How Can We Help Students

Students need help. The existing academic infrastructure takes care of students' academic skills. We need to go beyond that. We need to help them with other skills – ability to create, communicate, and contribute. Here are some ideas:

  1. Show them how to help others

  2. Engage them in a social cause

  3. Give them more ways to express themselves

  4. Show them how to make money

  5. Show them that they can be creative

  6. Help them innovate

  7. Show them how to build stuff

  8. Give them lots of responsibility

  9. Show them how to help themselves

"I need to help my grandparents take medicine regularly" said this passionate student. "I want to build a system that keeps reminding them at the appropriate time"

How do we do all these? There are a few simple ways. I have been trying it for the past three years at KCG College of Technology, Chennai. I plan to expand it to a couple of other institutions. In the first part of this two-part article, I will cover the first four ideas.

Show them how to help others

In KCG innovation cell, I noticed a pattern. Many students came up with ideas that are a mix of technology and social innovation. This seems natural to them.

I need to help my grandparents take medicine regularly" said this passionate student. "I want to build a system that keeps reminding them at the appropriate time".

She assembled a team, created a proposal, presented it, and got the go ahead to start the project.

"I want to reduce deaths in scooter accidents", said another student.

He came up with an idea and demonstrated it by implementing a simple system to help pillion riders. He used to hang around a scooter repair shop as a kid. He developed a liking for these vehicles and learned a lot before he ever stepped into a college.

Students have manyideas, which include converting waste to energy, reducing carbon in the atmosphere and using a TV remote to control electric appliances. They do not demand much. They need someone who can listen to them, not be judgmental, and encourage them to try. Having the ability to visualize a clear beneficiary seems to motivate them. They want to help others.

We need to start simple. Create a small team to listen to them, reason with them, encourage them, and support them.

Engage them in a social cause

This year, we decided to try a small experiment. We started a social causes club. In our first meeting, there were more than 20 ideas. They ranged from helping public schools to saving turtles. We picked one to start with – helping middle school students in a public school.

I was not sure how many students would actually turn up on a Saturday at 9:30am. On the first day, we had about seven college students. What happened during that session was nearly magical. The college kids and school kids bonded amazingly well. The college group demoed tablets, conducted drawing competitions, and quizzes. None of us noticed how time sped. We had to let them go when the lunch was announced. Even then, as these college students were leaving, the little ones held their hands and walked with them to the gate, demanding that they return as soon as possible.

What happened next was even more magical. The college students were so happy with their first encounter; they posted pictures in their Facebook pages and wrote little posts describing their experience. The following Saturday, over 20 college students showed up. The numbers kept increasing each weekRead More

Teach students to get involved in a social cause they believe in. You will see magic happen.

Give them more ways to express themselves

There was a time, I used to go to colleges and give talks, but I do not do that anymore. Most of my current sessions are audience driven. My job is to give some context, seed the discussion with some questions, and let it flow. Sometimes, I act as a recorder, drawing a mind map of the discussions. Initially only a few participate. Soon,more jump in, as they find their voice.

We need to let students pick their own topics and express themselves.

Show them how to make money

I think it is important for students to learn the value of money. The best way to show them is to get them involved in a small activity that helps them make money. There are at least 20 simple ways to make money. Most of them involve learning something. As entrepreneurs, some of us know what people are willing to pay for. These range from creating a simple website, designing a logo, writing blog posts, doing internet research, or creating simple animations. This is just a small sample. A few students have already figured this out. Some of them make and sell simple robots. One of the most popular ones seems to be creating learning material or doing online courses.

Trying to start a business or trying to make money, also teaches students how to interact with people, solve other peoples problems and create value.

In the next part, we will discuss the difference between, creativity, innovation, creating a culture of building.

About the Author

Dorai Thodla helps companies with technology strategies specifically leveraging emerging technologies for building new products.

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