Summer School

December 13, 2014

I was participating at the Summer School on “Methodology of Task Design: How to Construct Exercises for Learning” at the Technische University, Dresden, Germany, Sept 2014. It was my first time participating at a summer school. It was really a good experience, as it was more of discussion on the research area. As the summer school is specifically on an area, it is useful to participate as most of the participants are from a common area of research, unlike a conference. I presented poster on “A Proposal to Extend Concept Mapping to Concept Lattices for Representing Biology“.

Although it was a summer school, it was quite cold in Dresden. As part of social event, we visited the Bastei, night tour of city of Dresden. After the summer school, I visited Berlin, Prague (Czech Republic).




Gandhiji’s Dandi March — A Citizen Science Movement

May 8, 2013

Gandhiji’s Dandi march to protest against salt taxes back in 1930 in the pre-independence India is what I consider probably the first citizen science movement of India. Here is my analysis:

Gandhiji at the age of 60, led the peoples or citizens movement to break the salt laws. The movement initially began with about 100 satyagrahis from Sabarmati, increasing upto 4000 in Asali, later into 30,000 in Surat, and elevating upto 50,000 in Dandi.

The Dandi march, a stretch of 390 km, flowing from 4 districts and 48 villages, with about 50,000 people, was completed in 24 days (March 12 — April 6, 1930).  (Source for data — Wikipedia article on Dandi March)

Apart from it being a great political movement to protest against paying taxes for salt which was considered as a necessity to each and every Indian, I consider the Dandi March  as a citizen science movement in which the participants or the satyagrahis were involved in a scientific process of making salt.

On reaching Dandi, Gandhiji picked up a handful of salt mud and boiled it in seawater, thereby producing salt. The thousands of followers likewise began making salt along the seashore by this simple scientific process.

For some history on the salt laws, taxes, protests, route of the march, one may visit links, read books.

Nat Geo Explorer Education Program

March 27, 2013

A member of National Geographic Explorer Education Program conducted a presentation at HBCSE a couple of days ago.  As we know the photo, video quality of Nat Geo has always been a visual treat to us. They are now exploring into the education arena with so called state-of-the-art technology.  After the seminar, during the discussion, I made quite a lot of observations and raised some concerns as well. I thought of discussing here also.

I thought, in order to create a direct impact of the life with its environment, the appropriate context needs to be defined. Although the content was encompassing the world’s geography, to me, it does not make sense if I am not aware of the geography, the life, the environment of my own surroundings, and neighbors. I recalled that in our education system, giving Western names were being criticized and it was emphasized to give names that convey about the Indian context. I thought NGX education program is repeating the same old method.

Again talking about the context, the photos of classroom learning, were shots of  Western people. And it was being contrasted with  the lack of facilities in education which were shots of poor, tribal people with ‘look of hope’ photographs.  I did not understand why do they still hold such prejudice.  (On a side note: I recalled the scene in Munnabhai MBBS, where a tourist wants to see India and he mentions that he wants to see the crying people, sad people. To which ‘circuit’ slams him by saying that all you tourist want to portray is a bad picture of India, don’t you ever see good things of India like, Taj Mahal, etc.).

My concern, was that since the program is packaged with a subscription which can also allow online content, seems to cater to elite schools in India. But the country has a huge number of govt. schools, where there are huge number of first generation learners, let alone English speaking learners, I doubt how the program could cater to such situations. The program seems to be compliant with the smartboard method of teaching. But it does not cater to a traditional chalk and talk classroom teaching which is still being practiced in many schools in the country.

Access to teacher’s handbook is mandatory, but this is possible only after subscribing with a fee. That leaves with no option for a teacher to explore the content. I also could not get a satisfactory answer when I asked whether the content was in public domain.

The presenter made a remark, that NGX education provides knowledge, and quoted KBC’s promo ‘Gyaan hi Sabkuch hai’. To me, this kinda knowledge presented is fact-based knowledge. From the presentation, there was no hint that learning can be activity based. The program is a visual treat of photos, videos, simulations, with text. However it lacks activities. When I raised this issue, the presenter mentioned that there are activities, but it needs to be done under the supervision of teachers.  Above all the presenter also asked whether the Indian textbook provides scope for activities. Immediately I clarified that the science textbooks in the country are activity based which is a direct influence of the policy document NCF 2005.

Anyways, I am still skeptical that such a program could provide support to science learning in the country’s govt. schools, given that a large number of learners are first generation learners, native language speakers, uses traditional chalk and talk method of teaching. Let me further state, that even with such situations, I think, we are certainly doing quite well.


March 7, 2013

I have been reflecting on the NCF 2005 — Teaching of Science Focus Group Position Paper. I am reading it for conducting a session for the DIET teacher educators in Bihar. I particularly would like to reflect on the ‘Janabai’ point. Below is the verbatim text from the document (p. 12), some critical questions that I raise, and some discussion around it.

What Biology do students know?
“These students don’t understand science … they come from a deprived background!” We frequently hear such  opinions expressed about children from rural or tribal backgrounds. Yet consider what these children know from everyday experience: Janabai lives in a small hamlet in the Sahyadri hills. She helps her parents in their seasonal work of rice and tuar farming. She sometimes accompanies her brother in taking the goats to graze in the bush. She has helped bring up her younger sister. Nowadays she walks 8 km every day to attend the nearest secondary school. Janabai maintains intimate links with her natural environment. She has used different plants as sources of food,  medicines, fuel wood, dyes and building materials; she has observed parts of different plants used for household purpose, in religious rituals and in celebrating festivals. She recognizes minute differences between trees, and notices seasonal changes based on shape, size, distribution of leaves and flowers, smells and textures. She can identify about a hundred different types of plants around her, many times more than her biology teacher can – the same teacher who believes Janabai is a poor student. Can we help Janabai translate her rich understanding into formal concepts of biology? Can we convince her that school biology is not about some abstract world coded in  long texts and difficult language: it is about the farm she works on, the animals she knows and takes care of, the woods that she walks through every day? Only then will Janabai truly learn science. (NCF 2005 — Teaching of  Science, p. 12).

When reading it critically, I framed the following questions:

  • From whose perspective is this narrative written? — As this is a policy document, we are aware that this is from a teacher’s or the school education’s perspective.
  • What is the nature of knowledge that Janabai has, Is it knowledge or information? –Janabai knows quite a lot of the flora and fauna around here, as she has dwelled in the natural context. But at this stage, I think, that this is mere information. At the point, when she makes association with seasonal changes, etc. then she is constructing knowledge.
  • Why is Janabai’s knowledge different from formal or school knowledge? — If Janabai can recognize the plant by size, shape, etc. (attribution, variable properties of object), I think, Janabai already has scientific knowledge.
  • What are the different classification systems followed by Janabai and teacher?
  • Why is the need for shifting Janabai towards school knowledge, and why not the other way? —
  • What are the different associated knowledge or information that Janabai has?
  • Does this association appear in school knowledge?
  • What is the age of Janabai? — The context is middle school. But if we consider that she is just entering to school, then she may be a teenager, much older than her peers in school
  • The text “She recognizes minute differences between trees, and notices seasonal changes based on shape, size, distribution of leaves and flowers, smells and textures” — This is scientific knowledge that Janabai has?
  • What is this formal concepts of biology?
  • Why is the need for Janabai to learn to understand this formal knowledge?
  • If the school knowledge talks about Janabai’s context “it is about the farm she works on, the animals she knows and takes care of, the woods that she walks through every day”, then why is the impression that Janabai is lacking formal knowledge?

representing change using concept maps

January 28, 2013

While concept maps have been quite extensively used to represent static descriptions, it has not been used  for its full potential for representing changes or processes. We propose a template and a limited set of linking phrases for representing change, with partial amendments in the concept mapping technique and the CmapTools. Usually, a process is represented in a object-centric manner specifying the object’s role init. In this proposal, we suggest a process-centric strategy with certain heuristics for  representing  processes. Considering the view that a process is a name to a change of state of an object involving time, sequence, causes, we make necessary proposals to the vocabulary and the form of representing a process.We end with a discussion on implications of this proposal to science education and concept mapping in general.

Full paper

a primer for constructing and analyzing conceptual structures

May 20, 2011

Refined concept mapping, a development over the regular concept mapping is an approach towards introducing rigor and parsimony in representing knowledge. The method proposed suggests substitution of the ambiguous relation names with well-defined relation names to concepts consistently while mapping a domain. We suggest the use of
this method for introducing rigor in concept mapping and position it among other models of knowledge representation in an inverse semantic spectrum. This paper was presented at the 18th ICCS 2010 conference.

Now in continuation, we have proposed to develop a primer (guide, tutorial) that can be used to apply RCM as a methodology for representing knowledge. This has been accepted at the CSLTA 2011 workshop to be held in conjunction with the 19th ICCS 2011 conference.

In this paper, a rationale and proposal for developing a primer for teaching-learning of conceptual structures is presented. The skills required and developed by an engagement of constructing and analyzing conceptual structures are richer and easier to be dealt with in school education. The teaching-learning context of CS is fundamental and important enough to introduce the topics from logic, philosophy, computer science and linguistics. A proposal is made for the formation of a special interest group for the primer. More about the paper.

The framework of the primer comprises of Units (lesson plans) with specific Learning Objectives. We suggest that the primer can serve as a guide to areas such as knowledge representation, conceptual structures, etc.

mtv roadies audition

February 11, 2011

the season 8 of the mtv roadies – shortcut to hell auditions are on air. its a must watch, especially raghu is very sharp in understanding the correct intentions of the candidates. he can at once know whether the candidate is genuinely interested to become a roadie, or in some cases coming for just time pass, or just to get a chance to abuse raghu, etc.

also interesting to note is the personalities of candidates. at this age of around 20 years, people still are not clear with their lives, they don’t even know what they are upto. more often they are one personality within and want to appear as someone very hard, daring and ready for anything, so on.   raghu even does a good job of counseling  them although harshly.

except for the abusive languages that go on, the auditions are a must watch. the tasks would be same as that of any other action based reality show.