Importance of Teaching Science Correctly!

I am writing this post on my blog after a long time…………………the thing is this: I write when I feel passionate about a certain topic or news; mostly they are about (a) teaching and learning (of especially science) and (b) women’s’ issues (especially at workplaces).

So here’s is my latest on teaching of science CORRECTLY, because of a news item on the recent total solar eclipse in the US on 21st Aug 2017.

…………. I came across a CNN news discussion about this.  And this image about Trump eclipsing Obama:

T and O - eclipse

Here’s how WRONG this is!!

  • The Sun remains after an eclipse, but the moon moves away!
  • The moon eclipses the Sun from right -to-left: that is from west-to-east and not the other way round!!
  • And lastly, the moon is the one that is dark, and the Sun is the one that is shining brightly!

This indeed such an incorrect and inane stuff………………I hope my readers will understand, and share! Thnx.

Also, please do read this nice article, from where I took the image: http://time.com/4914037/donald-trump-barack-obama-eclipse-meme.  It says how this meme makes no sense 🙂

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My New Horizon……..!!

Today, as I read and hear about the probe New Horizons and its fly-by around Pluto, my mind is flooded with memories of my first school named New Horizon, near Beltala, Kolkata. I must have spent some 2 years there, at the age of 4-5 years (it was such a small school that they probably do not have a website either, so I have no picture of my first school, unfortunately!).

I write this blog to say how New Horizon taught me a few things important for life!

The school was close to my place. I would generally walk to my school with my maid. On the way, there was a foot path with milk chocolate coloured squares, and since I loved Cadbury’s (that was a generic name for all chocolates in those days, as it was the only chocolate available in India) I would love to walk on that. My sisters and parents even nick named that footpath as Cadbury footpath!

I still remember that I would like to go to school early, and choose my table and chair – red in colour. There was only one set of each colour, so red was something we kids ran to get hold of. One day there was this guy whole ‘stole’ my red table and chair, and I was so annoyed that I picked a fight with him. The class teacher was very nice, she explained to me to take another set of table and chair, as it was not that important, it did not matter in the class.

That was a life’s lesson learnt – learning matters and not something superfluous.

We even had a rest period, where we kids would go to a reasonably big hall and lie down on ‘chatai’ or a thin straw carpet. There was this obnoxious girl who would lie next to me and do some horrible gestures (she was 4, and so was I, imagine!!), till the teacher noticed and asked her to stay from me!

Another of life’s lesson learnt – choose your friends carefully.

I don’t remember doing anything remarkable in the school, but I knew that the principal, with silvery gray hair, short and cropped, always in a crisp pastel coloured cotton sarees, used to like me.  Soon I shifted to a bigger school, and the New Horizon school also shifted to a larger premises, and all was forgotten, until a few days ago…………………………

Later in life, I chose to do Physics, and I love my subject. I eat, and breathe science (mostly Physics) all the time; I am absolutely passionate about disseminating it through my writings and workshops. Sometimes I feel that it is unfortunate that I do not hold a permanent job (many unforeseen reasons for that) , but so be it……….it does not in any way diminish my passion and enthusiasm for science at all.

And as I watch the images of Nasa’s New Horizons fly by of Pluto, I feel how hard the team must have worked for years and years; I can feel their excitement and pride. It is indeed a definite milestone for human explorations and endeavours, and an absolute technological and scientific feat.

Another of life’s very important lesson on display now – for anything big to succeed – hard work, dedication, vision, leadership, years of planning are definitely needed.  And collaborations between large teams – the order of the day!

I hope the New Horizons team get more funding and continue to explore Kuiper Belt objects long after the Pluto mission is over. Good luck to them; now I wait to watch the TV program Eating Breakfast with Pluto presented by my favourite science presenter Neil deGrasse Tyson!

pluto-timeline-e1430337464236

 

Aside: Two things are very close to my heart – science/technology progress and women’s issues. I just heard today on CNN that in the New Horizons project 25% of the team are women. Hurray! Great going girls!

Learning Models – Active, Passive and Blended

We can all learn, but we don’t all learn in the same way. Where learning is concerned, there is no one approach that fits all people. Learning models help us to make sense of the teaching-learning processes. Learning models provide teachers with an organized system for creating an appropriate learning environment, and planning instructional activities.

In this blog I would like to discuss just three learning models that has meaning in the new ed-tech environment of the 21st century:

  • Passive learning
  • Active learning
  • Blended learning

 

Passive Learning

Passive learning occurs when students use their senses to take in information from a lecture, reading assignment, or audiovisual. This is the mode of learning most commonly present in classrooms. It is used to acquire ideas and information that is available for recall.

Advantages:

  1. Can present a great deal of information in a short period of time.
  2. Lecture notes, handouts, and audiovisual media can be selected and prepared in advance.
  3. Controlled environment (faculty more comfortable).
  4. Good for new faculty member or one who is teaching new content.
  5. Students most often prefer this approach (they are used to this method of teaching).
  6. Important concepts and content identified a concrete, organized, and meaningful manner.
  7. Students have lower anxiety levels and feel more secure with this method.

Disadvantages:

  1. Little opportunity to assess how well students are learning the content.
  2. Little time for questions, clarification, or discussion.
  3. Students may not feel comfortable letting faculty know that they do not understand key concepts, they are reluctant to ask questions in class, or they may not ask enough questions to clarify their misunderstandings.
  4. Does not require consistent use of higher-level cognitive skills (no opportunity for application).
  5. May become tedious and boring.

Active learning

Active learning involves the student through participation and investment of energy in all three phases of the learning process (input, operations, and feedback). This type of learning is more apt to stimulate higher cognitive processes and critical thinking.

Advantages:

  1. May increase critical thinking skills in students.
  2. Enables students to show initiative.
  3. Involves students by stimulating them to talk more.
  4. Incorporates more student input and ideas.
  5. Easier to assess student learning.
  6. Better meets the needs of students with varying learning styles.

Disadvantages:

  1. Faculty need to be expert in the content area.
  2. May be difficult to organize active learning experiences.
  3. Requires more time and energy and may be stressful for faculty.
  4. Faculty may receive less favourable evaluations from students.
  5. Students may be stressed because of the necessity to adapt to new ways of learning.

Blended Learning

The convergence of traditional, classroom based teaching and modern, technology based learning, may be termed as blended learning model; this can been further modified and adopted to meet the varied needs of its diverse audience, to make it more learner centric and adaptive. It is a a good mixture of active and passive learning.

The blended learning model has many components, and is utilised to emphasise the philosophy of ‘any time, any place, and any path, any pace’ for the benefit of its students.

Here are some of the components of a blended learning model:

  1. eLearning/Video
  2. Workbook/Self Study
  3. Virtual classroom
  4. Face to face teaching
  5. Blogs, Wikies and discussions
  6. On-line quizzes, exams
  7. Projects and hand-on work

Blended Learning

Blended learning model can be used for a flipped classroom also. The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

The value of a flipped class is in the repurposing of class time into a workshop-style interaction where students can inquire about lecture content, test their skills in applying knowledge, and do hands-on activities. During class sessions, instructors function as coaches or facilitators, encouraging students in individual inquiry and collaborative effort.

Since blended learning model is a mix of active and passive learning, it has all the advantages and disadvantages as mentioned above. But in the ed-tech environment of the 21st century,  it looks that blended learning is the way forward.

Should We Measure ROI or ROE in Education?

The Ed-Tech environment is definitely improving the quality of education, especially in the higher education sector where lack of good teachers in the ‘chalk and talk’ class is dwindling (they are probably moving to ‘click and tick’ class on-line!)

But any change in a system is expensive; introducing educational technology in traditional learning methodologies is definitely cost and effort intensive. But this has to be done now, because learners these days are different, their preferences have changed, and they have the option to shop around for what suits them in the plethora of course options.

Many have argued that the structure of an educational institution, be it school, college or university, must undergo a paradigm shift from the instruction delivery to learning opportunities. In the new scheme, each faculty becomes designer of learning content and maintaining a learner-centered environment. Curriculum design is based on an analysis of what a student needs to know to function in a complex world which can be re-designed and offered on needs basis.

Now comes the cost. Up until now education in India was considered to be a social sector, financed by the government or charitable trusts. These days education has become quite expensive, especially higher education. Stakeholders have to finance salaries, infrastructure costs, costs for course curriculums and course upgrades, and costs of certification and official recognition amongst other expenditures. Learners have to dish out fees to access these in a physical form. Since any learning (that is what goes inside a learner’s head, and causes change in his/her attitude and behaviour) is very individualistic, most education is ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, and learners have to find their own way to develop their skills and competencies.

Since it is difficult to measure the usefulness of acquiring some education, we judge the ‘goodness’ of the monies spent by getting high marks, passing some exams, and getting into renowned colleges or obtaining a great job. The gratification on the monies spent happens many many years later……………it is unlike buying a soap or a pizza! Therefore, the ROI is hard to measure in short term. Getting any formal education is a long, lonely and almost a personal journey………….and if the journey does not end with a meaningful and fulfilling job and life, it is a meaningless journey!

These days as a result of the recent economic downturn, and growing student loans, the importance of ROI for various academic degrees, are being discussed. ROI is often touted to be crucial for students to know so they can determine what degrees will allow them to obtain higher-paying jobs to maximize their ROI as soon as possible after completing a degree or certificate. By contrast, ROI is often discredited by critics as a short-sighted measure of degree worth (or value) that ignores the importance of a broader educational experience, and that critical-thinking skills and a broad college experience are more important than simply being able to find a high-paying job after college.

In a recent CNN documentary on ‘Ivory Towers’ it is shown that meaning of obtaining education has undergone a much needed correction. I suggest that instead of measuring ROI, we should propose to measure ROE – a return on expectations, since expectations from a course curriculum can be promised, and measured using various assessment techniques (please see my earlier article on Analytical Framework, and Quality Assurance). ROI for investors and learners will be different, but ROE can be the same for all concerned, and that would be a good metric to start with, is it not?

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