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.

SELF-Platform—A Teacher-Centric Collaborative Authoring System

May 25, 2009

HBCSE – Gnowledge Lab has developed the SELF Platform as part of the European Commission funded SELF Project # 034595 (2006-2008). A paper on SELF Platform as a teacher centric collaborative authoring system has been published at the NCOSS conference organized by CDAC, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, May 2009.

The SELF Platform caters to a teacher to create learning materials.

The full paper is available from the publications page of my blog.

visit to somaiya college for depmap workshop

February 25, 2009

Today I planned a visit to K.J.Somaiya college of science, vidyavihar with regard to plan for organizing depmap workshop for teachers. I met the faculty from physics, chemistry, biology, botany, microbiology, education departments of junior as well as senior college.

I explained about the objectives of the depmap workshop and since it is to build a teaching sequence, it would be useful if teachers themselves create their dependency maps using the web based portal in the hands-on workshop to be conducted in gnowledge lab, hbcse.  Teacher have got a fair understanding as I also showed them some featured maps picked out from the portal.

Overall, all the teachers whom i met are interested to participate in the depmap workshop. Teachers from each department will be participating in the workshop in april, may, june.

Initially the visit was planned for about an hour, but my visit got extended for more than 2 hours. Actually I have studied for H.S.C., B.Sc. & M.Sc. from Somaiya college. When i was meeting the teachers, i too got nostalgic and to my surprise, most of the teachers could remember me as their student. So my visit got extended as I met my teachers in the corridor, labs, and was talking about my work and research. A few teachers also were keen to know about my Ph.D. work in the area of biology education. My teachers were glad to know about my progress, i being an alumni of somaiya.

I was thrilled to go back to my college, to my teachers and convey my contribution to science education.

depmap on activity—who got the food

February 2, 2009

i was mapping the topic who got the food from chapter 4- looking at
animals from the small science curriculum for class III. and this is
the route that i followed to map.

depmap on food eating habits

depmap on food eating habits

an interesting depmap to build a thread as :
inorder to understand the concept of animals, one need to first
observe some animals, their food eating habits. the latter can be
understood in the context of an activity. once these activities are
performed one can categorize and classify which animals eat what kind
of food and then may be understand the concept of a dog, cat, and then progressively the concept of an animal.

Small Science Curriculum is an activity based curriculum developed by
HBCSE. It focusses on teaching science through activities.

promising strands for future episteme conferences

January 9, 2009

Today, on the last day of the episteme-3 conference, we had a round table discussion on two issues: promising strands for episteme conferences; to build a community  of STME research in India. I was involved in the first round table. We reviewed the last episteme -1, episteme-2, and the current epistme-3 for the strands (or themes) of the conferences, and the outcomes. The main strands that episteme conferences will always be based on are: History and philsophy of science: its implications for science education; Cognitive basis of learning, pedagogy and curricular issues. From the discussion, atleast four strands have emerged which the participants are interested in the future epistemes. These have been: classroom based practices; affective factors in learning, science technology studies issues, integrating STME, assessment (to bring into focus), universalization of education.

The other topic also got a good involvement from the participants to building a community for science, technology, and mathematics education in India. Some of the suggestions are: to build research standards, develop knowledge portals, create summer programs, evaluate projects with collaborators, engaging with scientific institutes, universities, etc. etc.

These two topics of the round table discussion would enable us to concretize the strands of our future episteme conferences of HBCSE.

Khoj 2008 – Gurgaon

October 6, 2008

Like last year, I was invited to be a judge for the International School Competition on Science Projects in DAV Public School at Gurgaon. The projects dealt on issues of Global warming, Future Energy Sources, IT, Clean and Green City, etc. Overall the students were very enthusiastic about their models but when it came to conceptual understanding the students were found to be not so competent.

Later on the second day, I was one of the panel members for the discussion on the topic of Science Education – A Challenge. This was held for the teachers. The other members of the panel were from IITD, NCL, BARC. The panel discussed on how the teachers can help the students to generate an interest towards science, about classroom learning, conceptual understanding, relating their learning with their daily experiences, etc.