Thursday, 19 July 2018

Data Mining-Its implications for Schools

It is surprising how Technology is making us mere hoarders and collectors of Data rather than analysts of Data! How, then, are we different from those who cram information for the very purpose of spewing it out in an exam or interview only to forget it in a week's time? Our obsession with the term Data as in Data Points or Data Mining has robbed us of the ability to go beyond what the Data means!
Research Studies show that Data Analysts spend 80 per cent of their energy, resources and time Mining Data, a euphemism for hoarding Data and a mere 20 per cent is spent on creating Models on the basis of an analysis of Data. The biggest challenge today is not just how we process data but rather what we do with the analysis of Data. Instead of really working on projections and models based on analysed data, we simply get bogged down by terms like Deep Learning or Machine learning instead of trying to really get to terms with the Data we have collected! Data that is raw and unprocessed is simply random and lacks patterns and trends!
Projecting Data crudely on graphs, pie-charts and bar-diagrams does not constitute analysis, rather it is simply a pictorial form of presenting Data. Unfortunately, many of us are satisfied with this! What matters most is what we do with Data Statistics. The analysis of Data can only come after the Data has been presented and then what follows is the creation of a Model that will attempt to iron out or remove the weaknesses existing in the previous Model. 
At the school level, simply collecting Data on poor performers without analysis and Projected trends will not help. The Data needs to be analysed and the analysis should lead to the creation of a model that addresses a specific learning disability. In cases where the Data is simply overwhelming for human minds, there is a need for Artificial Intelligence that can not only analyse Data but also to create models and make projections based on existing patterns of learning. Machine Learning as such refers to exactly this! Take for example Data Mining in Marketing, a Cell Phone company would collect large amounts of Data based on Consumer expectations for smartphones through online surveys on social networking sites so that it could analyse the Data and then make future predictions about what features would be more attractive to consumers. These features could be added in the forthcoming cell phone models to be launched thus making them attractive to customers.
Mobile phone manufacturers make use of Deep Learning strategies in order to predict words that are being typed before the user has typed them, often creating embarrassing mistakes. Alexa, a virtual assistant competing with Siri can listen to your voice commands and then get the job done, whether it is switching on the air conditioning or perhaps even giving you the scores of the cricket match that was played the previous day. All this is possible because the software is able to make predictions based on large amounts of Data that have been analysed and modelled regarding appropriate responses.
Whether we humans might be capable of going beyond Data Mining, without the help of Machine Learning or even Deep Learning is doubtful because of an overwhelming amount of Data. At the school level, it should suffice being able to collect Data Points that are limited to specific problems faced by students and not go too deep into an area that can be handled only through AI. It would great if one ask a virtual personal assistant to create a tailor-made learning module for Tom who has problems with clauses in English, or perhaps Martha who has issues with word problems in Mathematics. However, it is doubtful whether Data Points provided by the sample of students weak in clauses or word problems might really be enough for Deep Learning to provide our virtual assistants with enough insight to create a remedial lesson module.
Whether or not individual schools would have the wherewithal or the resources to provide for Machine Learning or Deep Learning or even enough Data Points based on their limited samples is doubtful. To make effective predictions, models and corrective instructional modules would require Data from all the schools in the country if not the whole world! The larger the Data, the more accurate the projections and models. It would, however, be very wrong to compare students learning in schools to consumers of Smartphones, or consumers of Laptops because students are ever changing, ever evolving and they have more fluid intelligence than adults with crystallised intelligence!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Chameleon modelling for the Camera

OK, so when my nephew called out to me that there was a Chameleon outside and that I should get my camera, I least expected that the backdrop would be my cousin's beautifully printed tablecloth! There he was, the chameleon, posing on the settee with the colours of the flower perfectly matching the reptile's colour scheme. The greatest thing of all was that the Chameleon seemed to be at ease, an experienced model that knew his paces!

Perfect contortions and the fellow's ability to stare me in the lens simply amazed me. I later realised on poring through the photographs on the camera that this was a fellow I recognized from an early photo-shoot, that is when I helped him get out of the trash bucket in front of the verandah. He had a missing toe on his left forefoot!

The picture above is a snap of this fellow taken a month back after I had watered the money-plant vine and he was forced to break cover! Among the many snaps that I took of Mr Chameleon, the best were taken from eye-level, with me being almost at his level!

The second best were snaps of the chameleon while reposing on my Cousin Brother's Sofa. The chameleon blended so nicely with the floral colours and patterns, it was as if the flowers and the chameleon had been made for each other!

Photography enthusiasts should remember that some of the best shots can be taken from home. One never knows how lucky one might be in being able to photograph an exotic Chameleon. So then this blog-post is a tribute to Mr Chameleon, a role model for all those critters that want to be photographed in all their splendour!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Lessons for Life - A Poem

The corridors echo not with footsteps but
With whispers, faint-ephemeral, tenuous,
People long gone, not dead but gone out 
Of time, detractors, mockers and schemers.

One that played a game of intrigue and
Laughed behind backs, in turn tasting his
Own defeat, a farewell ending in ignominy
Told to get out of what was once his office!

Another had a throne and kingdom, but
Was greedy for favours & commissions 
 Toppled after the  inquisition forced him
To flee  lest  shame be heaped on him

A doctor he was, not a healer of wounded
Souls, but a scourge, to strike terror into
Kindred men, reduced into a sprite, pride
Long gone, holding on to life with medicines.

She was full of art, to make fun of others was
Her strength clever schemer, mistress of
Malice . Toxic doses she fed, to remove all
Opposition was her forte e'en as she smiled.

But, alas, all that remains are empty echoes,faint
 In the corridor, of those that once were, but exist
No longer, alive, but gone out of time, dim shadows,
Faded tendrils of memory, ephemeral and tenuous!

It saddens to wake, remember those that longer exist.
Surely they made life so more exciting even as they
Plotted and schemed to achieve their goals. I once
Knew them, wonder how they might be if they were.

All that remains of them are echoes in the corridors
Of time, whispers that echo, faint, ephemeral, toxicity
Dulled by time, long past, faded memories, of those
That plotted and planned, schemers and detractors!

Herein lies a tribute to all the detractors, toxic people,
Those that made one strong, teachers of the best kind,
Who In their enthusiasm built up character, grit,and 
Patience,  lessons for life that built character for all!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Sarus Cranes at The Basai Wetland

This Saturday, the 7th of July was an eye-opener for me when I visited the Basai Wetland in the wee hours of the morning. The first thing that I noticed was Sarus Cranes strolling through piles of plastic garbage dumped in the area. The second thing was to observe with horror, a couple, wildlife photographers taking photographs while one of them was throwing stones at birds apparently to make the birds take wing so that one of them could take a flying shot. My take on this habit is that people who throw stones at nesting birds are highly irresponsible in nature, more so because the stone might hit a nest and break the eggs lying in the nest. Wildlife enthusiasts need to be responsible citizens who have the moral responsibility of preserving and protecting nature in all its forms. 

I was most lucky to take photographs of a pheasant tailed Jacana in its breeding plumage. While I was photographing a pair of Sarus Cranes, a bird landed just beyond me flashing a golden neck even as it moved around in the grass. My sensed were alerted and I switched attention towards this singularly distinct bird.

What drew my attention, however, was the ritual of grooming that the Sarus cranes went into. An entire fifteen minutes were devoted to a dry-cleaning ritual which was perhaps meant to extract fleas from their rich plumage. They did it all together!

The behaviour of these human beings drew my ire, no doubt, for I believe that every responsible human being has the duty of protecting nature and throwing stones at birds for the sake of a photograph is not done!

The Swatch Bharat Mission seems to have been ignored by this little boy who peed into the water with the least of worries! Also to be seen were people who made noise apparently to drive away the birds from their morning breakfast.

But then, good sense prevailed, and I got to see a couple of bee-eaters going through their morning rigmarole of cleaning themselves!

I was also able to spot a bird that seemed to me most similar to the Chat Bird one finds all over the country.

It is clear that the Basai Wetland continues to be an important ecological treasure trove for Gurgaon that we need to preserve. While the authorities continue to dither on its status, I hope that common sense prevails and the Government of Haryana declares it to be an important ecological zone.