Thursday, 17 August 2017

Is Digital Technology a Divisive Factor Today?

Digital Equity is an elusive Civil Right even today, thus it is a major issue that can be put to the debate. People believe that technology should provide everyone opportunities for growth. However, the reality is that although we might thrust Digital Technology onto the entire population of a country, the fact remains that a large number are still Digital Technology Illiterate! Some don't even have access to Technology. It is clear that Digital Equity is a major issue that divides the society into the haves and the have nots! Those who have access to Digital Technology might get the best jobs or even get admission to some of the best colleges without being really intelligent or even accomplished professionals, while those who really deserve to get that seat because of their abilities are left out just because they don't have that internet connection or even a smart phone!
It is an unfortunate reality that lack of Digital Equity and thereof the lack of opportunities for all have resulted in a society that is in a state of a divide. Take for example the tedious process of registering yourself for a seat in a college. Unless you are tech-savvy, it is going to be difficult for you to get yourself registered. A large number of students aspiring for a seat in a prestigious college in the capital cit might be left out for the specific reason that they don't have a good internet supply in the countryside, or perhaps their internet device is not capable of handling the pages on the college website. A few students might outsource the filling in of their college forms to the Guy running the Neighbourhood Cybercafe, in many cases for an exorbitant amount! Where then, is Digital Equity?  
A large number of people living in the country are the elderly, those who have somehow managed to handle cell phones that have a keypad, they might have tried a smartphone but are nervous about using the touchscreen. With the Government insisting on Digital Payments, the elderly are simply at a loss about going ahead with the same. The fact of the matter is that Technology has become for some, a monster that refuses to let go!
Most of the jobs today require some kind of basic skills in handling computers. Some people can't imagine that there are a lot of people in this world who are simply not computer literate. Would you expect a Janitor to be able to fill in an excel sheet or even share his schedule on a Google sheet? 
So then, can we in any way claim that Digital Equity exists in our world today? Can we claim that everyone on this planet has access to electricity, technology and an internet connection that is reliable? In a world that reels under shortages of power, water, basic resources, can we turn a blind eye towards those who don't have access to digital technology and expect them to compete with those who have access to the same? How much does being Tech Savvy make you a better person than one who is not? Has technology helped you improve your scores in a test? Has it made your handwriting better? Does being Tech Savvy give you the right to the coveted seat in a world that is unfair in the opportunities it gives to all its citizens?
It all boils down to the dichotomy between Intellect and Tech. Savviness. Being being Tech. Savvy does not necessarily make you an intellectual, in the same way, that being an intellectual simply does not make you Tech. Savvy!
What is badly wrong our understanding about Digital Technolgy is that we have a seriously flawed idea that access to Digital Technology and being Tech.Savvy give the right to be better than others! The fact is that Digital Equity is still a distant reality, and at the most a misnomer, all illusion that we are deluding ourselves with!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sixteen very short Horror Stories


They were driving up the mountain road when they heard the loud noise like an airplane's engines, the next they realized was that they had become part of the deluge and were being carried relentlessly towards the edge and the chasm a thousand feet b low them.


They had been driving for quite some time, the two girls at the back and him at the wheel; his head nodding, he had stopped for a while, when he woke up there was only one girl, the other they had taken away in the dark.

The Long Road

They were driving at a steady pace, admiring the landscape, below them flowed the Beas river, a deep-swift flowing river, the road began to descend, a left forked into the river and the right into the tunnel; suddenly we saw a beautiful temple across the river, attention diverted, he drove towards the left fork into the river, suddenly his father called out a warning, "I don't think you want to go there, we will end up grinning with shock!"

Short Circuit

He was riding his motorcycle on the overpass when suddenly the engine quit, he glanced with horror at the truck and car behind him, turning anxiously towards the left curb, he managed to coast to a stop even as the traffic brushed past, a hairs breadth between life and death, the battery had shorted, wires under the tank had caught fire!


The two friends had read many detective stories so they agreed to become agents, but when they entered the establishment that was suspected to be responsible for the disappearance of children, they found it difficult to get out, the establishment's security was very strong, the police would have to rescue them before they themselves were 'processed' or 'eliminated'.

The Fly

He turned towards his companion, "What the heck! Why do you have such bright red eyes? What's that nasty thing coming out of your mouth?" His friend turned his head towards him, "Don't you remember? The nuclear blast has turned us into flies!"

 The Crowd

The crowd chanted, it roared, and then engulfed the occupants drowning their screams and cries.


 At dusk, they stepped out of hiding places, swarmed down the streets looking for victims to feed on, but when reached the streets, there was no one around, there were no street lights no cars, nothing, the silence frightened them!


She was woken by a sound of scratching and the need to relieve herself, she did not have the courage to step out of the bed, suddenly she saw the bedroom door open the light from the living room caused the hand holding the sword to cast a shadow that loomed towards her, she choked a scream only to see the axe swinging towards her from side.


The rats had become rather troublesome lately, the scratching and squeaking sounds were coming from the closet that had been his, she had never opened it before but then she couldn't bear the sound so she turned the key for the first time in five years - she did hesitate for a moment, but then it was too late - inside the closet was her worst nightmare, a huge spider that had not fed for five years, it advanced towards her, its eyes hypnotised her and the fangs slid into her, her screams lasted a couple of minutes but there was none to hear her, she lived alone!

The Djinn

He was  on the way to the railway station on his bicycle, when an old man in white clothes asked him for a lift, pitying the old man he complied and let his passenger sit on the carrier; after a few minutes he noticed that the pedal turned with great difficulty - no it was not a puncture, fearing the worst, he turned towards the carrier and saw a djinn twice his size!


He had to leave his wife behind at the hotel, his company website had been hacked, it could be fixed then he could return to his wife, unfortunately, disaster struck, he was midway when the earthquake struck, the hillside town was cut off from the rest of the world, at first he called her up and she called him up, she cautioned him that the only charging point was at the bus stand, and then she stopped calling, and he couldn't get a ringtone on her mobile, the operator stated that the number had been switched off.

The Bailiffs

He owed them a lot of money, so he fled to another city and led an anonymous life for a couple of years, but then one day while returning from the market with some provisions, he saw them on the road leading to his house, he panicked and gunned his motorcycle away from them and blindly headed into the path of a truck, when he woke up in hospital he could neither talk nor move his limbs, he could only hear them talk about him and to him but not respond, he was trapped in a prison from which there was no escape!


He was all alone in the huge house, he had just read Dracula when the power went off, in the silence of the night he could hear claws scratching the door that led to the  backyard, he had to go out, but feared the Unknown, after some time he could not bear the wait and so stepped out to check on things, when he stepped out with his heart in his throat, in the dark, he noticed that the papaya tree leaves had been brushing against the tin roof of the shed because of the light breeze!

Monsters in the Night

The sounds coming from the back lane into which their window opened were loud and frightening, the two brothers decided to investigate, the younger brother loaded the air rifle with a pellet while the elder brother picked up a stout cane, together they unlocked the back door and stepped into the lane, the sounds were terrible, sounds of tortured and angry souls, mixed with sounds of gnashing teeth, curses, and threats, they noticed that the sounds were coming from the window of the room on top of their's - it was the sound of their tenant snoring off his way into the night!


She visited him in his dreams, a beautiful woman who had the most beautiful face with eyes full of compassion and love, everything was alright as long as it was a dream, until of course that night when she called out to him with an insistence that was difficult to ignore, he got up from his bed and followed her into the dark deserted street, and then he caught up with her and she turned towards him, fangs bared in a face from which worms wriggled skeleton if arms reached out to him, helpless with shock he succumbed to her embrace and she sighed as she fed on him, the foolish enamoured youth, one who would be so romantic!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

At the D.D.W.F.C.S. Deborah Award Function (2017)

The Delhi Diocese Women Fellowship for Christian Service hosted its Deborah awards for children of single parents, widows, and students who achieved merit in the tenth and twelfth board exams yesterday, on the 29th of July. The award ceremony took place in the Heinz Auditorium, Delhi YMCA, Jai Singh Road. I was there as my daughter, Ekta was one of the awardees for grade twelve.

It was a pleasant surprise to see Madam Sheila Dixit as the chief guest. Also present on the occasion were Mr Alwan Masih, Secretary of the Synod, North India, Rt. Revd. Bishop Warris Masih, Bishop of the Diocese of Delhi (CNI) and Former Bishop of the Delhi Diocese (CNI), Rt. Revd. Bishop Karam Masih.

One of the most important objectives of the function was to pay tribute to the quintessential Mother, the woman who bears all difficulties and trials while bringing up her children. The awards ceremony celebrated motherhood through a couple of skits performed by children attached to the Delhi YMCA, and also speeches by dignitaries who spoke about their own mothers. One of the guests spoke about how his mother who had never gone to school would welcome him home from school, ask him about the day, then she would feed him lunch. After lunch, she would tell him to do his homework. She would look at everything he had done, look at what he had written, and it looked as if she knew what he had written. Finally, one day when he was in grade seven, he asked his mother to help him with some doubt he had. She dipped the pen in the ink pot and then just froze! That was it! She did not know what to do. And yet she had taken interest in what he had done in school, she had even looked at his work. It was then that he came to know what a mother can do!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Classic Cars - What makes them unique?

Of course, it goes without saying that people buy cars for many reasons. One of the basic reasons is that they take you from one point to another. Many cars are bought for transportation, but then quite a few are bought because they are rare, fashion statements and icons in their own right. No wonder, one of the reasons why one vehicle is costlier than the other is because of the amount of design, detailing and styling that takes place in its manufacturing process. Some vehicles are built around a specific philosophy or school of thought which is unique to the brand. Just to make my point clear, I have posted below photographs of some antique cars that have drawn my attention. I have focused on the grills and the hood ornaments only.

Over a period of time, cars became collectibles, fashion statements and at times family relics to be kept in the family. The ubiquitous bug would one day fade away into the sunset, but then those who had it will extoll its virtues, even if it used to overheat quite so often. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

John Updike's Should Wizard Hit Mommy? suggests how a clash of World Views that can lead to distance between father and daughter

John Updike's Should Wizard Hit Mommy is an important short story that deals with the important theme of Generation Gap as something that is caused by a clash of worldviews. A story that deals with the family as a base unit, it suggests that family is an important support structure, and this is an important message for children. Friends who run away because you don't conform to their ideals, in this case, the foul smell of Roger Skunk, don't deserve to be called friends. By the end of the day, Roger Skunk has to return home to his mother and father, and it is his mother who asks him why he smells so awful!
Jack wants to tell her through the story of Roger Skunk that one should not change how nature has made one to be, that too for the sake of friends who run away. He views the lessons of life with through the lens of experience. He wants to convey to his daughter that it is OK to be who you are, it is alright to be your authentic self, in due course of time, your friends will accept you as you are. He wants to tell her that parents know what is best for their children because they love their children a lot. He wants to convey to her the message that there are no instant solutions to the problems in life and that in fact, magic is not a solution because it does not work, after all, if magic had been effective, why did the wizard not use his magic to tidy his own house?
Jo, however, doesn't accept her father's perspective because she thinks differently from him. She believes that there are instant solutions for the problems in life like changing the smell of a skunk into the smell of roses. After all, from her point of view, Roger Skunk's friends accept him and they play all day. By the end of the day, however, (and Jack introduces a twist in the tale) Roger Skunk's mother thinks Roger Skunk's Rose Scent is awful. Jo had not anticipated such a complication. She doesn't like such an ending because it challenges her world view.
John Updike does not give the story an ending. He leaves the story open ended. Jo will not accept her father's point of view, and Jack will not accept his daughter's point of view. They have arrived at a stalemate. Generation gap results from a clash of world views and perspectives between two people belonging to different age groups. The younger person thinks the elder person to be a preacher, someone who really doesn't know about the world. The child, in this case, doesn't respect her father's wisdom. The elder person, on the other hand, is not ready accept that the younger person has every right to think differently. The father doesn't realise that his daughter is growing up, and having a distinct perspective is the sign of growing up. 
Should Wizard Hit Mommy describes the process of growing up in a child. The poem Childhood by Markus Natten very clearly describes that cognitive development taking place in Jo in the following lines:

          When did my childhood go?
          Was it when I found my mind was really mine,
          To use whichever way I choose,
          Producing thoughts that were not those of other people
          But my own, and mine alone.

The extract from the poem, Childhood clearly addresses the issue of growing up, and it suggests that children will often have a point of view that differs from that of their parents. It is however alright for children to have a different point of view!
This doesn't necessarily mean that children don't respect or consider their parent's point of view, rather, it is about developing a culture of trust, understanding, and tolerance and respect for divergent views. Jack's message is not morally wrong, but then the way it is conveyed is wrong. Jack doesn't like being interrupted, he likes women to be 'apprehensive, hanging on his words'. He has a rather bossy kind of attitude towards others, and this is evident in the way he rebukes and warns his daughter each time she tries to divert the story towards her point of view. Finally when Jo gets perplexed and states ' "But the other little amum..."' (after Jack tells her that "Roger skunk did not smell of roses anymore.") He rebukes her, "Joanne. It's Daddy's story. Shall Daddy not tell you any more stories?" ' The first two sentences are very short! The first is just one word, and the second is just four words such as a Boss would use while instructing his workers in very strict terms.
What makes matters really bad is that both of them, Jack and his daughter Jo are not ready to accept or respect the right of each to express his own or her own point of view. They are so rigid in their stance, they just cannot listen to the other speak!
Elizabeth Jennings very succinctly describes how a clash of world views leads up to a breakdown in relations between a father and his son in the poem Father to Son:

        We speak like strangers, there's no sign
        Of understanding in the air.

        We each put out an empty hand,
        Longing for something to forgive.

The only solution is to develop an atmosphere of trust, understanding and respect for each other in the family. A Boss at work can simply not behave like a Boss at home. In the same way, a child should give her parents respect because they love her and know what is best for her!


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Why are our colleges stuck in a time-warp?

The recent race for seats in one of the colleges of Delhi University, the wait for the cut offs, followed by search for coveted colleges, some of them so prestigious that they have their own interview where they call candidates simply as an eyewash, all of this reminded me of my own days when I landed up in Delhi for admission to one of the colleges in Delhi University. That was nineteen eighty-five and strangely enough, during all these years nothing much has changed in our colleges!
The mad rush for so called traditional courses seems to be without any reason. The colleges have stuck to their guns and the courses remain the same. The B.A., B.A. (Hons) Program, B.Sc., and B.Sc.(Hons) Programs exist even today, and for those struggling with subsidiaries, you continue to have those ‘Kunjies’ or help books that have all the important questions and their answers in them! The core questions remain the same, nothing much changes, going to college in Delhi means, ‘masti’ and if you are in North Campus, it is about having fun, attendance is so lax, and in any case, a visit to K-Nag, or Kolhapur Road for the latest in fashion is the trend. These spots were popular in my time, ( although I joined South Campus after Mr. Hala told me I couldn’t join his ‘Premier’ college because he couldn’t make out the marks on my Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate which in grades. He would call me back, but then I refused finding Venky more convenient). In South Campus, Satya Niketan was popular and so was Naoroji Nagar. The best hangout was Chanakyapuri with its iconic cinema hall and Yashwant place. When your attendance dropped below the minimum required percentage, you visited Dr. Paithankar, (God Bless him for saving many students) and in those days you parked your scooters and bikes inside the college.
However, college is serious stuff, and it is high time administrators and curriculum framers realized that they have not exactly progressed in terms of the demands of the day. Colleges continue to churn graduates who are really not ready for life. Traditional courses that have not evolved in years continue to teach students stuff that has very little or no relevance to what is required in professional life today. A student who graduates with a B.A. (Hons) English Degree might strangely enough not be able to write fluently without spelling and grammar errors. A few might not even be able to speak the language they have ‘Honoured’ clearly! In many cases, graduates from colleges in Delhi often need to go for an additional certification course or even a diploma course before they can start a career.
A number of colleges pride themselves on their so called rich co-curricular activities, their dramatic clubs, social service clubs, and their ‘Advocacy Clubs’ but the reality is that many of these clubs and activities were once popular during the fifties and sixties have not really evolved according to times. One of the colleges I visited recently had photographs of their dramatics club, photographs that belonged to the fifties. The ceiling fans in the huge hall where documents were being verified belonged to the early forties, and the hall itself reminded me of an ancient Gothic Structure. The red bricks reminded me of institutional Calvinism, an era that befitted David Copperfield. The extended untended lawns and the stray dogs that wandered on the campus, all seemed stuck in time immemorial when my uncles were young and they went to college.
The need of the hour is to have colleges that offer subjects and curricula that would equip its students to be future ready. You need to prepare students for the future and not just teach them stuff that is obsolete and ineffective unless it is connected to the present. Three years is a long period of time, and if students believe that these years can be whiled away in ‘masti’, then, I guess this is an attitude that has been brought about by the casual quality of campus life! The fact is that none of the colleges in Delhi appears in the list of the top two hundred colleges in the world!
The world around us is moving away from a regimented and straight-jacketed system of education at the college level, and they are moving towards a more flexible, student led educational system that is tailor-made according to the student’s capabilities. A student who earns credit points as per his performance can make a switch mid-year to another subject of his choice. All over the world, except In our limited world, scholars are working on research work. Research work should not be limited to those doing their Ph.D.,. in fact, it should be made mandatory for all undergraduate students, both in school and in college.
While no doubt a few changes have been brought into the courses being taught in colleges today, take for example the inclusion of Indian Writers in the B.A.(Hons.) English program, these are however too few and too late. The introduction of the B.Voc. Course by the Delhi University seems to be an answer to some of the problems, but then, unfortunately, there is little that a student can do after B.Voc. because he or she will have to get a job. You cannot do your post-graduation or a B.Ed. after B.Voc., all you can do is to join an MBA program.
Professional universities and colleges under them are doing a better job in equipping young people with twenty-first-century skills, but unfortunately, there are few of them that are run by the Government. The burgeoning number of unregulated and unrecognized private professional colleges and those offering traditional courses added to the confusion regarding what one should do after school. The introduction of a large number of hitherto unheard of courses by the CBSE, like Legal Studies, Food Production, and Fashion studies have added confusion with colleges in Delhi refusing to recognize them as valid subjects. Students who have Food Production as one of their subjects might be given the B.Vocational Course as opposed to their choice of an Honours course.
Students are making their way out of the country and many of those who can afford the fees and the expenses are joining colleges abroad.  A large number of private colleges running in collaboration with foreign universities are doing a wonderful job in providing integrated courses to students. Thus, a student of mine who was a science student at the grade twelve level is now pursuing an integrated graduate course from Ashoka University. She is doing Journalism along with B.A.(Hons.) English. A few colleges affiliated to the Indraprastha University offer the B.A.LLB integrated program. A few Universities and colleges in the country are change makers, they are ushering relevance and skills that no other colleges are doing, at least not those in Delhi. A large number of our colleges are stuck in a time warp and they are teaching stuff that might have been relevant a couple of decades ago. The pedagogy is effete and obsolete, it caters to rote-memorisation, and does not promote problem-solving skills. While progressive, Change Maker’s colleges cater to a Growth Mindset, the traditional colleges in Delhi can only cater to the Fixed Mindset! After all, how is that you can pass your subsidiary subject exam just by reading what was in my time 'Champion Guide' one day before the exam?

Friday, 14 July 2017

Takeaways from Expeditionary learning for Progressive Schools in India


Expeditionary learning refers to learning expeditions as opposed to learning while sitting inside a classroom. It also offers opportunities for collaboration between different subjects. Besides learning of syllabus, the expeditionary learner gets the opportunity to develop character and intellect. It would not be wrong to assume that Expeditionary pedagogy promotes metacognition in learners. Ron Berger, claims that Expeditionary Learning or EL builds up a strong culture of collaboration between parents, teachers and students besides developing a culture of respect and excellence.
A Learning Expedition is built around an outbound learning trip, a 'field trip', meant to explore a particular problem, phenomenon or occurrence. Schools often organise outbound learning trips to the mountains, the seaside or even deserts so that students might learn about the eco-system, culture of the people and their means for survival. Such trips might be organised to study the impact of human industrial activity on fragile eco-systems. These expeditions are meticulously framed, the detailed lesson plan is prepared along with all the important learning targets, big idea and activities. Students undertake research work that involves different subjects. Thus, on an outbound trip to the mountains, students might attempt to study how hydro-electric power stations might be weakening the stability of the mountains and might also be one of the causes for flash floods in rivers. This research might involve English as the primary language (in which the case study or the research paper is written) while Physics, Geography, might offer different angles to the study and Statistics might be used to prepare a statistical analysis of the data.
This would bring me to the question of how one might be able to maximise student engagement and mastery of academic standards. To achieve the most out of Expeditionary learning, teachers need to focus on the Big Idea, i.e. what is the student going to remember to retain many years after the lesson? What is the enduring impact of the lesson? After the educationist has managed to narrow down the topic, the educator plans the fieldwork, engages experts and services. Fieldwork is not about engaging in the learning process as mute spectators, rather it is about students working as investigators, proud experts working collaboratively on a problem, and then figuring out what its solution might be. The advantage of such learning is that it helps build character and also enduring academic learning. Fieldwork is rich in content, it targets literacy skills, builds social relationships, and most important of all it maximises student participation because it is based on real life issues. Aan expeditionary task that is interdisciplinary, connected to real life issues, relevant and meaningful, and offers the learner space and freedom will definitely maximise student engagement.
Expeditionary learning, however, can work only if students are leaders of their own learning, they take ownership of their learning, they re-visit their learning targets (I can collate research data and make a graphical representation of it.), and they have adequate scope for self-assessment. Formative assessments can help students gain a feedback on where they are with respect to the task in hand. With a shift from specific objectives to learning outcomes, and from learning outcomes to learning targets, we have made the objectives of learning more student-centric than teacher-centric. Here it is important to understand that Formative assessments are continuous and are actually assessments for learning unlike the Summative end of year assessments which are assessments of learning.
Ultimately, of course, students take pride at the end of the project, or case study when they make their learning public, or for that effect celebrate their learning with an authentic audience beyond the school. Students of grades six and seven of the middle school took up a project on the feasibility of making Gurgaon more cycle friendly. They did field trips, collected data, did extensive research work, and then shared their learning with the city administration. The end result was the start of what would be called Raahgiri Day, a Cyclovia movement that took place every Sunday on a particular stretch of road in Gurgaon. The road would be closed to vehicular traffic from 6:00 a.m to 8:00 a.m. Only bicycles would be allowed. This event was a massive endorsement of the need to introduce Expeditionary Learning in our country, at least till Grade seven.


You might also consider visiting:

You might also like to read:

Berger, Ron Et al, Leaders Of Their Own Learning, Jossey Bass, 2014

Monday, 10 July 2017

Case Studies, Research Narratives and Story Telling make for compelling Pedagogical Practices!

The human mind wanders a lot, and when it wanders, it daydreams. Nothing can trap a wandering mind better than a story telling session. Case studies are like testimonials that describe how a person has been impacted by a particular topic or project.- Why Case Studies Are Great Marketing Tools: Carlo Thomas, 10/07/2017 A typical case study would be one that traces how a particular student learned about the Renaissance period, or how the other student learned how to build a wind turbine through an expedition. In Maths, Case studies can be prepared for Commercial Maths, Calculus, Linear Programming, Vectors,  and so on.

Why should we use story-telling and case studies in teaching?

Story-telling and case studies can work wonders at the beginning of a lesson. A short story, narrative or even a case study in the form of a short video clip, or an audio clip at the start of a poetry lesson would do wonders. You could show a short video clip on the life of a famous poet before actually analyzing his poems. A lesson on the impact of pollution on Marine Life, could be preceded with a short video clip on how a change in the pH level in the seas impacts coral polyps and plankton species. It does not, however, mean that case studies and stories might be limited only to video and audio-clips. In fact inviting famous personalities to visit the school and  asking them to narrate the story of their life can have a powerful impact on students.
Case studies are unique because they combine story-telling with important facts that might become too boring when presented to an audience. When schools wish to introduce changes in their pedagogical practices, like for example a change in assessment strategies, or perhaps the seating arrangement of students, or perhaps even a shift to  expeditionary learning, it would be good to present a case study before teachers who might otherwise be too skeptical about the benefits of sitting in crews rather than in rows.
Students who record their projects or expeditions can showcase their learning in the form of a video recording the story of their project. This video can be posted on social networking sites like Facebook as a culmination of their project. Case studies and Research narratives are celebrations of learning which project students as leaders of their own learning processes. In a student lead environment, showcasing learning through case studies and research narratives promotes modelling of learning.
Case studies don't always have to be in the form of a video. Case studies could also be in the form of a display of project timelines, processes, and results which can be posted on bulletin boards as printed matter. There could be photographs, info graphics, flow charts printed power-point slides, and descriptions.

What are the components of a Case Study?

It goes without saying that a good Case Study should have  the following components:

1. Title: Every good Case Study should have a sound title. A lot of effort is made to make student understand the relevance of having a sound title for their Research paper. A sound title for a Research paper, or a case study is an indication of clarity of purpose. A sound title provides the reader or the audience with an overview of the project, case study or even the research paper.

2. Problem: The case study should mention the problem that is being analysed very clearly. Understanding the impact of global warming on marine life, or  analyzing universal themes in Romantic poetry could be relevant 'problems' though not all case studies will have problems as such. You could replace the word 'problem' with topic for study.

3.  Solution:  Students who have identified a problem should come up with a solution to it. Using renewable energy sources like solar energy, wind energy and hydro energy might be possible solutions for a power hungry society. The solution would not come into being if the case study was not about problems and solutions. The problem and solution part could become a critical analysis of a trend of writing or a critical analysis of important themes during a particular period in literature.

4.  Results: A Case study dealing with problems should come up with not only the solutions to a problem, but also a presentation of results in a graphic form. Results can be presented in the form pie charts, graphs, bar diagrams and so on.

5. Call for action: This is an important conclusion in a good case study. The presenters of the case study need to make an emotional appeal to their audience to pledge to make a difference after going through the case study. A group of students who made a case study for promoting the culture of cycling in their city made a call for action at the end of their presentation, convincing parents and the administration of that city to create cycle lanes and restrict mortised traffic once a week on Sundays.-Why Case Studies Are Great Marketing Tools: Carlo Thomas, 10/07/2017

Note: It might not be possible to have all the components listed above in all case studies, this is because of the fact that some case studies might be built around a specific problem, and they might even attempt to find a solution for the same. In fact, it should be OK if a particular case study does not offer solutions to a problem. Some case studies might be a narrative about an expeditionary learning trip to Shakespeare's Birth place. As such it might simply be a description about historical facts backed by photographs,video clips, and running commentary about the trip.-Why Case Studies Are Great Marketing Tools: Carlo Thomas, 10/07/2017

Suggested Case Studies

It would be a great idea for the project to be a collaborative effort involving different subject groups. The English Teacher could collaborate with the History teacher to work on a project to understand why the Indus Valley Civilization withered away. Similarly, the IT teacher can collaborate with any of the subject groups to develop graphic organizers, bar graphs, pie-charts, and so on. Students of English in m school have to do a Research Paper or a term paper based on one of the novels in their syllabus. These Research papers are based on the theme, plot movement and character development. These research papers can be made in collaboration with other subjects quite easily.

Reference: (Ironically enough, this blog post was prompted by the article on marketing that I read recently.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Portraits - A Tribute to some of the most photogenic faces!

A Photograph of my Neice and this was taken at the Mc Donald's Restaurant on the way to Moradabad

Photographing people can be most difficult and yet most rewarding. In most cases, the subjects would be strangers. I am working on this skill and would like to develop on street photography skills. Nevertheless,  below are just a few of what I find interesting!

An early morning stroll on the Mall in Nainital - people getting ready for the day

What drew my attention to this child was the intense look of curiosity on his face.
On the way to Fatehpur Seekri, one will find people making rattles.

Life can be difficult towards the end.

Reunion, two sisters and their sister in law meet.

At the Surajkund Crafts Fair - these African wooden carvings vie for attention.

A Photograph for posterity. People taking each other's photographs in front of art pieces.

A family Reunion,  brother in law, brother and sister

Tribal Brothers from Bastar

On a lighter note, a portrait of my Brother in Law
A family outing

A candid snap of someone I know

Fluid motion, a photograph of the blogger.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Why Does Sophie Lie? Is Lying Pathological?

I was pleasantly surprised to come across a lead article in the National Geographic Magazine for the month of June 2017, titled, “Why We Lie”. It somehow struck a chord with the short story, Going Places by A.R.Barton (prescribed by the CBSE  for grade twelve English core syllabus). Sophie, the protagonist is a typical teenager who likes to daydream a lot. In her dreams she wants to be the owner of a boutique, and to fund it she wants to be an actress. Twisted logic? Yes, I guess most dreams defy logic! However, when a person begins to daydream excessively, (like Sophie does) one tends to believe in one’s dreams. Lying is one way of becomes pathological, a way for getting people to believe you.
Sophie tells tall stories, stories that are too fantastic to be true. Her stories are built of falsehood, lies that become better and better. When she tells her brother, Geoff “I met Danny Casey,” - page 73 Flamingo he reacts by saying, “It’s never true.” - page 73 Flamingo When later on in the living room, Geoff tells their father that Sophie had met Danny Casey, ‘Sophie wriggled where she was sitting at the table’-page 80 Flamingo because she knew that her father knew she was a liar. Her father’s reaction to this piece of information ‘was one of disdain.’-page 80 Flamingo Later on her father warns her, “One of these days you’re going to talk yourself into a load of trouble”. -page 81, Flamingo
So why then is Sophie an obsessive compulsive liar? Is she aware of the fact that she lies too often? I found some of the answers in the article in the National Geographic Magazine. An extract from the article reads, “Honesty may be the best policy, but deception and dishonesty are part of being human.” {page 27 National Geographic-June 2017} Another extract reads, “Learning to lie is a natural stage in child development. Kang Lee, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, has explored how children become more sophisticated liars as they age.” {page29 National Geographic-June,2017} It is clear from these observations that Sophie habit of lying is a process of “child development” but the question is, till what age is it OK to lie? Jansie, Sophie’s friend ‘wished Sophie wouldn’t say these things.’-page 77 Flamingo She is a reality check for Sophie, and she keeps reminding Sophie that they are “only a few months away” -Page 77 Flamingo from graduating and it is high time she stopped lying! Jansie goes on to tell Sophie that she “really should be more sensible.” – Page 77-78 Flamingo
Interestingly enough, the article in the National Geographic Magazine presents case studies of people who kept on lying long after childhood. These case studies include and art forger, a tell-tale who went on to become ‘Virginia’s Biggest Liar award’ winner, an impersonator, a secret agent who lied for the country, con artists, a card shark, a prankster, and so on. It is clear from the article that people who continue to lie after childhood might end up on the wrong side of the law. Lying beyond a certain age is bound to lead to deviant behaviour and the concern for teachers and parents of teenagers is to make them aware of where they are heading to if they lie too often! What might appear innocent in little children might become a concern in teenagers who need to be grounded in the world of reality.
An infographic on page 35 of the National Geographic Magazine suggests, (and I am picking reasons that I feel relevant to Sophie) that people lie for economic advantage, personal advantage, self- impression, pathological reasons, and avoidance (escapism). If we take each one of these reasons, then it becomes clear that Sophie lies or daydreams for a better economic standard, one in which she is rich, she lies because it brings her the personal advantage of gaining the attention of people like Geoff who ignores her while tinkering with a motorcycle part, she does so in order to break into a conversation between her father and Geoff about football, she lies in order to create a better self-impression, she probably has a poor impression about herself being the daughter of a worker in a factory. Sophie dreams her lies because she wants to escape from a world of economic hardships, limitations and even gender disparity. One other important reason why Sophie dreams is that it is a pathological condition where she tends to ‘ignore or disregard’ reality.
Daydreaming and lying, at least in the case of Sophie go hand in hand, and her father’s concern about where she is headed to is real. Her mother, however, can only sigh as she listens to her father and younger brother responding to Sophie’s remark to Jansie that if she ever comes into money she will buy a boutique. Sophie’s lying begins to take up pathological tones when she begins dreaming about waiting for Danny Casey to come to the bench by the wharf. She actually waits for him!

1.        National Geographic – Why We Lie, Vol. 4 Issue 11, June 2017

2.        Flamingo Textbook in English for Class XII (Core Course) NCERT- 2007

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Common Core Standards document at the K-12 Level is better than a single board in India?

What we need is a standardized, streamlined and credible board system that prepares students for the future and offers scope for differential learning. The need to shift towards a more experiential and expedition based learning experience is evident in the popularity of the International Programmes in schools today.

A board of exams would have to be a board that prepares assessments of learning while independent bodies (state boards, or central boards) that frame the curriculum would be preparing the learners to be assessed for learning. It is evident, therefore, that for reforms to take place in school education, we need to have two separate bodies, one that frames the curriculum, and another that examines whether learning has indeed taken place.

The system in our country works fairly well with the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) working on the curriculum and training of teachers and printing of books and study material, while the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) ideally works in the field of assessments and examinations. The States however have their own exams and boards while having of course the equivalent of the NCERT, except that they are called SCERT (State Council of Education Research and Training) and a separate Board exam at the grade ten and the grade twelve levels in which the question paper is different from that prepared by the CBSE.

The ICSE (Indian Council for Secondary Education) is yet another board which is run on the Cambridge Pattern and it differs in curriculum and assessment from the CBSE and the NCERT. The problem arises when students who graduate from the different boards, the CBSE, State Boards, and the ISC/ICSE boards at the grade twelve level come up with widely differing marks. With the ISC/ICSE, it is about scoring fewer marks, while the same might be said of students appearing for their Grade twelve exams from the state boards. Students appearing for their grade twelve exams from the CBSE Board might, however, score in the higher nineties! Unfortunately, the marks are not standardized and a student scoring above ninety-five percent from the CBSE in his or her best of four subjects might not be half as good as a student scoring seventy-five per cent in the ISC grade twelve exam of the ICSE board! Students appearing from the state boards might not even be lucky enough to pass!

Academic rigour, and marks apart, it is clear that the different examination boards and curriculum framing bodies in the country are working at loggerheads with each other. The learners and students are, unfortunately at the receiving end, especially when they seek admission in some of the centrally run universities in the country. It is clear that in their obsession for numbers of students who graduate from school, some boards might even be resorting to so-called moderation strategies, which would happily see their students sailing out of school. Unfortunately, in their haste to inflate figures of pass outs, and perhaps happily claim to have done their job of educating the youth, these boards are in fact ruining the lives of the very people whom they claim to have provided an education.

One very harsh fact is that very few students who pass out of schools today are future ready; very few are equipped with twenty-first-century skills, hardly any have sound research skills, and barely a few know what they are going to do after grade twelve. A large percentage of students who opt for engineering end up doing tasks unsuited to their professional qualification. In a world that is steadily moving away from traditional work skills and instead is paving the way to welcome Artificial Intelligence, and Augmented Reality if not Virtual Reality, we remain stuck in a system of education that is mostly teacher-centered and dependent on chalk and blackboard.

It is clear that our educational system at the K-12 level needs a major revamp. Modern education calls for continuous evaluation and differential assessments. The now defunct Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation might have had a positive objective but then it failed because of poor implementation, overloaded classrooms, and poor planning. C.C.E. failed because it was not backed with standardized protocols and objectives. So what was happening across schools was that there was no accountability nor any parity between the kind of tools used for Formative assessments. In many cases, marks entered under Formative Assessments were not, in any case, true scores, nor did they really measure learning in the true sense.

The gap between schools using IT and those not even having adequate infrastructure as for example, schools in rural areas is increasing as time passes. The increased call for digitization, and with it, the dependence on online transactions, online projects, and online registrations has meant that while IT literate students manage to handle technology efficiently, those who are not tech savvy are helpless and they have to look for help elsewhere.

While educationists might argue that it would be impossible to bring all the students of the country under one curriculum, what with differences based on Cultural Diversity, Geography, Language, Economic and Social backwardness; it might be argued that the setting up of minimum or basic standards of skills expected of students at each grade level could at least provide some level of standardisation across all schools in the country.

The need of the hour is to have a standard Curriculum framework that sets up benchmarks of skills expected of students in the beginning and at the end of each grade level. These standards need to be set for each subject, and to address the deficiency in IT skills in some schools, there should be a separate set of standards for IT skills expected of students at all grade levels irrespective of whether the school is located in the rural areas of the country, or for that effect urban areas. Setting up of standards for IT skills will ensure that the basic minimum requirement for internet connectivity and the availability of Tablet P.Cs, laptops or even desktops is guaranteed by state education departments.Strangely enough, one might see three major stakeholders in school education in the country today, and these include the Central Board of Secondary Education, State Boards of Secondary Education, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, the State Council for Educational Research and Training, and of course the Executive bodies of the Zonal Education departments. All of these stakeholders of Education need to be aligned to a common objective, and their areas of competence need to be clearly defined. If there is a National Policy of Education, then there needs to be a National Policy of Information Technology in Education, and there needs to be also a National Policy of Teachers Education, all of which are aligned to a common core of state education standards.

The socio-cultural diversity and the linguistic range of students in India call for a unification and standardization or benchmarks of student learning and skills at each grade level rather than a single board system. Having a single Education Board for the whole country would result in stretching of resources and the handling of too many areas in the field of education. Having a single Education Board should not mean that it imposes the same curriculum all over the country. States should have the right to have their own tailor-made, differential curriculum that caters to the requirements of the state. Standards, however, can be set up to be followed and there should be a central body to ensure that all the state boards and curriculum follow the document of standards. This does not in any way mean that we don't have standards at present. The only thing is that some of these standards are too vague and weakly defined. We need to have Common Core Standards similar to the ones we have in America.The Common Core State Standards of America document has a detailed and specific set of standards for each skill in each subject area at each grade level! A lot of effort and time would go into the framing of such a document in the country, but it would certainly be a good investment.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

A Holiday in Nainital

Nainital, a quick getaway from Delhi is merely 300 kilometers away and on light traffic days, this distance can be covered in about seven hours. This time my brother inlaw's family and mine decided to take a three-day trip into the mountains of Uttarakhand. While I drove all the way from Gurgaon on to Ghaziabad and then to Marchula in the Jim Corbet National Park, my brother in law drove from Ghaziabad. Our first stop was Marchula in Uttar Pradesh. We stayed at the Le Tigre Resort for one day and then the next day checked out and left for Ranikhet and from Ranikhet continued on to Nainital. By the time I returned to Gurgaon, I had clocked 945 kilometers on my odometer. 

For my family and I, this would be must be a sixth visit to the city. People visiting Nainital should spend at least a week so that they can visit the outlying areas, one of them being China Peak, others being Sattal, Nukuchia Tal, and Bhimtal. In our case, however, it was just about enjoying the cold weather, a respite from the heat wave scorching the plains.

Strangely enough, the town comes alive at night and people walk up and down the Mall Road simply enjoying the breeze or simply shopping for knick-knacks. While the roads inside the city are overcrowded and there are restrictions on driving on the Mall road, one simple solution is to hire a motorcycle for the whole day.

An early morning stroll to the flat area next to the Mosque can be especially rewarding because people who stay up late wake late, so you have the whole area to yourself. I wake up early and always explore new towns in the early morning. I got some wonderful snaps of ducks and the landscape, as I am sure you will agree on seeing the snaps posted below!

A Boat ride on the lake is a must, not just for the sake of boating, but also to take snaps. My suggestion would be to leave your mobile phones in your hotel rooms if you really want to enjoy the ride!

What is so unique about Nainital is that you can literally have your breakfast off the street. In one of the photographs, you will have seen pastries placed inside an Iron box. Tea can be had (in the morning) from the streetside tea-maker. Steaming and piping hot samosas can be had for ten rupees each, and Momos of all kinds are available. The advertisements for the fast-food joints can be intriguing, and thus interesting too.

Perhaps, I should have tasted the Coffee, but then I did not. As for 'PEACE.LOVE.AND ICE CREAM', well I guess I will leave it for next time! Yes, I will certainly visit Nainital when the opportunity arrives, and this is because it is a convenient and really good getaway from the hectic rush of the city! My advice to you? Well book your accommodation in advance, start early, and enjoy every moment of your trip, even the drive!