29 January 2012

Apple and education

Recently I came across a news report about Apple's new author support software. As a free download, it can be useful to a wide range of professionals including K-12 teachers, managers and authors. If  used properly, the software can bring in significant improvement in computer assisted K-12 classroom processes and teacher development. Hats off to Apple.

28 January 2012

Picture from Peter and Pam

Peter Minter taught Design Technology and I taught Physics in a Southern African school. We were members of a multinational team of teachers (from Australia to Zimbabwe). Peter was a very softspoken person; his wife Pam was a homemaker. They too resided in the staff quarters.

Me, Pam and Peter
Sometimes when Minters went on outings I had the pleasure of feeding the fishes in their aquarium. As we were of nearly the same age group, we had common interests.

Once Pam organised an exhibition of her works of art in Alliance Francais, Gaborone (where I studied 2 levels of French). As a good friend, I also attended the exhibition. At that time she asked me to point out my most favourite one from the exhibits. To my pleasant surprise, the very next day, they sent the picture to me and said that it was a gift to a `good friend'!

Picture from Pam and Peter
I think that good friendship has no barriers.

26 January 2012

Off the beaten track: Outing during holidays

When we have long weekends or holidays, it is not usually easy to go for outings and  enjoy communicating with nature in highly polluted cities like Chennai where I live.  This is one of the reasons why I have always liked to live in villages (or towns such as those in which I worked during my tenure in Africa many years back). Travelling on African roads was always pleasant as you can understand from the following photo which shows the road between Addis Ababa (Capital city of Ethiopia) and Sheno, a village near the city. I taught Physics in Sheno Secondary School in 1982-83. I and my newly married wife used to travel to the city almost every weekend.

This evening, my memory took me to an enjoyable visit to the gigantic Victoria Falls in the late 80's. Local people call it "Mosi-oa-tunya" which means "The smoke that thunders". (Back home in India, I remember a visit to the beautiful Hogenakkal waterfalls near Bengaluru when I was a high school student. `Hogenakal' comes from the Kannada language term `Hogeiyina kallu' which, interestingly, means nearly the same as that of Vic Falls).

I enjoyed self-driving my car to the falls located at nearly 2000 km from where I worked, thanks to my trust worthy Toyota Corolla and nice Southern African highways.  Staying overnight enroute would be no problem, thanks to my camping kit (which I always used to  carry).

As we drive, we can hear the sound of the spectacular falls several kilometres before reaching the site. If we are lucky, we can see beautiful animals such as elephants and giraffes crossing the road much gentler than we do.

As we reach the site, the beauty of the waterfalls and the rain forest in front of it overwhelmes of our thought. As soon as we enter the gate, we come across a statue of David Livingstone, who is considered to have discovered Victoria Falls. Like Niagara Falls which has the US and Canada on its sides, Vic Falls has Zambia and Zimbabwe on its sides. There is a bridge which connects these two commonwealth countries.
In front of David Livingstone's statue

In front of the rain forest
Sometimes, I used to  travel with friends such as Balasubramanian (fondly called `Bala'). (Bala was one of the officers deputed from Indian Air force to impart training to local Air Force Personnel). He was a very nice person from a Brahmin parentage. The above two  photograhs were taken by Bala.
L to R: I, Bala's younger son, Mrs Bala and Bala

L to R: Sitting: I and Bala's elder son Standing: Bala's younger son and Mrs Bala. This photo was also taken by  Bala. The background setting is a Southern African styled cottage
Bala's younger son and I in front of the Zambia - Zimbabwe bridge
The sight of elephants and giraffes during the visit was so exciting that I liked to decorate my residence with their pictures. Interestingly, Pam Minter, wife of Peter Minter, a good friend and colleauge of mine, gave a picture of a giraffe made by her, as a gift to me.
Pam's work adorning my kitchen
On realising that the picture deserved a better place, I shifted it to my living room.

My living room

L to R: I, Pam Minter and Peter Minter
Later, I'll write about Minters.

Today being republic day, I took leave from my office.  During lunch, I came across Sir Richard Attenborough's award winning movie `Gandhi' in which Ben  Kingsley acts as charismatic Bapuji. It was a touching movie. Although I have never seen Gandhiji, I belong to a generation in which national leaders continued to be respected for right reasons.

When we look back into all the years since independence, we can  easily sense as to how fast corruption has crept into our systems of governence including primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Although it is nearly two years since Right to Education Act got introduced, many questions remain to be  answered. I hope that education professionals in goverment departments and education NGOs work hand in hand with stakeholders particularly at grassroots' levels (e.g. financially weaker sections in communities) toward a common goal: Quality Education for  all children.

22 January 2012

Kodak camera

Day before yesterday, as I was sipping tea during the office teabreak, I happened to read a news report on the financial situation of Eastman Kodak Limited. Though I and numerous photography enthusiasts like me may not have anything do with the company, the report took me back to my middle school days when my father gave a kodak box camera as compensation to the assistance which I rendered when he worked as an examiner for State Board Examinations (he used to mark students' answer sheets and I used to add the marks after he finished marking).

The gift came at a time when `Kannan', my most favourite childrens' magazine, carried a series of articles on how to take good photographs. This paved the way for a very interesting hobby, which I continued pursuing until the late '90s when I returned from South Africa. I used this box camera to take my first ever photograph.

Though I moved on to better cameras such as Agfa buffer type (which my father had used earlier) and then to smaller cartridge cameras, my first camera is unforgettable.

15 January 2012

Culture and arts in K-12 curriculum

If you turn the pages of K-12 curriculum documents of many coutries, you can find a close knit connection between their culture, arts and the school curriculum.

With the absense of value education and arts periods in many of our schools, it is not only important to develop quality curricula but also lesson materials connected to our Indian culture, traditions and art forms across subjects.

I had always tried to use our cultural traditions and art forms including choreography when teaching different subjects in my classrooms. My students not only understood lesson concepts well but also developed an appreciation for art forms such as this one.

In today's global context, it is important to impart culture and arts based education by using resources from other countries as well such that they can help children to appreciate cultural fusion.

(It seems that our textbooks have made a beginning in this direction by using articles such as mine as shown below.

But when textbook publishers use any external material, it is basic etiquette to  quote the source as well  as the author, unlike what Tamilnadu Government Textbook Corporation did when using my material in the textbook, relevant pages of which are shown below).

08 January 2012

Off the beaten track

I'm glad that I can spend some time on my blog (as I am typing my post), after  many days.

Live programme of the Global Music Festival organised by L Subramanian (one of the most accomplished violinists at a global level) and held at Bangalore last night and a media news report  about the official visit of Mrs Kamla Persad Bissessar, Indian origin PM of Trinidad, were some of the interesting events which I could enjoy watching in the past few days.  (In an earlier post I have mentioned about an interesting FM station from Trinidad).

Hope you like the post. 

About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a retired K-12 Education Management Professional. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.