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Alternatives to GDP – Freedom as an unit of growth

I was recently in St. Gallen Symposium discussing about economic growth, progress, and development. Although these topics are far different from Computer Science (which is what I study), these are topics that I am deeply interested in. The symposium was enriching and inspiring. I will write a separate post of my reflection of the symposium later. I was selected one of the one hundred selected through an essay competition where the topic was to discuss about alternative(s) to measuring growth. Here I want…

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Coaching for the new professional

Palmer in his article put forward some “immodest proposals” for the new professional. In the article, the author defined new professional as someone who can say, “In the midst of the powerful force-field of institutional life, where so much conspires to compromise the core values of my work, I have found firm ground on which to stand—the ground of personal and professional identity and integrity—and from which I can call myself, my colleagues, and my profession back to our true mission.” But,…

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The Times They Are A-Changin: The age of peer-to-peer lending

The entire Paulo Freire reading was passionate and emotional (just look at this video of how he moves his body when discussing about critical thinking). I can strongly relate to some of the arguments that Freire makes based on my experiences in Nepal and India. However, I also feel that the situation is not as dire now as it probably was during Freire’s time. I discuss both these contradicting perspectives below and conclude with learning/teaching implications that I feel we…

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Preparing for future learning

As I reflect back on my blog posts to see my stance regarding pedagogy, I realize a common theme underlying those. I will use those ideas to chalk out a vision of a classroom syllabus. Since I am interested in integrated Computer Science in middle school STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) classrooms, I will discuss my points considering a hypothetical middle school science classroom. Middle school would be the age when children start questioning and exploring their identity, and starting to…

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Society as Knowledge Machine

A lot of knowledge is socially constructed. People learn from interacting with others, reading books where the author has expressed his/her/their thoughts, and learning from the socio-cultural surrounding. One could argue that a child could learn well by interacting with a computer. However, computers and the accompanying application that make learning possible was created by developers who have put their thoughts and ideas into the system. Hence, people are interacting with the developers and constructing knowledge henceforth. Vygotsky puts it…

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Imagination supportive learning environment

There is always a tension between what is and what ought to be. These tension, which mostly arises within individuals, triggers imagination. If we see imagination in this view, then it is not mysterious at all. Imagination does not happen “just like that”. Neither is it present more in a certain group of people and less in others, nor does it require inborn talent. This also implies that learners can be encouraged to be more imaginative. To do so, we would have to make…

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Assessing assessments

Letter grade: E Textual description: The need and relevance of assessments have been quite extensively discussed over the years. There is a growing consent against the currently existing summative assessment system that we commonly use in schools and colleges. People have also advocated against formative grading systems, standards-based grading, and grading-cum-feedback systems. In short, grading appears, and truly so, to be a hinderance to a meaningful learning experience. Hence, I grade the current quality of assessment to be E (or for those who dislike…

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“Oh, that’s so significant!”

Sir Ken Robinson, in this video, mentions that in some parts of United States 60% of children drop out of high school. He was ridiculing the No Child Left Behind Act whose problem stems from its highly decontextualized, one-standardized-test-fits-all approach to education. Like he talks in the video, millions are left behind and those that stay are not learning effectively. This video by Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) could well be used to summarize the effect of such a learning…

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Intrinsic Motivation through Connected Learning

Self-determination theory posits that humans have a natural tendency towards growth and development but it does not happen automatically. A nurturing environment is necessary to help people to grow. For a student to be able to make the most of the learning environment and opportunity, he/she should be motivated. Intrinsic motivation, in particular, is necessary for sustained effort and deeper learning. Each student is a different individual and their interests may differ widely. To connect the subject content to each…

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The need for simplicity

As a kid I often used “E=mc2” in between my statements to show off my non-existent prowess in physical sciences. Looking back, I wonder whether I would have learnt Einstein’s famous formulae by heart and used it that often had it been as complex as Schrodinger’s equation. Probably wouldn’t. Learn seven characters: “E”, “=”, “m”, “*”, “c”, “^”, “2” and a child becomes enlightened in the science of mass-energy conversion.  This, to me, is the beauty of simplicity.

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Rape : Beyond the Apparent

It happened again. This time with a five year old. I am not going to lash out anger like the previous article, for it is to no avail. One fact stands out, this incident is bound to serve as an answer to all the arguments about the cause of this atrocity lying in the fact that women are not adhering to the standards of the society. In a state where public anger and disappointment is meted with force (by the police), I do not see hope. Rather there is a thought that recurs in my mind, every time such an incident comes to light. Why is it that sexual assault has become the most common type of assault to women?

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Innovatively punishing the Khalnayak

I begin with a full disclosure: I am not a big fan of Sanju baba although I adore his role in Khalnayak (somewhat an apt name given the current circumstances).

There is a frenzy going on regarding the recent sentencing of Sanjay Dutt for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai blast. The court sentenced him for five years of which three-and-a-half years remain. Immediately after that, sensible and not-so-sensible news coverage started popping up everywhere in the media.

One could read many different news ranging from Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandya Katju requesting a pardon based on Dutt’s influential role in Munnabhai MBBS (this was not meant as a joke) to Satrughan Sinha asking for pardon because Sanjay Dutt’s father late Sunil Dutt was a good person and from Shiv Sena reversing its initial stance and asking Dutt to serve his sentence to Congress’s Digvijay Singh requesting a pardon. My personal favorite though is Rakhi Sawant’s request of herself going to jail in place of him and her reason being, “Dutt is a family man”.

Leaving all these headline-grabbing-news apart, one needs to ponder deeply whether five years sentence to the actor is a sensible decision or not. I am a firm believer that law is equal to all irrespective of the stature of the accused. And yet, I can’t help but think of some alternative way to punish that would have made more sense.

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A gang-rape inside a public transport in the capital of a country where a significant portion of the population worships the female form of god was bound to bring out a huge outcry. Upon the captivity of the culprits, the protestors demanded for severe penalties. Amongst these, two particularly stand out, namely, chemical castration and capital punishment. The rationality behind such demand is that the severity of the punishment would curb from such heinous incidents from repeating. However, I cannot help but question the rationality behind such demand.

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The big speech

Today bade babuji came to the village and talked about the upcoming elections. Wearing a well-pressed, clean, white suit, he looked like a top-notch politician with lots of important work to do. And here he was, standing in the dais talking about our problems and how he, when re-elected, will solve those problems. The confident way in which he talked made me feel that whatever he said was right and that we need not worry about our problems. He talked about building a new road, a clinic with at least one doctor and a primary school nearby. He said he would personally invest in the school and by the looks of it, he seemed to be able to afford it too. Bhanwari, who was besides me in the gathering said that the car in which babuji came was more expensive than all the cows in the village combined! She never lies and never exaggerates so it must be true. During the long speech, babuji’s men distributed snacks packet, containing a ladoo, a gulab-jamun and a samosa, to all the people gathered – all of them. Imagine how much that would have cost and yet babuji was smiling as though money didn’t affect him. Such a generous heart he has. What couldn’t such a man do? Building a mere school would not be a problem for him.

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The IT bust

Over the past decade or two, information and technology industry, popularly termed as the IT industry has boomed in India. Cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Gurgaon have become homes to a large number of multinational companies (MNCs). More than two hundred thousand engineers join the IT industry annually. Moreover, the industry’s share of total Indian export increased from 4% in 1998 to about 25% in 2012. Although these figures glorify the IT industry, upon closer inspection, one realizes a devastating peril waiting to happen.

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Misconception on technology and globalization

Are globalization and speedy dissemination of technology not as beneficial as they have been projected to be? Last time I wrote about making technology accessible for all, there was a question raised regarding cultural values and traditions that are becoming obsolete because of technology and more importantly, globalization – in which technology has played a vital role.

One argument was that rapid technological advancement and globalization have made our society more “westernized” and that our values, tradition are degrading. If one thinks about it, they may not be wrong about it. Majority of people these days prefer Domino’s pizza or Costa’s coffee over, say, Sher-e-Punjab dhaba or chotu ki chai. Moreover, traditional dresses like dhoti  and lungi are fast becoming part of fancy dress parties whereas imported shirts, pants and t-shirts, often associated as western clothing, have become our favorite choices of apparel. Saree and salwar-kameez seem to be somewhat of an exception to this trend although one may attribute this to the fact that these dresses have received some acceptability in western society which is quite apparent here, here and here. But is it wrong that our society is being westernized?

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On women equality

When you take the reserved compartment in the metro, you are, to some extent, accepting your weakness of being unable to fight with the male for a seat in the “regular” compartment. When you wear a burqa despite sweating profusely in the heat of Allahabad and complain about it only to your burqa-wearing mother, you are forgoing your right to dress as you wish and be what you want to be in order to fulfill somebody’s vain desire to “protect” you. When you pick up the bed sheet and fold it, accepting that as your fate and your duty to do it, you implant into the man’s head that he can get away with his whims whilst you clean his mess up. Your utter silence and surrender to societies mindset is part of the problem, in fact, the larger part of it.

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Making Technology Accessible

One could not have imagined weighing of harvest to be so tedious. Isn’t it just putting the harvest on a weighing machine? Apparently, no. In a village in eastern Nepal, there were four people working for more than five hours to weigh 29 kilos (about 64 pounds) of rice grain. They didn’t have a weighing machine; only a small balance scales with a couple of weights. That too, one side of the pan had a small hole. In this modern age where people are advocating the need to make Internet a human right, this situation seemed contrary.

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Recently, I had the privilege of attending an annual assembly of a community development group in rural western district of Nepal. This community was a small one, lacking most of the basic infrastructures that any government should guarantee. With no proper roads or health posts and a single poorly-facilitated primary school, the community seemed to be in a dire need of help from anywhere possible.

The assembly was attended by most of the people of the community. The assembly was to determine annual action plans for the community and the large participation seemed to me to be a very positive thing. But seeing them sleep during the discussion and letting the speaker implement all the programs that he desired made me wonder the possibility of free lunch as an incentive for the large participation. I would not be exaggerating when I say that not one among hundreds of the participants questioned any of the programs described by the speaker.

But when it came to monetary policies especially allocation of the available funds to various activities, people all became aware as if an actor came to dance for them. People started discussing, at least a couple of them did; finally, a silver lining to a rather gloomy cloud. After half an hour of discussion, the speaker finally announced the final plans for the coming year. The announcement shocked me.