The Bloon Toys Podcast #2: Priyanka Rai & Sai Gaddam

In this super interesting, second episode of The Bloon Toys Podcast, Isha (founder of Bloon Toys) speaks with Priyanka Rai & Sai Gaddam, the founders of Comini Learning, a Finnish Education micro-school based in Mumbai. Listen to the full conversation below and don't forget to click on the hyperlinks in the transcript provided to watch videos of the best snippets from this episode!


 00:00:00:00 - 00:00:33:01

Isha: Welcome to the second Bloon Toys podcast. It's so good to have you guys here. Thank you Sai and Priyanka for coming. It's wonderful. I'm glad we finally managed to make the time to pull this off. So just to introduce you guys, Sai is a computational neuroscientist from IIT Chennai and then Boston University. He is the author of a couple of books and now the founder of two Educational Startups.


00:00:33:02 - 00:01:04:20

Isha: Priyanka had like a 15 year stint in marketing and strategy before realising that education and learning was where she’d rather be, and Sai and Priyanka are the founders of Comini learning, so yeah, it's great to have you here. I'm dying to know all about lots of things, so, hello! 


00:01:04:24 - 00:01:29:17

Priyanka: Hi Isha and firstly thank you for being who you are. I must say that right at the outset. You’re one of our first initial, ‘yay! you’re doing an awesome thing honestly, like I was telling you, it's been great, sort of interacting with you through this year, and it's good to finally be able to catch up and sort of, do this together. 

Isha: Yeah. I'm really hoping that these kinds of conversations [about] our little world [help, and that] we can share it with a bunch of people, you know? So let’s see.


00:01:29:19 - 00:01:54:16

Priyanka: Exactly. Awesome!

Isha: So just to start, I mean, all of us have had, like, good, very good, but very mainstream, very run of the mill, educational journeys. You know what? What made you guys scratch your heads and say that, is that really good enough, what are we doing for our kids, you know and made you want to solve this?


00:01:54:18 - 00:02:20:11

Priyanka: For me, honestly, it all started only when we had our daughter Mira, who is now seven. It was not something that I deliberated at all, and once we had her, and we started to sort of consciously deliberate what we would do in terms of education for her, is when I started seeking the answers out there.


00:02:20:13 - 00:02:51:11

Priyanka: And then the pandemic happened and we moved to Bombay from Bangalore, where we were living, and we started looking for options, and we realised none of what was available sort of resonated with us. Mira was about four, four and a half at that point, and she went to a lovely progressive kindergarten called Papagoya in Bangalore and we were looking for something similar, at that point, but didn't find anything and here we were in Tony, Bandra, Bombay, and realised that there was nothing that sort of fit our requirements in terms of what kind of school that we were looking for.


00:02:51:13 - 00:03:15:10

Priyanka: Oddly the pandemic was actually great timing for me. I've always been sort of interested in the space of kids and doing something with kids, so I used that opportunity to do a course, a Finnish early educators course and that sort of like opened the rabbit hole of alternative education and honestly that was genuinely the point, that the floodgates sort of opened for me.


00:03:15:12 - 00:03:43:06

Priyanka: And then I realised that there's a whole world out there of both online resources and offline and offline community of people who are sort of doing amazing things in education, and that sort of realisation is what Comini has come to be that sort of a place that enables this these kinds of things to happen. So that was honestly the time when I sort of realised I wanted [to do something in education]


00:03:43:08 - 00:04:06:10

Isha: Yeah. 

Sai: So for me it's, I've always had sort of a theoretical interest in learning and the mind, which is why I went into neuroscience in the first place, but really, to then tie that to education, that really happened when we had kids, right, especially with the Mira and then looking at it seriously and saying, okay, so what is education like, right, and what is it supposed to be?


00:04:06:12 - 00:04:27:01

Sai: And then, and then realising that, you know, we're going along with this system, we are products of that system, and I think its flaws have only been more magnified ever since with the sheer focus on assessment and all that. So then, taking a really hard look at that, and then saying, oh, you know what, we have this theoretical understanding, but it's not really been translated into practice.


00:04:27:03 - 00:05:00:09

Isha: Yeah.  

Sai: And so someone should do that and who could that be if not, you know, invested parents, and that's how we got started. That's my individual trajectory. 

Isha: Yeah and why, why Finnish Education?  

Sai: So the Finnish pedagogy is really just sensible and scientific but, that's really very catchy, right? I think, a lot of times what parents are doing when they're looking for alternatives or different education systems, [is that] they are looking for a keyword.


00:05:00:09 - 00:05:23:03

Sai: This captures a lot, especially because of what we know about the Finnish, at least parents who have read up a little, know about the Finnish system. To just summarise what the Finnish system is, essentially its child centred, it says that, you know, you can trust the child’s learning abilities. It is play based. It says a play is really important. It is, in fact, how we learn.


00:05:23:05 - 00:06:04:07

Sai: And then the idea that it doesn't have to be a very rigid approach, where you think of education as this transfer of information, but really this very holistic process where the child is learning with their mind, body and being, and that really maps so well to what we know from neuroscience. So I’d say, its very sensible and science based and for us, which we’re discovering and I think also learning how important this is, is it really emphasises play and playful experiences as being a key, not just only education, even though it's mainly focused on early education, for us our learning is that, you know, it can be taken to education beyond the early education system.


00:06:04:11 - 00:06:33:17

Isha: Yeah, absolutely and just I mean, just a quick segue. I hadn't thought of this earlier, but like what is, I mean, for you particularly what is the neuroscience of play? What is happening when a child is playing?  

Sai: Yeah, that's an entire Postgraduate thesis that we’d need to do on the psychology….


00:06:33:18 - 00:06:57:24

Sai: So but, play is so fascinating, right? So play is really how we are learning about the world and not just us, so many mammals play. So many, like we’re just discovering every year that play, which we used to think was unique to humans, is not very unique to humans or primates or even even the so-called higher mammals. You see it across species, and really what's happening with play is, you know, coming back to humans, we're really learning to model the world, right?


00:06:58:01 - 00:07:26:20

Sai: How does the world work? How do things in the world work? How do people work? Right? So when you're playfully making up these systems, when we are essentially coming up with counterfactuals as to, okay, I'm going to imagine that this is the scenario, this is the setting, this is not a cardboard, this is my laptop. Right? So what's happening is kids are really saying, okay, I'm learning to model the world and then understanding what can be done with it, what can be done with these objects. How can I enact different roles?


00:07:26:22 - 00:07:57:00

Sai: And with humans of course, the big difference is that, and children, is that we are profoundly amazingly good at imitative learning, right? So we learn with a lot of pretend play, which is very hard for other nonhuman animals. But we can, right? We can learn simply by imitation. So then we have this, this whole aspect of pretend play where we can take on different roles where things in front of us are not just those things, but like different fantastical objects.


00:07:57:02 - 00:08:19:24

Sai: So what's really happening is the mind and you're doing this is really modelling the world, learning about the world, and sort of saying that, okay, this is a system and if I press these buttons in the system, these are the sort of things that can happen, and that's being built up. 

Isha: Right, [it's like] forming your whole mental map of where things work, how things are. All of that.


00:08:20:01 - 00:08:49:18

Isha: Okay, so back to Comini. So, what is Comini? What does it mean? 

Priyanka: Good question. So we have that in common with Bloon in that Comini is also a made up word. It’s what our daughter used to call coconut water when she was little, and to this day, everyone calls this coconut water, so initially the name was a little confusing for family because, Comini is coconut water for them, but it's sort of like a backronym that's come to mean like a mini community, and that’s what we’re hoping to build at Comini. But in essence, it’s a made up word.


00:08:49:18 - 00:09:09:15

Isha: Perfect, yea. So it started as, what you called a pod school and now it's a micro school and soon it's going to be a full fledged school. How does, when you first imagined it and when people peek into it, what does it look like? What goes on inside there?


00:09:09:19 - 00:09:51:10

Priyanka: A lot of chaos, so it is a bit of a culture shock for most people who come in because honestly because both we think of ourselves I was saying as two components. One is an early education or kindergarten if you will for kids from 2-6 [years] and a play based microschool going forward. So what that essentially translates to is huge blocks of free play time where kids are essentially playing and doing things in multiple corners, reading, listening to loud, sometimes, inappropriate music in another corner. You have kids climbing on the walls, climbing on the pikler and doing all sorts of stunts.


00:09:51:10 - 00:10:23:11

Priyanka: Honestly, about 70% of our days are that and then you see that the learning happens organically during those times of the day and so you don’t actually have to build in specific times for it and then the balance 30%, well 15 to 20% of it is dedicated towards eating. It is the most favourite activity for kids to do at Comini and all the parents will agree. You ask kids what they like to do at Comini [and they’ll tell] you that they like to just sit and eat and be together.


00:10:23:15 - 00:10:50:12

Priyanka: Then the balance is guided activities that we do with the kids. Just basically things that we do in a fun, playful manner that is mapped to like developmentally appropriate goals. Yeah, but otherwise it's just a lot of unbridled play.

Sai: I just want to add that we are a microschool and that our goal is to be micro. So I don't think we'll ever be a large school.

Priyanka: Yea exactly!  


00:10:50:14 - 00:11:12:20

Sai: I guess that's something we’ll discuss later on but I think being micro allows for a lot of things. Personalization being the real central aspect that's very important to us. 

Isha: How small is micro? 

Sai: I think maybe 15 to 25. We’ll know the answer as we build organically.


00:11:12:20 - 00:11:37:02

Sai: So I think we're seeing that already. So I think as the number of kids increase and the age bracket increases, these will organically sort of cleave into different mini batches, I would guess based on what we see now is maybe 25 is what makes sense for a single centre, for Comini right now. I can't imagine it being larger.


00:11:37:04 - 00:12:03:01

Isha: Yeah, yeah. Makes sense. So that's just to ensure that there's enough adults for so many kids. 

Priyanka: So basically it is a function of being able to maintain the adult to child ratio and the physical space. I mean, if you're talking about free play we do need [space] and in a place like Bombay this is very, very, very difficult. So I think that automatically also organically puts a cap on what we intend to build.


00:12:03:03 - 00:12:23:11

Priyanka: We are very clear, we don't intend to be a Comini group of institutions with a large playground etc, which is unfortunate, I mean, but the idea is to use public resources as best we can, so while we may never have the resources to say have a football field or a running track or something or a pool, the idea is and we have been able to do this in our own small way over the last one year, to find public and accessible resources for is to use, which has been great!


00:12:23:13 - 00:12:58:19

Priyanka: So we’re very bullish about this, [about] taking it all the way to grade 10 and then sort of being able to replicate this. 

Isha: Yeah, I have one one question before that I wanted to deep dive a little bit more into how it looks like at older grades, but also, you know, what I read somewhere with I don't know if this was something you told me or something that I read, but it was that the whole community is your school. right?


00:12:58:21 - 00:13:22:19

Isha: So the community is an extension of the school and that is such a core and important idea so how has that mapped out and how have you seen the kids taking to that way of learning? 

 Priyanka: Oh, it's been absolutely amazing! So we do actually rely on our community and our parent community to be as involved and sort of embrace this as their own. It's just been amazing to watch. So for the older kids specifically, we have a lot of parent teachers coming in for specific afternoons of the week. We have a high court lawyer who does Hindi with them. We have an actual musician who is a dad who comes in and does music with the kids. Before that we had Mira music teacher who would come in and do music with the older kids. 


00:13:48:24 - 00:14:21:14

Priyanka: So the idea is to lean into our community and not just parents, [but] their extended network also to find experts within the area to come in and do stuff. One of the dads comes in and does like a great movement session once a week and the kids absolutely love it. That is our equivalent of doing sports day [one day] of the week. It's been absolutely great. We go to parents' houses to pick mangoes one afternoon, they just help out and are around [because through Comini] they have become part of the educator community as much as I am anybody else in the community.


00:14:21:16 - 00:14:43:21

Sai: The other aspect, which I think we didn't realise at the start was is how we have parents who come in with such diverse experiences, the children as well and you know, and [because] we start with the idea that learning is not this passive transfer of information, it's this very active experiential thing and everyone has unique experiences. The same thing is experienced very differently and articulated very differently [by different people].


00:14:43:23 - 00:15:04:12

Sai: This is such a huge change from how we've seen education, right? [Because] there's [usually just] one approach that has been taught to us, but here you have all these diverse experiences and expertise, and it's possible to tap into all of this.


00:15:04:14 - 00:15:23:13

Sai: But that's only possible because we're saying that, look, you know, it is not just us or some curriculum dictating what should be done, right? That's just a guideline. What we really have is your expertise as parents. You have done things very differently. You can bring that in. You can expose these kids to that particular perspective.


00:15:23:15 - 00:15:47:09

Sai: The same content can be explored in different ways. It's quite possible that, take maths for instance, one approach is not very engaging for the child, but some other approach is and maybe some parent brings that. I'm seeing that [happen]. For us, that's a very, very interesting thing. I think one of the things we want to look at is, how do we really tap into this wealth of expertise that we have among all of these family members.


00:15:47:12 - 00:16:12:23

Isha: Yeah, and so tell me now, taking that idea to the higher grade, you know, how does that [work]? How do you see that panning out? 

 Sai: So play based approaches for some reason stop with early education and then I think the idea is, oh, you know, now the real world starts and that we have to then transition kids into these conventional pathways that we have. 

Isha: Yes, the mainstream!


00:16:13:00 - 00:16:35:12

Sai: But for us, what we see is that there’s no real reason why, Right? Yeah. So once we start this with this question, we’re watching ourselves, telescope into, you know, the philosophy of life almost. So you start with, what should kids learn and you end up there and what we're seeing is, yes, eventually we want kids to be able to take those exams, right?


00:16:35:14 - 00:16:56:02

Sai: We want them to be able to get accredited in an IGCSE or whatever that is, but what is the path to that? Does that mean that they have to follow certain textbooks? Does that mean they follow this linear step by step process that we have right now that says by the end of grade one, you have to do certain things a certain way and then grade two?


00:16:56:04 - 00:17:17:00

Sai: What we're finding is, okay, first neuroscience and science tells us, no, learning is very nonlinear, right? So we know what our goal is, we know that we want them to be able to take these exams 10 years later, but how we get there and how each kid gets there is entirely up to us. What we've seen in these few months, of course, we have young kids, is the very nonlinear version of learning, right?


00:17:17:01 - 00:17:34:09

Sai: So it looks like nothing's happening. They're not really picking up a certain concept, but there's no pressure. We’re saying, okay, you know, that's going to happen at some point and then we do see that it happens. So now that is the reality that kids will learn in their own way. That kids will pick up in their own way.


00:17:34:11 - 00:17:52:01

Sai: What they really need is to be motivated and to find that internal interest at some point, and they will pick it up. We need to have that belief both in ourselves and in the children, that, yes, we don't have to, you know, tell them that, yes, you have to follow these textbooks or you have to do this.


00:17:52:01 - 00:18:23:04

Sai: They will get those concepts and how they get that is for us to really say, okay, you know, expose them to different ways, tell them that, this is not the only way you learn a particular content, and we are seeing this, and we believe that we can really extend this all the way. So we really can get the children of 10th grade, [to learn, say] maths, calculus and whatever that is, by following this approach and saying that, look, everything can be done through playful experience, that we can playfully approach, we can experientially approach, even seemingly abstract topics like maths or science or whatever. 


00:18:23:04 - 00:18:53:15

Sai: Maths is ultimately a different language, a very compact language for describing the world and science is storytelling and kids don't need us to get interested in storytelling. They will get interested in it at some point, and our goal is to sort of step out of the way as much as possible and then guide them gently when we think that they need to know [what parts to learn].


00:18:53:17 - 00:19:17:19

Isha: Yeah, no, I love that, [it's] like keeping curiosity, as such a central part of the learning process, right? Their own curiosity and saying that, ‘oh, when you put that together with the stuff that needs to be learned, it is just a learning itself, you know?’ So that's excellent. What have you seen, when you say you’ve seen this learning happen when you didn’t even realise it was happening. Could you give an example?


00:19:17:19 - 00:19:39:16

Priyanka: I can jump in here, in a physical sense, just this summer, we wanted to take you to a pool because it was just so hot in the afternoon. So we found a pool nearby and some immediately…. 


00:19:39:16 - 00:19:59:05

Priyanka: So the idea was just to go there and hang out one afternoon a week. So instantly there were some of the kids who were comfortable with the water, they knew what to do. None of them had learned to swim properly [before] and there were a couple who were weary about getting into the water, but they obviously wanted to be in the pool because it was fun.


00:19:59:07 - 00:20:16:14

Priyanka: So in a couple of weeks, just by observing each other and figuring out what each other can do, the kids were like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot get my face under water because I cannot get my face wet’ were like swimming without a float, doing like, flappy things, whatever, not technically swimming, but in a couple of weeks and I mean what more do you want in terms of a learning-how-to-swim summer?


00:20:16:14 - 00:20:36:06

Priyanka: That is fantastic. Even with the Pikler, we see the smaller kids looking at the older kids climbing it. We’ve mounted it downstairs, so the older kids go up it and do all these flairs and movements upstairs and then the small kids observe it and then over a couple of weeks you’ll see these tiny ones trying to climb up. 


00:20:36:06 - 00:20:51:21

Priyanka: Just the other day I saw one small 2 year old climb right till the top and then she was tilting her head at the back and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and she said, ‘I'm like so-and-so’, one of the older kids. So just that observing and them just [being able to] make sense of that when they want to make sense of it.


00:20:51:21 - 00:21:10:17

Priyanka: When you talk about even serious things like literacy, like rhyming literacy words is a thing, right? To be phonetically aware of rhyming words is one of the foundational pre-literacy skills. So we did a bunch of silly games during the last couple of weeks and then just before we closed, again these small kids were walking around and saying to each other, ‘yellow yellow dirty fellow’ and ‘brown brown don’t frown’.


00:21:10:17 - 00:21:40:21

Priyanka: Just to see that organically happen, that's learning - them sort of realising that there’s words that rhyme - and these are three year olds figuring that out! It is just amazing to see that happen through the day and for me, that's the real learning that you might not even be realising that you're learning things and you're internalising it and then using that to sort of go about your world.


00:21:40:23 - 00:22:00:11

Priyanka: That has been amazing to watch. Even with the older kids, some of them are just averse to trying out certain things and then just watching their friends sort of excel at it. The latest one is writing. So we've never really forced or said that, the six year olds need to be able to learn to write. Some of them have just picked it up on their own.


00:22:00:13 - 00:22:18:12

Priyanka: So now because they see somebody writing, all of them are on this trip of ‘okay let me practise my writing’. So I mean that for me has been [all the] validation [I need] because unlike Sai, I didn't really come from a background or came from the mindset about how the learning happens.


00:22:18:12 - 00:22:41:14

Priyanka: I just assume that it's something that will happen when it has to happen. 


Isha: Yeah. That's amazing. That's absolutely so fulfilling. I’m sure a lot of parents would have been along this journey with you, so, you know, from being sceptical to being, you know, believers. What have been their biggest questions and the doubts and then how do they overcome it?


00:22:41:16 - 00:23:07:13

Priyanka: Surprisingly, we've been really fortunate. I mean, our parent community has just been awesome. I mean, wholeheartedly. I mean, they've been one of our biggest supporters and have been more than forgiving and tolerating [of] us and our adventures very patiently, but I think we've been able to, like I said, attract a really great set of parents who sort of believe in this as much as we do.


00:23:07:15 - 00:23:34:03

Priyanka: I mean, obviously it's not as easy for everyone as it is for some people. We've had our share of parents of three and a half year olds who wanted a more structured reading and writing, which is what we don’t do. It’s not about being right or wrong. There's no one size fits all for education, which is exactly why Comini exists, so we sort of make it abundantly clear to parents like, for example, this reading and writing is a good example [of what we don’t do]


00:23:34:03 - 00:24:05:21

Priyanka: I mean, it’s okay, some parents just want a more structured education for their children. Maybe some children take to that also better, but it's not what we do here. So by and large, we've just been lucky to have a set of parents who really sort of [believe in what we do]. 


Sai: Yeah, I do think that given we started with a younger bunch, a lot of it has been parents who’ve just seen the alternatives out there and how straitjacketed they are and are saying ‘this is you know one place that really lets children be children’ and that's a big part of it.


00:24:05:23 - 00:24:31:00

Sai: But I imagine that even with these parents, they do want to see how or what learning really looks like because, the easy way out, which is unfortunately what is happening in different schools, [especially] in conventional schooling is [that] learning is reduced to a label or a grade. The advantage of that is that at the end of the semester or year you can tell where a kid stands. It seems like a good thing because you have some assessment or some accountability.


00:24:31:00 - 00:24:56:08

Sai: What we are seeing is that's very counterproductive. These labels are bad and plus the idea that, you know, you have these linear times where every three months or six months, you’re expecting certain learning to happen and then you have this very rigid way of assessing that learning, that's bad.


00:24:56:10 - 00:25:20:03

Sai: But we need to be able to then articulate what this other approach is and that's what we are really in the process of discovering as well, so how do you explain and articulate to parents that, ‘look, it may seem like the kid is not learning at this point. There's no visible improvement’, because parents are looking for a take home in some way, ‘what has the kid done at the end of the day or what has the kid learnt?’


00:25:20:05 - 00:25:40:08

Sai: You know, so there is a science. Science tells us, let’s take an example, the most common phrase that we hear is ‘one to talk and two to walk’. I don't know if I’m getting it right. I think it’s ‘one to walk and two to talk’ but even those are not rigid markers.


00:25:40:08 - 00:26:02:20

Sai: You know what? What's really happening is that there's constant lifelong learning up until that stage. So there's what's called motor babbling, which the kid is just flailing around right? What's happening at that time is they're actually learning to walk and they’re also, by letting out different sounds, learning to talk, but this is only being manifested after a certain amount of time, not necessarily at exactly that biological marker, right?


00:26:02:22 - 00:26:26:20

Sai: It’s not that on their second birthday, they suddenly spring up on their feet or that they’re talking in verse. That's not happening. Essentially learning is just that, throughout life. So when kids are trying to pick up a certain concept, take maths for instance, and this is something we talk about because I find this profoundly amazing. 


00:26:26:20 - 00:26:46:05

Sai: Maths, the way we learn it, is so abstract. It took us 6000 years of constant iteration to arrive at this very efficient system that we have now, where we use double digit numbers, right? There's this idea of place value, and we expect kids as young as six or seven to learn that, and the way we teach them this is essentially just a lot of manipulation, which is mindless in some ways.


00:26:46:07 - 00:27:07:19

Sai: How can kids learn that and the way we do this at Comini is saying, look, let's explore how we can actually count, right? How do you count? How did people count in the past? How did the Sumeriens count, to give you one example and then sort of really letting them see that there's efficiency and there's use for efficiency. 


00:27:07:19 - 00:27:28:17

Sai: Oh, wow and then suddenly somewhere it clicks. It doesn't click the same day or the same month for everyone. At some point it suddenly clicks for them, ‘Oh, I can just use these ten symbols to count till infinite’, or till really large numbers for them and that's amazing. So has learning not happened up until that point? No, it has and I do think this is it.


00:27:28:17 - 00:27:52:17

Sai: We see that from a theoretical perspective and over the last 16 months, we've really seen this happening, or unfold in spurts or visible flashes of insight, and so we understand that there's always something happening at the back at all times. For us, I think the constant endeavour will be to try and articulate this well to parents and help them see that this is happening.


00:27:52:17 - 00:28:13:06

Sai: Like this is what's happening right now and don't worry, at some point that bulb is going to light up. 

Isha: Yeah, absolutely and I think as we have more and more stories of this, that will be the articulation that we need for parents, you know, it's just that, I mean, because I think everybody is looking for an alternative at some level.


00:28:13:08 - 00:28:40:11

Isha: You've been speaking a lot, I’ve been reading your logs on AI, and [I was wondering] how you think that AI could impact education. Where do you see that going? 

Sai: I'm amazed by what's possible now. I can only imagine what's going to be possible in three years. I think it's as big as fire and electricity in our human trajectory.


00:28:40:11 - 00:29:10:24

Sai: I mean, that's putting in a, you know…

Priyanka: Very dramatic way

 Sai: Yeah, very dramatic, but you can see that that’s how transformative it’s going to be. So the narrow version of this, where I think a lot of parents are understandably anxious about it is, okay one is, does that mean it devalues everything about creativity and innovation. I don’t think of it that way, but does that mean we’ll end up in a world where teachers are going to by AI avatars and each one is going to talk to one? 


00:29:11:01 - 00:29:31:17

Sai: I think that's a narrow version of it. I think what is going to happen is I think it's going to be very much like electricity in that it’s going to be used all over the world, everywhere including it being able to power a lot of things, right? We actually use that. So to give you an example of how it would be used and how it will be used.


00:29:31:19 - 00:30:02:14

Sai: So when we talk about personalised learning, what it really means is that we have to understand where each kid stands and we have to be able to take certain pedagogical content and map it to their interests and let's say competence level at that point. It's easy to do in a small group, but even with a small group, if you're talking about personalising and then spending time, say one hour with each kid, that can very quickly add up. I mean if there’s 15 kids, you can’t really do 15 hours a day.


00:30:02:16 - 00:30:26:09

Sai: But what's possible is to use these assistants in the background, where they help them understand what the learning trajectory of the child is. So we're already building tools to help us with that. So for instance, you plug in the name of a child and all the observations that you have taken about that child [come up] and then [you can ask the AI] what are some ideas as to what can be explored with this child?


00:30:26:11 - 00:30:58:19

Sai: So these are things that we're already trying out, and that doesn't mean that we are exposing the kid to AI directly, right? The AI is essentially helping the teacher get an Iron Man kind of exoskeleton, which gives them superpowers. I mean for us, this is, I think, a very, very non-scary and very friendly way of how AI can be used. The fundamental learning that happens is still very offline, is still very personal and very human from person to person, but its aided by what AI can do.


00:30:58:19 - 00:31:33:11

Isha: Yeah, and I think it reminds me of something that you said earlier, which is that when you have so many parents who are taking an active part in the child's learning, you know, you suddenly multiply the possibility of a particular approach, sparking something in some child, you know, where you're saying that somebody has a different way of teaching mathematics and that's that marries very closely with how another child wants to learn mathematics.


00:31:33:13 - 00:32:02:01

Isha: And, you know, we're lucky enough to have a community of parents like that, but AI can help even without that community of parents, you know, which then takes you to like first generation learners, possibly, you know, education. I mean, it's mind blowing. 


Sai: Absolutely, so you raised a very important point. So a lot of what we’re doing we started off doing because we wanted something better for our kids, but that doesn’t have to be exclusive. 


00:32:02:01 - 00:32:22:09

Sai: A lot of education right now is treated as this zero sum thing where you know, you have to go to the best schools, the best colleges, and you consume this product which no one else has any access to, which makes no sense at all, actually, so learning should be democratised, learning should be accessible to all and I think this really can profoundly accelerate that. 


00:32:22:09 - 00:32:53:20

Sai: So yes, you're absolutely right. 

Isha: Yeah. Yeah. Such such big potential. Alright, so that was really, really interesting. Thank you guys so much for being here and I'm really hoping that this is just the beginning of all our journeys in play and in making a dent in this space of, I'm not going to call it education, I'm going to call it learning.


00:32:53:22 - 00:33:25:11

Isha: And yeah, I hope that, you know, we can maybe do this again, like in ten years or something and look back at this. 


Priyanka: Absolutely, Isha it has been fantastic like I said. I mean, I really see Bloon as somebody who embodies Comini and we use the Pikler endlessly, that is how we know you. The fact that you made it in a way that really embodies Comini is that everything is so multipurpose like right now, your Pikler is our climbing structure on the terrace through the better months, now it's hanging on the wall and it's fully used, it's fantastic. 


00:33:25:11 - 00:33:48:13

Priyanka: I mean, and like you said, I really, really hope that this is just the beginning and that we can together do some exciting stuff in this space and truly like immense respect for what you've built.


00:33:48:15 - 00:34:11:16

Priyanka: It's not easy, as someone who has struggled for 14 months to get a bank account, that's just one of the problems I have a sneak peek into what it's probably been like, but thank you so much for having us on. It's great, like you said, to be able to share what we are doing and hope to constantly be able to do this.


00:34:11:19 - 00:34:48:01

Priyanka: And yeah, it's not education, it's not serious, and it's fun and it can be joyful and playful and meaningful and yay! Onwards and upwards!

Sai: Yea! Thank you so much! I love the idea of reconnecting in ten years. I hope that we’ll have tons of stories about playful experiences and many people to talk about those, kids who have become adults; mini adults, not full fledged adults. 

Isha: Absolutely yes, maybe we'll do the podcast with all of them. 

Priyanka: oh! They would love to!


00:34:48:03 - 00:34:57:15

Isha: Done! Alright! See you guys!

1 comment

  • Sai Gaddam

    Thank you for sharing this! We had a lovely time talking about play, its many incarnations, and its role in helping us discover the world and ourselves. We “wrote” a summary of this transcript here

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