Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making teaching simpler

"Suppose for each 2 idlis (form of Indian bread) that you eat you will get one chocolate, so how many idlis you will have to eat to get five chocolates" asks Uddhav Sir.
Immediately I see kids counting on fingers, and most of them come up with the correct answer 10.

Now the problem is tweaked in many ways, for three choclates how many idlis? and so on, and they start enjoying it.

then finally, at the end of class, almost as after thought, Uddhav sir introduces the notation :
He also introduces the word Ratio.

The above was one of the Maths class that I attended in the school called Ananya. This is the school for the street children and I have mentioned it lot of times in my blog. It is not a formal school. All students are divided in to groups, based on their capability, and they just learn. There is no fixed curriculum, when students are perceived as eligible they give the exam through NIOS.

"For teaching multiplication we had done this project, wherein I asked student to measure the distance between our school gate to the shop that is outside from where they get chocolates. They had to measure the distance and paint the sign board on the shop for our school. So they counted the distance in the unit of their footsteps, then they measured their foot steps. And with little help they automatically figured out multiplication. Got a card board, and nicely painted it, with the number." says Shashi Aunty, who runs this full place, "This small project turned a normally boring multiplication class in to something very interesting which involved drawing, painting, and most importantly understanding what is multiplication"

When you think about it there are so many simple ways to teach everyday things to kids. Little more time consuming, but these techniques are more effective in sustaining the interest of students in subject and they appreciate the concept better.

"Most of the conventional schools don't do this kind of education because they don't have time, since they have to finish the curriculum . Here in Ananya there is no curriculum. It is full of fun and project based." adds Uddhav Sir.

On similar lines, long time back I had read this wonderful article called Lockhart's Lament. This article is more related to Maths and here the author laments against the boring form of classroom teaching. There is a very simple example in his essay related to how to calculate aread of triangle, which I really liked. I will quote from there

To calculate area first imagine a triangle inside a rectangular box:

I wonder how much of the box does the triangle takes up? Two-thirds maybe?
I do see something simple and pretty:

If I chop the rectangle into two pieces like this, I can see that each piece is cut diagonally in
half by the sides of the triangle. So there is just as much space inside the triangle as outside.
That means that the triangle must take up exactly half the box!
Hence the area is that of half the rectangle.

That makes it so simple right, area of triangle is equal to half of base and height. It is such an interesting way to teach rather than to mug the formula. The school in which I studied in never taught like this, it was always learning formulas.

The above ideas look so simple, but I am not sure how many schools adopt this. At least the school I studied never taught like this. Though the above ideas look simple, I guess it is difficult to come up with such ideas. Simple in expensive ideas that can teach science, maths etc. I also wonder if there is any resource available on web which have accumulation of such tricks/methods to teach. I have not been very successful at this search, all I have landed upon are some kits for science experiments which are way to expensive to be adopted by most of this NGO schools.

Actually Uddhav Sir, has asked me if I could come up with some ideas specially related to Maths. He has also given me some NIOS textbooks which are equivalent to conventional third and forth grade. But so far I am blank. Let me try and see what I can come up with. Ideas are welcome say for example, to teach division??

Related Articles,
About NIOS : Cant attend regular School, Try Open School
Another blogpost on Ananya: Different Perspective

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thought for the day..

"Some of the greatest feat in this world were accomplished by people who were not smart enough to figure out that they were impossible"

(Remembered this when conversing with a friend, had read this long time back in Readers digest)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nice Sign boards

Sometime back I had visited Butterfly Park in Penang, Malaysia. It was awesome park with lot of butterflies and all kinds of insects, but what impressed me most were the sign boards.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Presence of Mind..

The other day I was going on a bike (as a pillion) on inner ring road, and an speeding red maruti overtaked me and banged in to the Tempo traveler right in front of me, which resulted in tempo traveller overturning and falling in to the ditch next to the road. Further a biker in front of me flew off from his bike and again fell in to the same ditch. All this happened in a just about couple of seconds.

Surprisingly nothing happened to the people in the maruti, except that the front of the car got damaged, but the car was still in driving condition.

After the shock of some ten seconds, I just got off to try to help the biker guy who suffered the biggest injury in this full incident, but by the time there were already lot of people who had started helping. And I realized that I was not doing much of value add there, other than to add more commotion, so I left.

In this confusion the maruti guy vanished, and then I was wondering why did not have the presence of mind to note the number of the speeding maruti. I was someone who had the best view of the full incident. Forget about pen and paper, I could have just taken the photo of the number plate with my camera enabled mobile. But it never occurred to me.

I was wondering if this presence of mind is the inbuilt talent some people have or this is gained by experience? Some people around me are amazingly good at that to do the right things at the right time, wasting no additional time. And seemingly things don't occur to me that fast.

I just hope that the biker guy is safe and surviving.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Article 377 and Alternate sexuality

Recently there was a Gay Parade in Bangalore, Delhi and Calcutta. This reminded me that sometime back we had done a whole issue on Alternate Sexuality in Sattva in October.

I read somewhere some BJP leader commenting that it was against the tradition and blah and all. I really dont understand, why people have to bring religion/tradition in to this. My only point is that most people know so little. I remember when young, I would have asked this question 2-3 times, I never got any answers or got very unconvincing answers. It was always an hush-hush topic. Most of us just put 2 and 2 together and come up with out own conclusions, at least I did not know lot of things when we did that issues.

So here I am going to put one FAQ that I had prepared for that Issue. It is related to article 377 of Indian Constitution the act against which this parade was there.

Here is the article,

This article was written by me and originally published in the Oct 2007 issue of Sattva, an ITIHAS initiative. Sattva, is an ITIHAS initiative: an e-magazine focusing on the social sector.
Related Sattva Issue .. Oct 2007, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité РFreedom, Equality and Brotherhood

FAQ on Section 377,
Section 377 is one of the most frequently contested and controversial legal sections in ‘The Indian Penal Code’. And here are some reasons why

What is section 377?
Section 377 of Indian penal code was drafted as early as 1860. and it reads as follows.

"Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."

How is this section used?
Today this section is mostly used to harass people. Police use this section to blackmail and extract bribe from various gay communities.

Is there a petition filed to repeal this act?
The petition to repeal this act was drafted by Lawyers Collective HIV AIDS unit on behalf of NAZ foundation in December 2002. This petition was rejected by Delhi High Court in Sept 2004. In April 2005, this case came up in Supreme court before a bench headed by Justice Sabharwal. They saw reason to remand the case back to the Delhi High Court, that is where it stands today.

What events led to this petition?
On 7 July 2001, police raided a park in Lucknow that was frequented by the MSM (men who have sex with men) community. The raid led to the arrest of an outreach worker of the Bharosa Trust, a NGO working with the MSM community in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention. The police also raided the offices of Bharosa and Naz Foundation and seized materials from there, arresting nine people in all. The media sensationalised the arrests, describing the police action as the busting of a sex racket. The arrested persons were remanded to judicial custody on 8 July 2001; and were charged with section 377 they were allegedly beaten up and their offices sealed.

What are the main arguments to repeal this act?

  • It violation of the right to life as a result of HIV/AIDS prevention work being impeded, and the MSM (Gay) community going underground, i.e., refusing to publicly avail of HIV-prevention options such as condoms, out of fear of being arrested
  • this law's proscription of "non-procreative sexual activity" violates the right to life because a person's sexual preferences are an inalienable component of this right.
  • It enables and perpetuates social stigma and police abuse
What is Governments argument not to repeal this act?
  • Section 377 has been applied to cases of assault where bodily harm is intended and deletion of the said section can well open the floodgates of delinquent behaviour and be misconstrued as providing unbridled license for the same
  • Section 377 reveal that it has been basically used in India to punish sexual abuse of children and to complement lacunae in the rape laws

Does similar section exists in England?
Interestingly no, this section was introduced by British in India in 1860s, but this act has been repealed in England quite long time back.

Which organizations are working towards repealing this act?
Naz Foundation, Delhi, is working with Lawyers collective in spearheading this petition. There is a forum of NGOs, called "Voices against 377" who are actively supporting this petition. In addition this petition gained a wide scale publicity and support, with the open letter written by Vikram Seth to repeal this act. This letter was supported by people like Amartya Sen, Pooja Bedi, Shyam Benegal.

Related Reads... The Queer Case of 377 by Siddharth Narrain

PS: Sattva is looking for writers, people who want to write about various social issues/solutions, Do drop in a comment if someone is interested.