Thursday, September 29, 2016

Discipline, what is it and why do we need it?

Dictionary meaning of discipline: the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience

So discipline is all about rules and punishment for not obeying it.
To go deeper into discipline we should question, What should be the rules? And what should be the punishment?
Without defining the two, we can't really address discipline issue.

Most of the time neither the rules are defined and made public. Neither the rules are practical enough to be followed.

The first step should be to define the classroom rules, rules must be simple so that students remember the rule, as no one will remember complex rules:

While I teach I have made 4 rules that work pretty well.

1) As I teach with discussion friendly, inquiry-based learning, I faced a big problem, where students always try to talk out of the context and irrelevant things. So I made a rule that for half an hour no one will talk or ask any irrelevant questions (not related to the topic) or discuss it.
2) No use  of mobile and internet for half an hour.  But the internet is allowed with permission and reason for use. Mobile use by students distracts them completely from studies.
3) This is a new rule I added when these naughty students started using funny irrelevant filler while they talk with their classmate when I ask them a question/discuss. I said you can't use irrelevant fillers because its distracts you from concentrating on the topic.
4) Another problem I faced is when I speak or discuss the query of a particular student, other students don't pay attention or listen to me. As the query is not made by the student, they don't feel to listen to it. So I said them not just to listen, but WHY to listen to your friend queries?
Why listen to other students queries?
a) If you already understood the answers of questions, you will have a deeper understanding of the answers
b) You will learn about teamwork and get involved with your friends in learning. If you talk about other matters and have fun with friends, then why not also participate in discussing the material of the subjects.

What is the punishment for disobeying the rule?
The punishment is simple, just remind them the rule when they don't obey it, and sometimes they face anger from me if they don't do it.

But I have only a few students in the classroom, most of the schools have more than 40 students, different approaches can be made to tackle indiscipline with trail and error, to know what works best and what not, like using cameras in the classroom, giving them particular task that is beneficial to them as punishment for disobedience etc. ( Not like writing the misspelled word for thousands times or corporal punishment, which I used to get in schools)

But  still I face many problems with students, but not behavior issues, it related to time spent outside the classroom which I have no control, also about in hurry to complete the syllabus. I have my limited time, which I can give them. That's the autonomy skills and self-motivation that they have to learn while outside the classroom.

So the most important thing here is, it not about just giving them the rule book to follow, but convincing them why the rule is made for their benefits and how it will benefit them?

Another important article that I like the most is
and there are other articles about discipline which teachers can go through.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bacteria and Competition: How it's similar to human? and Why we should have family planning?

Growth of the bacteria refers to an increase in bacterial numbers
When bacteria is grown in a liquid nutrient medium, the population is counted at many time intervals, and we get a bacterial growth curve that represents growth of cells over time.

Why bacterial growth curve is so important?
It gives the idea to learn about the impact of competition in the simplest way. It gives the answer what happens to a population when resources are limited.

Bacterial growth best suits even to describe the human population.
In science, there are 4 phases, but for simplistic understanding, without any scientific jargon it can be three stages: Thrive, Survive, and Deteriorate

Image from wikipedia (A: Lag phase, B: Log phase, C: Stationary phase, D: Death phase)

Stage 1: Thrive
In this phase bacteria has sufficient resources, so bacteria flourish, prosper or grow vigorously.

In science, it's the lag phase and log phase.

In the lag phase, there is no cell division, but cells are not dormant, they undergo intense metabolic activity, synthesizing enzymes and various molecules
In log phase, cells begin to divide. Cellular reproduction is most active during this period.

Stage 2: Survive
When the population growth is unchecked, we reach a stage, where no more population growth is allowed, because of exhaustion of nutrients, accumulation of waste products, and harmful changes in pH etc. In science, it's called stationary phase.

Stage 3: Deteriorate
It's called death phase, in which population is diminished to a tiny fraction of the number of cells in the previous phase or there is an entire death of population. It could be caused by lack of nutrients, due to lethal toxic conditions

This is true for all living organisms. All organisms compete for resources till it gets depleted or environment gets noxious.

In the case of humans, we can see all the three stages in different places. Some thrive, some manage to survive, and those who can't deteriorate.

The disparity in the case of human can be compared with bacteria who use of antibiotics, which kills other bacterias so that it itself can thrive and overcome competition of resources.

If we ask for anyone which of the stage will you choose, it would be "thrive" without any question.

So can we perpetually stay in the thriving stage?
Bacteria and humans have one big different, we have got a brain with a huge amount of memory. A brain that can learn and understand things looking at the environment and other organisms, and take decisions accordingly. A brain that searches for reproducibility to predict what will happen if these conditions are met. Bacteria can't decide to stop reproduction so that it doesn't go to the "survive" or "deteriorate" stage. But we can.

We can't grow our population infinitely with limited resources and pollute our environment if you do get ready to deteriorate. We should have family planning based upon the available resources and income. Our kids need to thrive, not survive due to limited resources or deteriorate due to malnutrition. There must be a feedback mechanism, that decides, how much kids do a parent can have based upon income and time of parent, how much a country can have based upon its resources, how much the earth can withstand?

What policies should we make for family planning?
Next post...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jupyter notebook to write notes and exercises, learn by applying knowledge

Jupyter notebook can be used to make your notes and solve exercises with programming without using pen and paper.

In order to write notes, you can use markdown which is a very simple markup language and can be learned within 15mins to get started. You can use latex and Unicode characters to write equations and symbols.
To learn latex you can use google, e.g. website
Jupyter notebook can be used in any subjects where the calculation is required, such as physics, mathematics, economics, even biology etc.
No need to scratch your head, if you forgot the formula, or made mistakes in calculation when done with pen and paper.
Learn by applying things that will be useful in real life situations

Everyone should learn code, in early age just like other subjects. One computer to each child is required.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When to respond to the attackers? Are you giving free airtime to them?

If you are popular and have power, everything you do, share influences others. Anything you speak or write publicly, it's shared by thousands of people. So it's become very important to learn how to speak and write publicly.  You become the center of information, which gets transferred to everyone.

Whatever you speak is most likely to be attacked because different people have different opinions, and some may have vested interest to attack. More controversial the topic is more attackers you will have. As a human we dislike attacks, so we start defending the attacks.

Does responding to the attacks helps?
In most of the time, it doesn't. You are only giving free airtime to them, knowing that you will respond, they will attack with a greater intensity.

So what to do in such situation? If the critic is as popular as you, he/she can propagandize his opinion in a biased manner, even spreading rumors, non-factual, partial information that is logically correct to convince people that he/she is right.

The most important thing here is completely limiting the response. Responding needs to be very thoughtful and FACTUALLY correct, not opinion based so that no one can FALSIFY it. No need to be in a hurry to respond, collect all facts and then respond. Opinion based response only brings more controversies and gives more airtime to the attacker. Also no need to be in denial mode, if you said something factually incorrect, apologize for it, and give the correct information. But never indulge in opinion based arguments when you know that critic will not accept your opinion, no matter how much hard you try.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Completely simplifying UTS Ticketing System which can be used everywhere

Simplifying UTS Ticketing System which can be used in every station:
We need two things:
1) OTP generator in Station (To track the location, no requirement of GPS)
2) A mobile app for payment and entering the OTP

Railways job is to provide a unique account id and password to each customer after authenticating them.

Use that unique account id and password to register on the app. You can add and change the mobile number. You can also change the password.

When you go to the station, in the OTP generator, enter the unique account id, and get the OTP displayed on the OTP generator. OTP can also be sent to the mobile. OTP will work only for 15 mins etc.

Enter the OTP on the registered mobile app, choose the route, pay and get ticket by SMS

Payment can be done with using payment gateways or with balance kept on the account. You can add balance with payment gateways, may be with depositing money through railways or directly through gateways when you have no balance in your account.

It solves most of the problem of UTS Ticketing system, such as GPS, unable to change the mobile number, to carry your identification such as voter id etc.

Booking ticket without the internet:

The  OTP generator now will also work as ticket generator.
Enter the unique account id into the OTP generator, choose the route in the OTP generator, get the OTP on the phone, enter the OTP on the generator,  get the ticket through SMS or even paper. But in this case, money should be present in the account already. You can recharge your account online anywhere.

Do suggest if you have any question or any problem with this method. What are the ways do think you can travel in a dishonest manner, by finding the loophole in the system?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Internet: Centralization vs Decentralization, but we need both and going open source

The Internet has become all centralized, whether you use a search engine, use social networks or anything you need to.

Complete centralization has many demerits
1) Our data is no more ours
2) Data remains in the hands of the giant, so is the ranking of data. You have no control over what you want to see, it's the machine learning algorithm that they use on our big data, which can be selective and can be biased
3) Increasing monopoly, all power remains with the only couple of superpowers
4) If the central server shuts down, the internet is gone, so we need a plan B.

So, centralization has become a necessary evil, because decentralization such as peer to peer technology doesn't solve the technical issues, that centralization solve.

Instead of making centralization and decentralization, mutually exclusive, there can be another way "a hybrid of both". Hybrid makes everything open source and distributing the power to everyone.

A hybrid technology need two things:
1) Many central servers which host the index files and other services, the analogy of many central servers can be Ubuntu Linux servers, which are kept sync.
2) Your personal computer, also many other always online hosting servers, which can host the files (a distributed database) available for both download and upload,

Using a hybrid technology, it addresses many issues, such as easy to set up and cost effective. You need not have to buy or invest a huge amount on scalable servers.

It can be a disruptive technology, but requires a painstaking specification and software.
A usual browser will no more work, and the communication protocol will be completely different.
It has also many hitches such as security, encryption, data integrity etc which need to be overcome.

I have started to build a rough sketch on how it should work in a naive manner:

For making a query we need 4 operations (CRUD: Create, Read, Update, and Delete)

Create Operation:
Create operation requires an assembling central server. The function of assembling central server is to create a chuck of a name and store all the create queries done by different clients. When the file size grows, it will be called a complete chunk which is ready to be downloaded by different clients for hosting it.

Read Operation:
It requires table name which can be mapped with index file to get chunk name. After getting the chunk name, IP address of available clients who has the chunk is mapped and the data is fetched.

Delete Operation:
It also requires table name which can be mapped with index file to get chunk name. After getting the chunk name, it's id of the table field is obtained and stored in the delete index file.
Whenever any other client comes online, fetches the delete index file, and deletes the specific data with permission.

Update Operation:
It's a complicated issue because we can't update all the data dispersed in the network, an update should be a creation of a new index on a table and then delete the old index of the table, and mapping of old table index and new table index is kept in another update index file. During a read operation, this update index file is also used to fetch the query.

Also, a feedback index can be kept, to keep track of spams etc.

Also downloading the updated index file must be personalized to keep the index file size as small as possible, and index file will be downloaded based upon each page you visit.

It's just a rough sketch, that came to my mind, more details and better ways can also be discovered in doing the things.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Way mathematics is taught, need a disruptive change

Mathematics needs a disruptive change, students who are not better problem solvers in all other fields are bad in it.

UNDERSTANDING how the calculation works is the most important step to test and analyze a problem.

A most common problem with students who are scared of mathematics is not understanding how fractions work.

What will happen if you divide a decimal number between 0 and 1 with 1000 and 10,000 etc?
What will happen if you multiply it with 1000 and 10,000 etc.?
What is the meaning of 1/3 * 1/4? What is actually happening in it?
How to divide a smaller number, for example, a decimal number between 0 and 1,  with a bigger number? What are you actually doing in this way, how will you explain it with the example, such as a cake or tiles?
How to subtract a decimal number between 0 and 1 with a number greater than one?

Fractions are everywhere, you will find not a single field in which you will not find its (mathematics) application, whether you do physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, psychological studies, computer science, economics or any field.

Mathematics is not "all about memorizing rules", it's about understanding why and where the rules work.

If you pay attention to understanding, a student will find mathematics more interesting and always try it to apply in real life situations. Memorizing rules are also taken cared of indirectly.

Need a disruptive change in how mathematics is taught in class, so that they understand why the rules work and what and where are its applications.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Building scientific real world problem-solving temper among students by transforming our entrance exams

Using just MCQs for entrance exams has many drawbacks. MCQs just test examiner way of thinking, not students, neither it tests originality of students.

MCQs don't test what approach a student took to solve the problem, or why he/she was unable to solve it. Also, even if (s)he knows the strategy to solve the problem, many times (s)he can't reach the solution, because of mistakes in intermediate steps. The result is losing the marks.
There are situations like unable to do the calculations, unable to recall the formula, even if he/she understand how the formula works.

How many times you as a student feel frustrated for doing irrelevant silly mistakes and lose marks? I find many being frustrated for doing minor calculation errors, unable to recall even if they know it. Students are treated in a manner as if they are completely not allowed to make any mistakes.

A question in chemistry about the rate of reaction does not test your logarithmic knowledge of mathematics. Even though it's required to solve the problem, but is the question really testing it. Logarithmic knowledge can be tested in math papers. Even if student understand how to solve the problem, he can't reach the solution.

Steps for solving real world problem
1)The student needs to understand the problem (understanding requires understanding of subjects in detail, understanding is the goal, not the marks)
3) Developing strategies to how to solve the problem
2)Know the right tools with which you can solve it. e.g. A simple equation can be solved by a calculator or a computer program
3) Need to know how to use these tools e.g. You can't use calculator to solve a mathematical operation without knowing division is done prior to addition when not it brackets

But MCQs disallows us to use the right tools to solve the problem.

Another thing is the time limit. What is important is whether he solved the problem or not within an acceptable time limit e.g. in days or hours? You can't expect everyone to solve the problem in minutes.

Another important drawback is student spend all their time to solve the same type of problem, e.g. about 300 of questions for each type of equation. Is such an effort required? It only hinders them to learn something new.

So what transformation is required in our entrance exams?

Entrance exam should be divided into two parts:
1) Multiple choice questions should be set in a manner so that it tests their fundamental UNDERSTANDING of the subjects.
2) Selection through projects or working idea submitted. More weightage to projects than MCQs paper
This will completely discourage students to run behind marks, students will become more innovative, and try to solve real problems, rather than problems of books. All students will start thinking about the problem that the country or world is facing.

How can it be done?
We need a transparent mechanism using tools such as a website.
Students need to submit their projects there.
All projects should go under plagiarism checker and projects that do not meet the originality criteria should be rejected.
The selection procedure should be left to the universities.  They can select students based upon the projects, but they have to provide the detailed reasoning of selection as feedback.
After selection procedure is done, the projects should be available for open review, to check whether colleges are selecting in a proper manner or not.
Intellectual property rights can be given to students that meet the criteria of it.

(Students spend years for preparing entrance exam, imagine how transformative effect it will have if they use that time for real problem-solving projects)

What should be the criteria of projects?
Projects that are already done, ongoing projects are acceptable, also new ideas (ideas with every nitty-gritty, not just one line, giving details requires research, but one liner don't) are also acceptable. Multiple ideas or projects are also acceptable.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

PISA sample question: Why I was unable to solve a question?

In a test, it's important to know the thinking process of a student, why a student is able to solve a problem and most importantly why he/she COULDN'T.

If you understand why he/she couldn't do in details, you can address his/her problem and take corrective measure.

Mount Fuji is a famous dormant volcano in Japan.
The Gotemba walking trail up Mount Fuji is about 9 kilometres (km) long. Walkers need to return from the 18 km walk by 8 pm.

Toshi estimates that he can walk up the mountain at 1.5 kilometres per hour on average, and down at twice that speed. These speeds take into account meal breaks and rest times.

Using Toshi's estimated speeds, what is the latest time he can begin his walk so that he can return by 8 pm?

The answer says 11 a.m., but the problem with me is understanding the question itself.

I didn't know the meaning of trail, so I checked the dictionary,  which says a long line or series of marks that is left by something or somebody. So does the question says Gotemba has already walked 9 kilometers? I assumed the same. As walkers need to return from 18 km walk by 8 pm, I thought, he has to only travel 9 km to reach by 8 pm. Also, the question has not given what is the height of the mountain, so I assumed it as 9 km. So, he will walk with speed 1.5 + 1.5 = 3 km/hr for distance 9 km. If he takes 3 km per hour how much time does he needs to take to travel 9 km. It's 3 hours. So I subtracted 8 pm with 3 to get 5 pm.

As you can see, question don't test the ability to understand average speed, distance etc. Even if you are clear about the working of averages, you can't solve it because you didn't understand the question itself.