Funny observation: the sudden snow made the lecture more interesting

I was in a class last Thursday. It was a pretty hectic day for me and the class was very technical. So, we were all sort of going through the motion of copying notes from the blackboard. You know, the blank look we have towards the blackboard, and often check the clock (when is it gonna end?) when we are completely disengaged in a class! Suddenly the alarm went off! This is my first experience of being present in the classroom at the time of declaration of an emergency alert. The funny thing is that the clock in the classroom stopped showing time after the alert. Anyway, back to the class, the teacher asked, what we all wanted to do, but it was¬†surprising¬†as how most of us including me did not want to end the class and leave. SO we carried on, and we felt different, people were asking questions, and were actively participating and the discussion was productive!!!! I thought to myself, wow, this is new…

My theory to explain this is : when we chose to carry on, we as learners made a “conscious decision” to be there and engage as opposed to a regular scenario when we come to class and often switch off our conscious self. We take the classroom environment, the lecture, the teachers voice, all for granted. May be next time I enter a classroom, I will remind me of my purpose! To engage! to listen and to speak up….I don’t know, may be the teacher also felt a fresh perspective….so it is good for the class!


So moral of the story: More snow needed to improve learner engagement ūüôā ( Please no! It is April and still snowing , what is wrong with the world?)

Edutainment: is it entertaining education or educational entertainment?

Let’s say we are sitting in a classroom. The teacher says if you all listen to the lecture carefully then he/she will tell a story in the end! Or, may be the teacher tells a story or says something¬†entertaining every now and then to keep everyone engaged.¬† Let’s say this method works and results in more learner engagement overall. So it is a productive pedagogical technique to engage learners. However, I don’t like it. I have seen teachers discussing contemporary politics or movies just as a tool to get student’s attention. I think, as long as it is done in a proper context it is OK. For instance, if we are discussing inflation in current political scenario.

My concept of edutainment is different. I think of edutainment as a way to make the learning process fun. To make the learning experience more entertaining, not providing entertainment as and aid to deal with education. By giving the students case studies, project based studies, making it more interactive, increasing more hands on involvement, we can make the entire learning process more entertaining. But I am not going to sing and dance to get my student’s attention. Although, I am not too bad a singer ūüôā

The usefulness of PBL in an web enabled environment

It is not an uncommon experience to loose focus and interest ¬†in a lecture in a typical classroom setting even if the subject matter under consideration is very interesting. In science and technology, often a concept is best understood when seeing something happening and analyzing it. The great scientist and teacher of our time, Richard. P. Feynman said nature does not care what a physicist think. So the best way way to understand it is to poke ¬†it ,¬†observe¬†it and then draw meaningful conclusions. However such a learning process is complemented by lectures and guidance from the teacher. This is the way PBL works. To solve a problem, It is very important to identify the stuff that we know and the stuffs we don’t know. ¬†Here comes the usefulness of internet. In today’s world, information is on the web. If we can identify what to know to bridge our knowledge gap for a certain problem, half the battle is won! Internet can help us do that. PBL would not have been such an effective tool without the internet. The access to the collective wisdom enables us to tackle problems directly and help innovative thinking. ¬†Major universities like University of Leicester now incorporate PBL in their physics program which is very well received by the students.


However, for countries where internet access to all the students are not available, this approach will be a bit difficult to implement.




Inclusive pedagogy: reservation

When we are talking about inclusive pedagogy and its usefulness for an individual learner…..great! and its really useful in many ways. One aspect of inclusiveness in academic institutions is reservation based on cast or religion. This may not be an issue to be frowned upon in global context, but recently in India it has become a major source of¬†controversy!

It is needless to mention there is already enough competition to get into top notch engineering or medical schools, add to that the “quota ” system which reserves upto 50% seats based on various casts. In the first place, reservation of seats for certain¬†unprivileged¬†section of the society is a really good example of an inclusive academic environment. However, having 50% of the total seats reserved is something else!! A large section of students who does not belong to so called unprivileged casts consider¬†themselves¬†“unprivileged” under this scenario.

A recent article depicts the situation quite well

So, while we all embrace the benefits of an inclusive environment in academia, may be it is a good idea to just back up a little and ponder for a while about its adverse effects as well. Also, to what extent  such inclusiveness is implemented should also be examined.




Hello GEDI 2013

Hello everyone,

I am Souvik, welcome to my blog! I am a relatively baby blogger in the sense that I started blogging in the last semester during the course “Preparing For the Future Professoriate” ¬†course. It has been an interesting journey since then. Hopefully I will explore my blogging self more during the course of this semester.

See you soon and take care everyone!



Being a faculty: duties

I already posted this in the forums, but was not sure where exactly to put this. So I am having this blog entry as well.


Throughout the entire course so far we have gone through various aspects of academic world. Faculties are the engines of academia. They help academics progress, survive and adapt. Usually when we think of the term faculty we think of only teachers, educators , professors, lecturers etc. However there are people directly attached to the university or academic institution but indirectly attached to the process of teaching also referred to as faculty.

Le t us evaluate the roles and duties of the faculty in the context of teaching. To me , the main purpose of education is to discover and understand one’s own self. Above everything, the money and the job, education has separate necessity of its own: it is the food of our mind. It therefore becomes important that this simple yet powerful ¬†philosophy should be kept in mind while imparting education. Thus faculty has to be aware of his/her role in imparting or transferring the knowledge to the student. It is also important to share the neutral perspective on a subject rather than a prejudiced one in from t of the students and then help them analyze the pros and the cons and let them decide on their own.

It is important during the course of teaching to develop a friendly yet respectable position with the students. While  the friendships let students open the doors and windows of their minds, the respect acts a strong guiding influence steering them through the right path.

The duties do not end inside the classroom. It is important for a faculty to be a critic of the outside world.  Also a faculty should always in some way give back to the society, contribute some way towards its welfare of the.

One of the most important duties is the pursuit of knowledge in terms of research.  A faculty should always be actively involved in research and communicating the findings.

The proper guidance and mentoring is a must for development of a student into an independent scholar. Mentoring from a faculty is thus an important quality. One should keep in mind that mentoring and teaching are not the same thing. While teaching a teacher points out specific details and thus shows the student a zoomed in view, mentoring is about making them aware of the bigger picture, how individual pieces fit together, understanding the perspective. So , in effect, a mentor shows the zoomed out picture.

A faculty should help industry and Government whenever the opportunity presents and also be on the lookout  of  financial support  from them. This will help to improve the infrastructure of the academic institution. They sometime may have to represent the university to provide an opinion on a social issue. It is important in this context not to present a prejudiced opinion and rather accurate represent the stance of the university on that particular issue.

Being a faculty, thus one needs to keep these points in mind,

A course-a journey! PFP 2012

The semester is almost over. For most of us it has been a struggle as always and for some lucky few it has been a cruise! I was thinking about this semester, the PFP course and all the marvelous experiences I had in the classroom and this chronicle article caught my eye:

Several things ran through my mind as I went through it:

  • The most beautiful part of the article was the comparison of a course with a journey.¬†It is time to turn in our “being a faculty” article for the course and under this context the article provided a wonderful perspective on this. The author compares the faculty as the instructor who highlights and “coaxes” students to some sights to explore.
  • In the end only certain peak experience will remain in our mind and when we look back in retrospect, these peaks will help form an opinion about how good the course was. If we think of our PFP course from that perspective, there are plenty of large peaks on happy memory associated which I am sure will remain in my heart forever. PFP 2012 is a wonderful journey for me which sadly is about to end ūüôĀ
  • Finally the most heartening fact for lazy people like me is that ¬†quoting the author, “And even this late in the semester, there’s still time left to make that lasting impression.”¬† This gives me extra push towards this late in the semester

Happy exams to everyone and best of luck! ūüôā


Entrepreneurship in higher education

I always wanted to write about it. I don’t remember anyone talking about this aspect in the blogs.(pardon me if I missed) We all look for jobs when we graduate from our universities. Specially in higher education, after finishing Masters and PHD we look for jobs in industry or faculty position in some universities or may be research scientist in a prestigious lab or even a post-doc. Al this is fine, but do we ever think of having our own company? having our own ideas patented, offering new products to the society? Do we ever think in those lines?

I think a lot of us do but only a very very very very few entertain such thoughts because it is a high risk high return¬†endeavor. We love to have financial security which comes with a fixed job. Entrepreneurship however requires risk taking, improvising, understanding the business side and having vision and foresight. I came to know recently that VT offers a lot of free services which student can use like attorneys etc.Students interested in setting up a start-up company can use these services to come up with writing proposals and grants. They can also help to file a patent. The language in a patent is kind of tricky. So it is useful to use their help. There are lots of other things required for successfully setting up a start-up company. For international students, the financial aspect is also complicated due to their visa status (20 hours per week and that’s it).

What do you think about this?


Circumlocution: our tools of the trade these days?

I recently read an interesting article in the Chronicle about the use of circumlocutory language and phrases to mesmerize common people  in academia and industry. It is very amusing to note that some people like to use complex words to describe their work designation or even their research to common people.

I was wondering, am I guilty of the same thing? and what is the psychology of these people behind doing that? Well, the use of esoteric words in scientific community is very common. It seems as if scientists feel that the concepts and facts they learned after years of tireless¬†pursuit should not be presented in a simplified way to the common people. As ¬†if they think: why that person will be able to understand so quickly what took me years to understand? Or may be they think: If I present a simplified common-man’s-language¬†description¬†of my research they might not think highly of my research or they may not consider me as a smart guy!

I do not know exactly what transpires such¬†behavior.¬†However, ¬†Often listening to the lectures of “Khan Academy” in youtube ( where they use common man’s language ) I get the feeling that, O, so that was it!, and that teacher in my school made it look like so difficult! He could have simply said this!

What do you think?




How simple should we make things?

There are lot of different concepts on how to best explain something to someone who are not even remotely familiar to that. Different educators have experimented different pedagogical techniques over the years. There is a popular belief that it is best to tell your audience  what you are going to talk about, then talk about that and finally tell them what you just talked about. This seems to help register the contents of the lecture. During the last few classes in our PFP course we were going over how to effectively and  efficiently communicating science to a broader audience. So I was wondering about this and a different train of thoughts came to my mind.

When we talk about communicating science to a broader audience, the question is how different is that role from an educator who wants to transfer knowledge to the student through his/her lecture?

I think, the teacher student scenario is a bit different from a science communicator-broad audience scenario. While it is always helpful to reduce the¬†jargon¬†and use common easily¬†perceived¬†examples to explain something in both scenarios, presenting a too simplistic picture to the student is something I don’t like. This might be OK for a broader audience. They are, at least not all of them, entirely eager in¬†pursuit¬†of the true scientific truth. The idea there is more to get a sense of association of the scientific work in the society: how it fits in. This help them decide its relevance and importance and whether or not to support it. For a student however, half-truth or simplistic versions of complex concepts are dangerous. When we are so engrossed in speaking common man’s language, the science may get lost in translation. It is important for an educator to present an as simple view of the truth as possible, as he knows it, ¬†to the student, but still pointing out the challenges and difficulties that make it interesting! The student should be given the opportunity to judge and appreciate ¬†the complexity of a concept. I don’t know if this is a personal thought and I am sure others have different opinion. So what do you think?

O, by the way, happy thanksgiving to everyone!