2022 coincided with the finale of the Malaysia Teacher Prize (MTP) awards, an award organised by Pemimpin GSL in partnership with YTL Foundation.  It recognises and supports the most innovative and outstanding teachers in Malaysia. To be innovative is to have the courage to try something different, and one teacher who exemplified that was Cikgu Anuthra Sirisena from SMJK Chung Hwa Tenom, Sabah, who was awarded the winning title. 

During a live interview on the mainstage, we learned how she started the Tenom Innovation Centre (TIC), a makerspace which has trained over 2,000 teachers and students from rural schools in robotics and coding. She did this despite not knowing how to code initially and realised that if she could learn something new in a few weeks, her students could too. Her vision has helped many students in Sabah feel empowered to pursue their interests in STEM subjects, even for a career. 

“Out of the 100 things I tried, I probably failed in 50. But out of that failure I had my learnings [that ] this will work for this kind of student, and that will work for that student. And from there my students give a lot of suggestions for how to make it better,” she shared. 

All ten finalists of the MTP award role-modelled the courage to do things differently as seen during the ‘Best Classrooms’ sessions in the afternoon. These ten sessions gave participants a first-hand experience of what an innovative lesson plan can look like when we think ahead and out-of-the-box. It catered to all kinds of learners including those who are visually-driven, artistically-inclined, highly kinesthetic, and with special needs. 

4. Thinking out of the box and making a connection between different ideas 

“During the pandemic it made me realise that there are ways of learning and there are places you can learn. And when you are out camping with your family or if you're travelling, or if you’re going on a walk, spending time as a family - that too, is education. So learning is everywhere… it’s no longer about the survival of the fittest. It’s about the survival of the most adaptable.”

- Aishah Sinclair, parent and media personality

Recreation happens when we put aside assumptions and old patterns of doing things so we are free to step forward and try something completely new. It involves redesigning learning experiences and pushing the boundaries of what we know education to be. This often starts with knowing “why”. Just as adults are naturally motivated by the “why” behind what they do, the same goes for children. It's important that educators find ways to go beyond just completing the syllabus, but to make learning truly relevant and meaningful. 

The Leaps of Knowledge ‘Playground’ exemplified this wonderfully. Designed with elements from what you would find in an actual playground - exploration, leisure, and fun - the area featured concepts that showed educators how difficult subjects such as add-maths, physics, biology, and chemistry, can be brought to life for students. These were in the form of media and design installations by students from The One Academy. For example with biology, users control the movement of chromosomes on a digital screen, moving their entire body to trigger the multiple stages of cell division.

“Exercising different parts of the mind and body enhances engagement in a lesson because it creates a meaningful memory. We hope to exemplify how education can be reimagined in a way that inspires interest and curiosity no matter how challenging certain school subjects may be.”

- Evan Yan, Head of the Advertising & Graphic Design Faculty, The One Academy

Participants also had the chance to experience game concepts, quests and a virtually simulated school designed by FrogAsia to engage students who find it difficult to learn the traditional way. They were also able to practise empathy towards different school teachers in a fun way through The Cikgu Life board game simulation by Classroom Adventures. 

5. An education that pursues truth and allows us to enjoy the process together

“We as teachers, as educators and everyone who is involved in the field… we can reimagine different ways of learning. Different human beings, different children, different people, adults… and likewise, we have different ways of learning and maybe [with ] just the ‘one size fits all academic method’... We need to evolve now and that’s not the only way to learn."

- Joanna Bessey, Head of Enfiniti Academy

The other meaning of rècreation in education reminds us that the goal of education is to keep learning, to be curious and enjoy the process of seeking truth. In Workshop E, Joanna reminded us that the only way to truly learn is by doing and trying, which is made possible when educators allow a safe space for failure. The idea is to teach students that failure is okay, as long as they try again because without failure we cannot learn. 

In the pursuit of creating a safe space to learn and move forward together, Leaps of Knowledge launched a teacher survey, inviting all educators to contribute their thoughts to a study of Teacher Openness and Readiness towards Embracing New Ways of Teaching. The results from this survey will help us better understand where we are collectively as a nation and what we need to do in order to move forward together. 

Participate in My Teacher Survey here

We hope the conference inspires educators to do their part in recreating education wherever they are and with whatever resources they have. The key is to do it together!

What are some other takeaways you had from Leaps of Knowledge? Slide into our DMs on Instagram and Facebook @leapsofknowledge and tell us. Till then, stay curious and we’ll see you at Leaps of Knowledge 2023! 

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