Saturday, 20 October 2018

Damdama Lake - A Weekend Getaway

This time when we visited the Damdama Lake, it was on a whim, moreover to try an Intex Challenger boat. I was a little apprehensive about the boat, but then when we filled it with air, there was nothing to complain about. Initially, my brother Sanjay and I tried it and then, it was like everyone wanted a ride! Of course, I lead the team to a secret spot that I knew from many years back and sure there was some water. A few locals who arrived on the scene warned us that the water was too deep, but then I knew the spot and so I decided to inflate the boat and strike away. Many years back in the early nineties, there was more water, but then today, there was none! Nevertheless, I knew the spot and drove my car on the dust-covered track.

Initially, at least no one was ready to get into the boat, and a couple of locals who were leading a few buffaloes warned us that the water was too deep. I was, of course, aware of the depths of the water though I humoured them.

My wife Nidhi was not so sure about the safety of the boat, but then when my brother Sanjay and I did a couple of rounds, she agreed to get on board. The pump did fail for a moment, but then we did fix it up.

A tete a tete was due and with all due respect, we had to respect the serious nature of the conversation meant that  I had to give them leeway.

Sun-tan apart, I guess they were quite happy to smile for the shutter, for once I was not the one taking the snaps, what with having to pull an oar or two!

Careful, that is not a handle, far from it, that is an oarlock! Well, he surely had a great time pulling on the oars!

Well the deflating of the boat did take some celebration even as everyone made an effort to jump up high, but then I guess the successful launch of the "Challenger 3" did call for some jumping!

The Saras Complex that we went to next doesn't have much to boast about. In fact, there seems to be less footfall in recent times, probably because Damdama is not being maintained properly. What used to be a proper lake has now become a mere pond! The unfortunate fact is that the Gurgaon region has seen a steady loss of its precious wetlands. Excess construction has ensured that the rainwater channels that once fed the water bodies have been cut off. Images that I have shared on this blog will become mere memories.

The Damdama Lake and its surroundings once supported an extensive ecology with migratory birds arriving during the winter season, and resident Neel Gais taking a wallow in the waters. What we saw instead was a pack of Jackals by the edge of the water on the opposite side from where we had camped. I did try to take a few snaps, although they were a bit far away.

The lawns at the Saras complex, however, are great for camping and we had our lunch there. The cool shade of the trees was a welcome break from the paddling in the sun. I guess it would be a great idea to visit Damdama during the winter season.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Caterpillar and other Poems

The Caterpillar

Softly, slowly, bit by bit you move,
There were leaves, but only a stump remains!
You were there but now are not.


I can see through your wings,
A fine tracing of rigid lines, random patterns
Of art abstract - might you a fairy be?

The Kingfisher

A splash of colours in the sun,
Head turned skywards, is there something
I missed? A rainbow fish perhaps!

A Flock of Buffaloes

They march into the warm horizon,
Men and animals, to green pastures so sweet,
Perhaps they will bring news of YOU?

A Purple Heron

Spread out your wings and fly away,
Into rising sun, great bird, to places I know not.
Bring back hope & joy to when you nest.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Beauty is for all to seek - A Poem

They know not what beauty be, 
(Their eyes dulled by flashing lights, ears numbed by machine sounds.)
 To know how beauty might created be.

Neither hope nor faith they know,
'Cept  to buy the latest in clothes and shoes from shops & malls,
But to question everything so well they know!

Tho, not bad it would be, to question and query-
But to appreciate the beauty of faith, the sweetness of
Hope would much better be!

Alas! Know not they, what beauty be, for neither tree nor
  Gentle stream have they seen in a  vista of concrete buildings, grey
Asphalt tracks and smoke belching dragons.

They know not what beauty be,
For if they've not seen the sunrise, how might they the sunset?
Those who in a boxed virtual world be!

The butterfly in vain did flap its wings,
The dew-drops in vain did flash so bright, hanging from leaves
 At an audience so blind so dumb to nature's gifts.

Neither faith nor hope they know,
 People lost to gadgets and trends, who live in ersatz worlds where
The sun never sets - of rising suns would they ever know!

Alas! They know not what beauty be,
For in chaos would they comfort find, with empty eyes stare at
The world so fair, empty souls without hope that be.

If only we'd taught them to pause and wait,
 The golden sun to see, and  twittering birds to hear, perhaps then,
They'd see the Hand that made it all, their eyes to sate!

Beauty perhaps has a lesson to teach,
(But then we taught them to love the race and not to pause.)
Not all who start will win the race.

So take a pause and watch the sun so warm, or
Sniff the winds for the scents so sweet, open your ears for
A message so clear, if beauty is near, can God be far?

But beauty might in a dew-drop be found,
A caterpillar that feeds on a stem, a dragonfly might arrest,
Perhaps e'en in a drop that falls might it be found!

Alas, one does not see the art that the artist has made,
The Kingfisher painted so fair, the Stork that the Sun does greet,
All for our joy the Creator has made!

But the joys of life are there to seek,
They lie scattered around,  for us to see, but pause awhile and
The gifts do take, all for our sake He did them make!

Monday, 1 October 2018

A Plea for "Just-in-Time Learning"

‘Just in time learning’ caters to busy work environments and works best where there are constraints of time. The usual Professional Development programmes often require employees to pull out time for the same from out of their own busy schedules. An already overworked environment is not ideal for lengthy professional development sessions. Professional Development or P.D. as it is called is not different from the older terms of In-Service or Career-Development Training. The Department of Education New Delhi holds In-Service Programs for its Government and Government Aided School Teachers in the last week before the commencement of the summer vacations in India. Often teachers are given compensatory leaves for the days that they have spent in the In-Service Programme. I remember attending many such In-Service Programme as a Government Aided School teacher. The In-Service Programs set up by the SCERT/NCERT were termed YUVA SLP Programs. The focus of these In-Service Programs is better Life Skills, how to handle adolescents and adolescence related matters.
Just in Time Learning, however, provides more autonomy to the in-service teacher and it provides instant access to tailormade solutions to specific problems. It is like an On-Demand Resource that helps you out of sticky situations. At school, Just in Time Learning equips the educator with resources and tools to teach a unit. It is like a storehouse of information, instructions and tips and readymade plans that help the educator go about his or her tasks in a smooth and efficient manner. What makes Just in Time Learning more effective than traditional week-long in-service programs is that it is instantly accessible on most of our social networking sites and it provides the educator with instant access to resources that make life easier! Pinterest, one of the most convenient sites, provides ample Just in Time Learning Resources.
Schools and colleges today should focus more on empowering their teachers to access resources online rather than make them go through hours-long traditional Training Sessions. Training staff to embrace Just-In-Time Learning strategies will help them to keep abreast with the latest in the field. According to Bradenberg & Ellinger, 2003, p 311, “Just-in-time learning is an evolutionary response to the demands of a knowledge-driven and speed-oriented marketplace.” In times when there seems to be no time to spare for teachers, it makes sense to piggy-back a learning program that is minimally invasive and least disruptive in nature.
The advantages of Just in Time Learning far outweigh its disadvantages as such. For one thing, just in time learning offers instant solutions which hours long, week-long Professional Development sessions can’t. Often the solutions appear at the end of the session and by that time it is already too late! Take for example a teacher who is teaching transformation of sentences to students. The students find it difficult to differentiate between coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. How then, does the teacher learn how a child thinks and thus create a lesson that is tailormade specifically for a group of students who study in a specific section? Would it be right for the teacher to wait for a professional development workshop on how to teach challenging portions of grammar?
Dovetailing Just in Time Learning Strategies with actual working conditions in school like taking classes, correcting answer-scripts and general supervisory duties might, in fact, enhance teacher performance and thereby students’ results. One of the reasons for the success of Just in time learning thereof would be that teachers would be able to focus on their teaching, remediation, evaluation and other roles without getting distracted by long hours of In-service programs. What makes hours long Professional Development sessions boring is that they are more distracting and slow acting. Often, attendees tend to zone out, ending up more confused than enlightened. Just in time learning skills however, seem to be a better bet because they provide instant solutions. In times when the talk is about machine learning, deep learning and predictive learning, such that is driven by Artificial Intelligence, would it not make better sense to go for smaller professional Development sessions that are more focussed on actual classroom requirements than on abstract philosophies of learning? What teachers need today is resources and tailormade solutions for specific problems. We need, therefore to focus on grass-root level challenges that teachers face in classes and not identify solutions for problems that do not exist!
A proliferation of internet-enabled devices like laptops, Tablets and even Smartphones has made it easier for teachers to learn on the go. Learning today can happen anywhere, it can take place inside the bus, the canteen, or even the playground. Learning on the go helps professionals access bite-sized information which is most relevant to their needs. Educationists would benefit a lot by learning new things on the go without really having to devote extra time to learn new things. While we tend to find our own tailormade solutions for our students, what one does not perhaps appreciate is that the same solution or lesson plan will not work for other sections. The way a science section will tackle note taking will be different from how a commerce section will tackle the same topic. In the interest of differential learning and for that effect tailormade learning, one needs to provide the autonomy to teachers to identify and narrow down what works best for them. To this effect, it is important to train teachers in the use of Just in time learning strategies so that they can research, identify, collaborate, and share strategies that work best in their classroom. A training in research skills, using social networking sites, creative polls, surveys, dabbling with virtual reality, experimenting with augmented reality, gaining access to databases online, having film resources on lessons taught in class would do more justice than the traditional In-service training programs. However, Just-in-time learning capabilities can only be effective when internet-enabled devices with very good internet connectivity are available! Poor internet bandwidth cannot be an option for progressive schools. The traditional library is gradually getting replaced by online libraries. This is because the information found online on different websites can be accessed faster than by reading books and moreover, information accessed online can be filed into categories more easily. Just-in-Time Learning is about equipping educators with skills for accessing knowledge and information online so that they can use the same effectively in the classroom!

This article is based on an article appearing on the 15th of September, 2018 on SH!FT DISRUPTIVE ELEARNING. The link is given below: