Monday, December 10, 2007

Podcasting with Purpose

I've been thinking of venturing into the realm of podcasting for a while now. I even created an account on a podcast sharing site called PodcastPeople about 6 months ago. When the English Language department head at Mallya Aditi International School approached me to document the High School English Seminar held on Dec 10 and 11th, I was presented the perfect opportunity to give podcasting a try.

I worked in Garageband to add a jingle and a short 'podcast-style' intro to the audio recording of the first session of the seminar, and created my first podcast 'episode', which I then uploaded to PodcastPeople.

Check out this episode in which high school students discuss the issue of rising violence among affluent youth in urban India....

On MAIS High School English Seminar - Session 1 Podcast

On iTunes: MAIS High School English Seminar - Session 1 Podcast on iTunes

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

India Video Portal

Another source for excellent videos that can be used in the classroom - this one specifically on videos of India. is a 'Video Encyclopedia' on India created by Invis Multimedia in association with United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), New Delhi Office. "The site is an online culture atlas with professionally made high quality video clips and movies of the life, culture, heritage, festivals and traditional art forms of India. Well researched texts and useful India information and content are the unique features of this leading India website. The site has got tourism, travel and tour related films."

The videos I saw were rather short, although well-shot. There are ratings, tagging and comments features although I saw no videos that have been rated or been commented on, and the tag cloud is pretty sparse - maybe it's early days yet. Videos have been classified into various categories like Architecture, Art, Festivals, Heritage, flora and fauna, land and people. Each video has a paragraph of text describing the video - a very useful feature.

Currently the only states that seem to have been covered are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. Hopefully the project will continue long enough to cover the rest of the country as well :)

Perhaps the videos could have used some high-quality voice-overs instead of the soothing Indian elevator music that became quite tedious to listen to after a few videos!

Here's a link to one on the Southern Hill Myna. Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Seminar on Raising 'Teaching-Learning Standards to Global Norms'

I had the pleasure of being a part of this seminar held yesterday in Bangalore - I was invited to speak on issues of introducing and integrating technology in teaching & learning. The event, which was organized by Education World magazine as part of the Chinnara Habba children's festival, had a panel of 6 speakers -

* Shukla Bose, Founder of Parikrma Humanity Foundation, spoke on "Quality Education for All"
* Dr. Augustine F. Pinto, Founder Chairman of Ryan International Schools, Mumbai, spoke on "Scaling Up Education Enterprises"
* Prof. V.S. Prasad, Director, National Assessment and Accreditation Council, Bangalore, spoke on "Institutional Self Assessment and Measurement of Outcomes"
* Shuchi Grover, Educational Technologist, spoke on "First Steps in Technology Integration"
* Dr. S.N. Uma, Sr. Vice President, NIIT, Chennai, spoke on "Integrating Technology in School Education"
* Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, Pro. of Child Psychiatry at NIMHANS, Bangalore, spoke on "Creating Stimulating Learning Environments"

The speakers spoke on varied topics, in fact other than some fundamental commonalities in Dr. Uma's and my talks on technology issues - we complemented each other fairly well on how technology should be leveraged for meaningful teaching and learning.

All in all, I think the participants got some great ideas and inputs; their questions at the end of the session were thoughtful and related to practical realities of implementing these ideas in the classroom. If only there was more time. Thanks to Education World for organizing an event to bring together educators to network and exchange ideas on improving school education in India.

[Here's another perspective from an attendee of the Seminar.]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Google SketchUp and Autism

[Also posted on]

3-D Modeling with Google SketchUpI have had the good fortune of being peripherally involved in efforts in India to explore the use of technology to help children with Autism. It is with much excitement, therefore, that I share this YouTube video I stumbled upon last night, which adds a new technology tool to the wealth of resources already amassed on to help teachers, parents and care-givers of children with Autism in India.

Google SketchUp
has already been talked about in the past here, in the context of a good design tool that is freely available. However, this YouTube video uploaded by Google shares some inspiring stories of how SketchUp has helped kids with Autism (who are known to often have advanced visual and spatial thinking abilities) express themselves. There appears to be an entire research project (Project Spectrum) that is devoted to studying this.

As a matter of fact, Google SketchUp has great potential in any classroom setting. It's "a powerful yet easy-to-learn 3D software tool that combines a simple, yet robust tool-set with an intelligent drawing system that streamlines and simplifies 3D design." It's a great companion tool to use with Google Earth - once you've built your models, you can place them in Google Earth.

Download it, and try it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some Convenient Lies in 'An Inconvenient Truth'?

An Inconvenient TruthAn Inconvenient Truth is all over the news again thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Al Gore (and the IPCC) recently. We had a discussion on after I posted an elog about 8 months ago, about this great teaching resource for Environmental Education and Science.

You may have have already shown this movie and discussed it with your students, but for those who plan to show this movie to their students and discuss the facts shared in this Oscar-winning documentary by Al Gore, please be sure to also share with your students some "corrections" that have been highlighted by a British Court which recently passed a ruling that this movie can be screened in schools in Britain (people actually went to court with this?!!).

Read this Washington Post article to find out about the "nine significant errors" in the movie, and do share these with your students when discussing this film.

"After listening to government witnesses, environmental campaigners, and skeptics on global warming argue their case, the judge described Gore's film as "broadly accurate" in its presentation of climate change. At the same time he also listed nine significant errors in the movie which, he said, reflected a general context of "alarmism and exaggeration" surrounding climate change."

The important thing to note, however, is that the film has proved to be "broadly accurate" and these factual errors don't affect the main argument that the film is trying to make - that climate change is a real threat, and that it is up to us humans to reverse the dangerous trend and save our planet.

I guess there is an important media literacy lesson in here for all of us (and our students) - to take with at least a pinch of salt, scientific "facts" and reports of events when they are stated not by a scientist or witness, but by an ex-politician... and to listen to all sides of a story.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Itching to Scratch!

It's everywhere around me these days - every elementary and middle schooler at Aditi, where I spend a day every week, is itching (pun most certainly intended) to create a fun project on Scratch - the exciting new programming environment that has emerged from MIT Media Lab (and can be downloaded for free). I have blogged about Scratch here before, and of course am a huge fan of the tool myself, so it's great to see the current buzz on Scratch these days.

I had the pleasure of watching some grade 4 students yesterday proudly present their "Stories of Invertebrates" created in Scratch as part of a Science unit. I offered them some useful suggestions to help them make their stories even better, and also suggested to the teacher to create a class account on the Scratch community website and upload those wonderful creations there. The kids are excited at the thought of uploading their projects - a great incentive to polish up their stories and add titles and credits (one of the suggestions I made to them).

My 11-year old son just finished creating a quiz in Scratch (for 1st-3rd graders) on an Indian Panchatantra Classic (which he has also made into a movie using iMovie, to be shown to the kids before the quiz) in honor of the upcoming International School Library Day that will be celebrated at his school on Monday, Oct. 22.

I recently discovered a community of "Scratchers" on Facebook as well, discussing new Scratch ideas and sharing notes on how to engage kids with this new technology tool that has such tremendous potential in any learning context.

I have had the pleasure of knowing and meeting many of the people at the Media Lab who are working on this project. The great news for us educators in India is that this environment, which currently supports some European languages in addition to English, will soon be available in Indian languages as well. I have actually been helping to build and test a beta Hindi language Scratch environment. It's such a kick!

Anyway, back to BLC07 (see previous post) - I was surfing YouTube and found a sweet little movie uploaded by Ewan Macintosh, from the Scratch preconference workshop at the MIT Media Lab during the Building Learning Communities conference in July this year.

So here's Scratch and Playing a "Banana Phone" for your viewing pleasure...

BLC07 on YouTube

More on the Building Learning Communities conference... Marco and his brilliant students (of cine de la gente fame - who were armed with microphones, cameras and video cameras throughout those memorable 5 days) have polished up some of the vodcasts they captured and created in the course of the July conference from the November folks ;). They're up on youtube now, and here's one of them...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Social Bookmarking Within A School Community

This workshop was a long time coming...It had been cooking in my head ever since I posted the article - "On the Social Side of Bookmarking" - on this blog well over a year ago. [That article serves as a good guideline for anyone who'd like to set up something along similar lines for their school (or department or any other group or community, for that matter)].

40 teachers of Aditi participated in what was a good intro to the idea of tagging and bookmarking for easy storage, retrieval, organization and sharing. Discussion around common accounts for the school to share bookmarks among teachers and between teachers and students, and finally developing a common vocabulary, and shared rules for tagging - by grade and subject especially, made for a useful, productive session that will hopefully mark the beginning of efficient internet searching and sharing of ideas among teachers and students.

The idea of folksonomies demonstrated by clicking on users who had bookmarked the same website, and then going through their bookmarks -and finding some useful sites in the process - was truly a 'wow' moment during the workshop.

Browser buttons for tagging and viewing have now been installed on every machine in the school. 20 new bookmarks have been added to the school account in the 1 day since the workshop.

It's working :) Go!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Lexicon of Learning

A handy tool for educators, this dictionary on the ASCD website contains an alphabetical list of words/phrases that will tell you "What Educators Mean When They Say... "

The focus seems to be on school (K-12) education. Unfortunately, the list is US centric with terms like "Brown v. Board of Education", "California Achievement Tests", "Channel 1", and " church-state separation". I think about 30% of the words/phrases are not of relevance to educators outside of the US.

A handy reference nonetheless.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Anytime, Anywhere Access to YouTube Videos

[As posted on]

Ever wondered if you could download YouTube videos to show to your class or to people where you did not have Internet access? Well, read on...

I'd written a post a few weeks ago titled "YouTube...TeacherTube...Video in Education" where I discussed the use of YouTube and videos in education, and wrote that all a teacher needed was a computer with access to the internet. Well, that's still true, but guess what! that access does not even have to necessarily be in the school or classroom. There are ways, and really EASY ways, actually, to download YouTube videos into pretty much any format for viewing on a Windows or Mac or any other machine.

The most convenient tool that I have used is called vConvert - which allows you to do the conversion to a desirable format right on their site at, (all you have to do is copy-paste the url or 'web address' of the YouYube video) and then download the output to your machine which you can then carry on a pen/thumb drive (or 'memory stick') to your classroom or any other room where you could play it on a computer! It couldn't get easier than this!

[I found this useful tip on this blog. Bob Sprankle, the author of the post is an enthusiastic teacher and "Technology Integrator" in Maine, who has kids as young as third-graders creating videos and audio broadcasts (called podcasts) that can then be shared with the world on iTunes or any other podcasting site on the Internet. Thanks, Bob!]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kid-Safe Internet Browsing

[Here's another one on Google searching, kid-safe Internet browsing, critical thinking, "topical research" on the internet...Click on the appropriate tags below to see other posts on this topic]

Tired to having to monitor your children's Internet activity? Unable to monitor your child's time on the Internet? Concerned about what your child may run into on the Internet?

Consider installing a "Safe Internet Browser" for your child. Instead of trying to control what sites your child visits on the Internet via google searches; or being worried about inappropriate ads and other windows "popping up" on the screen, just rely on an Internet browser which automatically restricts the sites your kids can visit, and what your kids can do while on the Internet.

Buddy Browser (which happens to be one of a few "children's Safe Internet browsers" available for free), boasts of the following features (among others) --

  • Secure and Safe Kids Browser without popup windows (No spyware or adware)
  • No Internet Chat Rooms
  • Safe Buddy Messenger for Kids
  • No Internet Surfing
  • Kids Safe Search
  • Individually Reviewed Quality Sites for Kids
  • Educational Learning Channels - Science, School, Nature, Animals and More
  • Privacy Assured
  • 100% Free!

I think this could be a useful option for young kids (elementary school), not just from a safety point-of-view. Kids spend (waste?) a lot of time doing aimless Internet searches ("researching a topic") as they put it, which is not effective and that requires a lot of critical evaluation of websites and material that kids are usually incapable of doing. Having a list of pre-approved sites to go to for "Internet research" (the sites available through Buddy Browser are exhaustive and kid-friendly) would not be such a bad idea anyway!

Perhaps it could be argued that kids need to learn how to sift through the vast amounts of information and make sense of it - as a 21st Century skill. I agree with this need, but also think that kids only above 12 years or so - (i.e. starting in Middle School) should be taught this skill and made to hone it through their various projects.

Until that age, a kid-safe browser such as Buddy Browser should suffice for exposing kids to the Internet

Is Google Killing Intellect?

The latest Businessweek has a discussion/debate on whether "the search engine makes it so easy to get data that users forgo deeper study?"

Sure, Google can deliver facts and figures at lightning speed. But is it turning users away from other avenues of learning such as books, scholarly magazines, lectures, and classes? Hear experts Jakob Nielsen (FOR) and David Alan Grier(AGAINST) discuss the question "Is Google Killing Intellect?", and respond to student comments.

(I have to preface whatever I write with stating that I am a technophile and I usually embrace technology in every shape and form... ) I personally have started to push my children and students more towards the library these days simply because I am beginning to get leary of the whole "Wikipedia culture" of getting information that is unfiltered and very often grade- & level-inappropriate. I ask my sons to first browse all the encyclopedias and other reference books we have at home for "basic" information on a topic and go to the Internet (which to them is synonymous with going to the Wikipedia most of the time) only for specific pieces of information that they don't find in books/magazines. The richness of the images that accompany the text in most encyclopedias and the fact that the information is somewhat "contained" is something I find comfort in. (Finding a decent alternative website to WIkipedia is also oftentimes high on my agenda and I strongly suggest teachers of kids in elementary school, if not middle school as well, to do the same.).

But the truth is that kids today do need to learn how to scout cleverly for the information they need, and make sense of huge amounts of information, evaluate the information critically, and to use the Internet and Google to their advantage. Little kids (younger than 12-13 years of age) are incapable of performing effective searches anyway, so the process must be scaffolded for them.

Clearly, there are pros and cons to extensive use of Google, which is why it makes for an interesting debate!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Digital Natives" are not geeks, they're just "interested" in technology

[Also posted on]

This article that I came across on today was a bit disappointing, if not totally surprising.

A recent global study spanning 16 countries undertaken by MTV and Nickelodeon, in association with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions found that "Despite their technological immersion, digi-kids are not geeks." The study challenges traditional assumptions about their relationships with digital technology, and examines the impact of culture, age and gender on technology use.

The study, 'How Kids and Young People Interact with Digital Technology', found 59 per cent of 8-14 year-old kids still prefer their TV to PCs and only 20 per cent of 14 to 24-year-old young people globally admitted to being 'interested' in technology.

They are, however, expert multi-taskers and able to filter different channels of information."

My own personal take on this is that although they have been found to not be "geeky" in the traditional sense i.e. program and hack "code" with ease, they are comfortable enough with technology to be creators of digital content (without realizing it at times, I guess). Every time a kid shoots a picture on his/her camera and posts it on the net or remixes a piece of music for an MTV competition, s/he is treading into realm that was the domain of geeks before...simply because technology has progressed enough to allow them to do these things without much trouble.

An India-related report in the study - "Young people in India are among the fastest in Asia today to embrace digital technology to express themselves and connect with multiple communities. While the growth of mobile and digital technology in India is driven largely by the urban youth, we will gradually see this trend move beyond the urban youth and involve the youth in the rural regions of the country."

The study also found that - "friends influence each other as much as marketers do. Friends are as important as brands. Kids and young people do not love the technology itself. They just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained and digital communications such as IM, email, social networking sites and mobile/sms are complimentary to, not competitive with, TV and that TV is part of young peoples' digital conversation"

Hardly surprising, given the statistic that MySpace had 100 million registered users as of December 2006 and that the average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day!

The study apparently looked at 21 technologies that have impact on the lives of young people: internet, email, PC, TV, mobile, IM, cable and satellite TV, DVD, MP3, stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HD TV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, DVR/PVRs, and hand-held games consoles.

So what are the implications of these findings for educators in India? Should these tools not be leveraged for learning as well? And why are only media companies concerning themselves with these trends? Why not our boards of education curriculum planning committees and policymakers and NCERT as well?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

November Learning in July at BLC 07

BLC Official ProgramThe November Learning conference was titled Building Learning Communities, but this time around was mostly about “Education 2.0” I think i.e. “Leveraging Web 2.0 Tools for Education”.

I was/am familiar with several of the technology tools discussed, and have used them to varying degrees – blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts, vodcasts, digital storytelling, social networking, and such. So what was great for me was meeting people from all over Marc Prensky, Shuchi Grover(there were educators from Ireland, Scotland, England, Australia, Guatemala, El Salvador, in addition to the majority that was from all corners of the US including Alaska! It was great to share my story from India on and my other work - during my session and elsewhere.

The biggest take-away for me was making real world connections with the likes of Marc Prensky (in pic here), Will Richardson (of weblogg-ed fame), Marco Torres (more on him and his amazing students later), Howie DiBlasi (of the “Did you Know” video shared on this blog), Bob Sprankle (serial podcaster), and Ewan McIntosh and of course, Alan November (the force behind this conference); and forging friendships with teachers from far-away places like Alaska, Alabama and Australia.

Shuchi Grover presenting at BLC07The keynote address by Dr. Yang Zhao on the final day was rich in wit and examples (mostly from China/ Singapore/ Taiwan/ Korea) that reflect the stark realities of the dual lives (real and virtual) of today's cyber-kids! Tim Tyson and Angela McFarlane (and Mitch Resnick – see my blog post about his address) were the other keynote speakers and all had interesting stories to share Alan November– Tim Tyson shared his awesome student podcasts from Mabry School, and Angela, some interesting insights from her Asian doctoral students’ research work on online communities.

Alan November’s ideas on School Redesign (aimed specifically at restructuring the US schools) made a lot of sense – in his truly unique, wacky style he provokes and debates in a way that makes you sit up and listen! He put together this fabulous event for people to connect and meet and create new learning communities that straddle the real world as well as the Web (2.0) world.

Marco Torres with his talented students - Rosa and ConsuelaMy fondest memories are those of Marco Torres’ 4 students – Miguel, Rosa, Consuela, and Isaac. These young college students brought such “young energy” to the conference, and the work they have produced as film-makers – ever since they were high school students of Marco – is simply breathtaking (see the iCan series here). They captured this conference in their innumerable videos and vodcasts, and even did a session for educators! Marco, your students must do you proud!

All in all, an interesting, enjoyable week at BLC07 replete with learning, sharing, connecting and community-building!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Shift Happens: Implications for 21st century teaching and learning

An amazing video that's been played during more than one presentation at the November Learning conference that I'm at currently in Newton, MA. [I present tomorrow...]. Its import in the context of educating the 21st century child will be apparent when you see it...

An slightly different version of the same video. This one's titled Did You Know 2.0 (I like the background music better in the other one, though...)

The Lifelong Kindergartner

I have, on several occasions over the last few years, interacted with Mitch Resnick of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab. I finally had the opportunity of seeing him in his element on a larger stage (literally) at the November Learning conference where he delivered the keynote address this morning. The audience loved his demos of the PICO cricket kit and Scratch. His enthusiasm is/was catchy. His group is christened "Lifelong Kindergarten" at MIT Media Lab - and I don't think there can be a better proponent than Mitch of the "spirit of kindergarten" - learning through imagining, creating, playing, sharing - that his group is attempting to bring to learners of all ages (5-99) through their creations and products.

Mitch shared the philosophy of learning that drives the work of the Lifelong Kindergarten group - a philosophy that is so evident in the Mindstorms kits, the PICO Cricket kits, and now Scratch as well.

As Alan November remarked at the closing session of Day2 - this framework of learning could well drive all teaching across all grades in schools. An idea well worth mulling over...The devil, as always, will be in the implementation, I suppose!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

YouTube...TeacherTube...Video in Education

[As posted on]

In the process of checking out Varni's video link on YouTube for "School Chale Hum", I also found a link to the "Ek Chidiya" film which I posted as a resource just now.

It got me thinking about the use of YouTube as such an easily accessible resource for the classroom. I'm sure there are a lot of useful video clips already up on YouTube - we have posted some ourselves and shared some others here whenever we've discovered them.

A little bit of "googling" on "youtube in education" led me to "TeacherTube" - a site dedicated to YouTube-like sharing of videos that are all entirely aimed for use in education! Here's what I got on them from their site --

"After beta testing for almost two months, TeacherTube officially launched on March 6, 2007. Our goal is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos. We seek to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners. It is a site to provide anytime, anywhere professional development with teachers teaching teachers. As well, it is a site where teachers can post videos designed for students to view in order to learn a concept or skill."

Videos are a powerful medium for teaching and they don't not need much investment on the part of schools. The barriers, I think, have been the lack of good films for use in the classroom - especially in India. In the US and other Western countries there is a huge repository of good educational videos produced by National Geographic, PBS (Nova series) and others. Schools use them on a routine basis. These are not so easily accessible in India and are pretty expensive too, for use in India.

With YouTube and TeacherTube (and even Google Video where you can put up longer films) now, one does not need much to use videos in teaching - a teacher does not even need a separate video/cd/dvd player - all one needs is access to the Internet - which schools should certainly look into investing in, if they have not already...and not just for use in the principal's office, but in teacher staff rooms, special A/V screening rooms, student computer labs, and even classrooms, as well.

Thursday, July 05, 2007 on YouTube!

Here's a movie I made over the weekend that introduces and also incorporates video and audio clips of member feedback. It's up on YouTube now...

iMovie is fun to play around with. This is still a work in progress, but I'm pretty pleased with this effort! :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Enabling Conditions for Effective Use of Technology in Schools

My article has been published in the "Teacher-to-Teacher " section of the June issue of Education World magazine. If you do not have a subscription to the magazine then you can read the article online...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Leveraging Technology to Aid Children with Autism (and other disabilities)

[Also posted on]

Following from the success and lessons from their workshop in Dehradun where they used technology to help kids with autism, Dr. Arun Mehta and his colleagues are currently conducting a similar workshop in Bangalore (May 26-30, 2007). The participants include children of various ages with autism, their parents, special educators, volunteers (from IBM and some independent - like me).

I registered my interest (and shared some software ideas and links) with the group following a comment to this post here on which announced the workshop and the googlegroup that had been set up to exchange emails, in the weeks leading up to the workshop among the various people interested in this event and initiative. I have had the pleasure, over the last couple of days to volunteer my time - attend some sessions and share my ideas on how some technologies such as Scratch (see my previous post here) could be used as a simple iconic, visual introduction to programming (to create games as well as explore shapes and other ideas around space and geometry).

Computers and other digital technologies with their multi-media affordances, have been known to serve as learning and communication aids for children with disabilities such as autism. Little has been tried out in India, though, and Dr. Arun Mehta and Vickram Crishna (of the Hawkings project and eLocuter fame) and their colleagues are probably the first in India to try to help parents and special educators become familiar with hardware and software that they can use with children with disabilities based on each child's specific needs and condition.

Among the software being discussed and shared at this workshop-

  • Natak - a role-playing and drama-making software by C-DAC
  • Jaws - software for the visually impaired (audio feedback for keyboard input, screen-reader for audio version of everything on the screen)
  • e-Locuter - computer "talks" for a non-verbal user and allows user to give computer inputs through one key. Read this 2004 article by Frederick Noronha.
  • Dasher - for keyboard-less typing - user can type using only mouse movements (without clicking)
  • Scratch - a fun, simple introduction to programming (see my previous post here)
  • Basic photography, image and sound manipulation - preparing powerpoint slide shows with images and sound
  • Edubuntu - a complete Linux-based operating system, (freely available with community based support) specially for children - packaged with tons of educational applications and games

Most or all of the software being shared and discussed is free and open source. Dr. Mehta is in fact planning to customize eLocuter with specific vocabulary lists of everyday words for all the children who have participated in this workshop!

To see technology being leveraged to help children with disabilities has been such a learning, and an eye-opener for me. Kudos to Dr. Arun Mehta and his collegues who are organizing the workshop - Vickram Crishna (of Net Radiophony), Dr. Veronica Mathias (Autism Society of India) and Dr. Nalini Menon (Spastics Society of Karnataka)!


Some related articles:

Article on the earlier Dehradun workshop
A write up on A for Autism... M for Mouse - a film on this initiative
Use of video modeling to help teach children with autism
A for Autism... M for Mouse

Scratch officially released by MIT Media Lab

[Also posted on]

You may recall my earlier post here - Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas about kids and programming. I'd mentioned Scratch - a great programming environment for kids of all ages to get creative with computers that was due to be released by MIT Media Lab. Well it's here! Fun, easy, colorful, wysiwyg, lots of features, great online community for sharing your projects.

Check out this MIT press release as well as links to Mitch Resnick's videos about the product that are linked from the site and go ahead and download this free, fantastic product...

---------------------Mailer from Mitch Resnick announcing Scratch-------------------------

New software from Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab

As you may know, our research group at the MIT Media Lab has been
working for several years on a new programming language, called
Scratch, that enables kids to create their own interactive stories,
games, music, and animations.

This week, we are officially releasing Scratch and launching the
Scratch website (, where people can share
their Scratch creations with one another.

Scratch builds on our group's previous work that led to the LEGO
MINDSTORMS and PicoCricket robotics kits. Just as the MINDSTORMS and
PicoCricket kits allow kids to program and control physical
creations, Scratch lets them program and control media-rich creations
on the screen. As kids create and share Scratch projects, they learn
important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a
deeper understanding of the process of design.

I hope you'll go to the Scratch website at,
where you can download Scratch software and share projects created
with Scratch.

I look forward to hearing about your experiences with Scratch. If you
have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact me.

Mitch Resnick
Professor of Learning Research
Lifelong Kindergarten group
MIT Media Lab

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Creativity in the Classroom

[Read more on this at]

Creativity & Innovation seem to be buzzwords today, not just in the world of design, but in the corporate world as well as in education today. I wrote a couple of posts about a year ago on the idea of "possibility thinking" - in this post and this one.

I attended an immensely fascinating workshop on Creativity at the recently held TAISI conference in Bangalore (where I also held a session - on "Technology Tools for Collaboration" - see previous post here). This workshop conducted by Dr. Susan Baum of the International Center for Talent Development was called "Creativity 1,2,3", and was centered around characteristics of creative thinking and creativity in children, and how to nurture these in the classroom.

I found the presentation slides to this workshop. Some slides relating to participant involvement & action during the workshop may not make sense, but there are several slides dedicated to what "creative folks" do and look like, "divergent thinking", brainstorming strategies in the classroom that encourage kids to be creative, and "problem finding (not problem solving) and discovery in science."

The big take-aways for teachers were --

  • to provide ample opportunities in the classroom for play and "problem finding" (a more important skill than "problem solving"),
  • to teach divergent thinking skills and integrate them into the curriculum, and most of all,
  • to model creativity and spontaneity in the classroom.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sharing with Teachers New Technology Tools for Collaboration

The 3-day conference titled "Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century" organized by The Association of International Schools of India (TAISI), just concluded in Bangalore today. This was the second conference organized by this newly instituted body, the 1st conference was held in September 2006 in Hyderabad.

I was once again invited to speak in a break-out session, and conducted a workshop on "New Technology Tools for Collaboration", and shared with the audience some of the fascinating web 2.0 tools that the new "read/write" web offers teachers, students and learning environments today.

The session started with a brief discussion on what collaboration in the classroom entails and means, and how a "tool" may help. I started with the popular group tools of the "old web" (listservs/discussion boards, yahoo and google groups), (that still have a place today, I guess), and then fast forwarded to talk about wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and googledocs and spreadsheets. The focus on what students and groups hope to achieve in a collaborative project, and how each of the tools discussed helped the process, resonated with teachers. Information on specific tools such as blogger, edublogs, David Warlick's Classblogmeister, wikispaces, and googledocs & spreadsheets was shared, and also exemplary blogs (that discuss web2.0 in the classroom) such as Will Richardson's weblogg-ed, and projects such as the Flat Classroom Project. That all the tools are free and easy-to-use also caused much relief and excitement.

I touched briefly on communities of practice/learning that could be formed and fostered among educators using blogging and tagging features in an appropriately designed platform, and showcased as a case in point.

I now look forward to sharing with an international audience in Boston in July 07 at the November Learning conference on Building Learning Communities.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Concept Mapping/Mind Mapping as an Educational Tool - The Resources

(Also posted on

This is part-2 of the previous post on the use of concept maps in education.

Inspiration has been an industry leader for years now, but it is not free and not cheap either (I am unsure of actual costs for school use). Their website is a good resource, though, for ideas on how to use such tools in the classroom, and for general reading on the educational benefits of concept mapping. They have also come out with Kidspiration - a version for younger kids. Try the free trial versions just to get a sense for the software.

MindManager - is a paid tool with very pleasing aethetics. I doubt anyone (in schools) will need purchase it, now that there's FreeMind and Mindomo (see below). This also has a free trial version you can download and try.

C-Map - is a FREE, good, easy-to-use tool. The information on the home-page of their website also serves to explain all the features of this tool (it's been put together using C-Map itself!).

FreeMind - is like MindManager, except that its FREE! Make sure you install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on your machine before using this.

Mindomo - is available in free as well as paid versions. This is a new web-based concept mapping tool (released barely a week ago) that allows the user to create the maps within the web browser itself, which allows for easy sharing and collaboration. The maps look much like the MindManager maps. I have not tried this tool yet, but it does look very promising; only downside being that it needs Internet access for use which presents a very real constraint for schools in India. - I was recently sent a link to this new 'brainstorming tool', which is also FREE. It seems to be very user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing too and appears to serve the "thinking process" better than some of the older tools. The features described on the site are shown through a map (so what's new about that?). Like Mindomo, this is also an online tool, which is not so good for people in India with limited or no Internet access.

Have fun mapping your mind!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Map Thine Own Mind (and that of thy students) ... Concept Mapping/Mind Mapping as an Educational Tool

(Also posted on
Prologue: My teacher training modules on concept mapping have always been well-received so I thought I'd share some ideas here as well. This post has been prompted by the discovery of yet another free concept-mapping tool that has been recently released. My next post will talk about the free/paid concept mapping tools that are available.

There is no argument about the educational value of use concept maps (or mind maps - I will use the terms interchangeably here) in the classroom. It is a great tool for critical thinking and for organizing information, and especially so for the visual learner.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of concept/mind mapping - the attached image explains the term and idea through a concept map itself!). To quote the wikipedia (!), "A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, and decision making."

If the wikipedia is not good enough, here's a blurb from the Inspiration site on the power of visual learning - "Learning to think. Learning to learn. These are the essential skills for student success in every curriculum area and academic pursuit. Research in both educational theory and cognitive psychology tells us that visual learning is among the very best methods for teaching students of all ages how to think and how to learn. "

One could say that a concept map is basically a type of graphic organizer. (e.g. the 'Star' graphic organizer for vocabulary is quite simply a map with the word in the middle and surrounded by cells/nodes which contain the definition, type of word, synonym, antonym, draw a picture, and use the word in a sentence).

Concept Maps can be used by teachers in various aspects of classroom practice - for planning lessons/units, with students at the beginning of a unit/lesson to introduce a topic and gauge students' prior knowledge of the topic, at the end of a unit/lesson to assess student learning, to catch misconceptions students may have about a concept or idea, and for presentations as well (since the newer software mind-mapping tools allow one to add hyperlinks to websites, images, documents, and even other mindmaps).

Information organization is a key skill that kids need to have these days (I will refrain from using the cliched phrase "21st century skill"). I do believe that giving children tools to organize information is especially important today when there is so much information that kids need to deal with and make sense of.

Epilogue: Fortunately for us, there are now several software tools that help us with the task of mind-mapping. I will share these resources in an the next post...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ideacast on Wikinomics

On Harvard Business Online...


(Also posted on

"The art and science of harnessing mass collaboration for innovation and growth" is (roughly) how Don Tapscott describes the term Wikinomics.

For many of us (especially educators interested and involved in issues of technology in education) Don Tapscott's 1987 work Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation was mandatory reading in our professional studies. Tapscott's new book Wikinomics:How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (co-authored with Anthony D. Williams) may well become required reading for students of economics, business management, commerce and for just about anyone wanting to engage actively the ideas of openness and collaboration that this new web is fostering.

"In its latest incarnation, the World Wide Web has become a communal experience—collaborators from anywhere and any walk of life now have the ability to solve problems and produce results through the use of collective wisdom. Although some business leaders may find the prospect of this kind of openness rather frightening, Tapscott believes that leveraging the new wave of community is the way of the future." [Source: Harvard Business Review]

All of us here on this forum for educators too are a part of this new culture of collaboration and dialogue, and "community", that these new authoring and publishing tools of the web have afforded us.

Our teens and youth are a part of it already - through their social networks on orkut, hi5 and others. For those of us teachers with access to the Internet in our schools, how we teach must change as well to use the opportunities that the new web affords for student collaboration, as well as publishing and sharing student work - to prepare our next generation for a world that will be governed to a large extent by Wikinomics.

The $100 laptop

(Also posted on

"It's an education project, not a laptop project" is how Nicholas Negroponte describes the landmark One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project that leverages affordable technology for education.

Last July, India rejected the OLPC idea as "pedagogically suspect" and not "mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage". The announcement must have come as a blow to the project given the size of the Indian market for the product. One cannot argue with India's reasoning - "We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools."

The project has progressed since, and the first shipment to the pilot countries (Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Thailand & Uruguay) is happening around now. The OLPC wiki has a wealth of information on the vision, the current state of the project, the timeline, the pedagogy, and tons of other stuff for developers, and anyone else who wants to be engaged in this project in some way. (They are looking for translators to develop content and translate the websites into local languages).

A comment on the pedagogy (the one the Indian government called "suspect") - this project is basically an extension/realization of the beliefs of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab; the constructivist pedagogy that Seymour Papert and Mitch Resnick have championed for over 2 decades now. There are links to some good articles from the wiki on these ideas of constructivism. While I agree with the "need for classrooms and teachers in India" rationale, I would personally not call the pedagogy "suspect", and I should add that the National Curriculum Framework of 2005 that came out of our NCERT talks about a "inquiry-based" pedagogy that is akin to constructivism (even if they have not used that particular term). I think the ideas of what education could and should look like, that have emerged from the Media Lab, are sound - they just have not been tried out on such a mass scale, and with tools such as the $100 laptop.

As with all tools for education - technology-based or otherwise - the teacher+tool combination will be key i.e. how well teachers understand them and use them with their students.

Will these delicious-looking machines just be "fancy tools" with no lasting impact on the education landscape of developing countries or will they change the face of education in our lifetime? Is it just another "cutesy" idea to emerge from a developed nation to be tested on poor, developing countries? Only time will tell...until then - India's strategy to wait and watch may not be a bad one. What do you think?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Citizendium: "Our new compendium of knowledge" is the new Wikipedia

It's no coincidence that to write an article about the wikipedia, and explain a term that will soon be as much a part of our vocabulary as the term 'wikipedia' is, I am citing a link to the wikipedia itself!

If you are a teacher who uses google for your everyday searching on the Internet, then you must know that for most of the topics that we discuss in class or give our students assignments to "find out about" - a lot of our information today is picked up from this "wiki" that has put been together by thousands of unknown names and faces. We all - teachers and students - are relying on a mass of information put up by anyone and we never really stop to question the quality of this information. In a recent article I read on the issue of the indiscriminate use of the internet in the classroom - this is what I came across (I have not tried it but I am inclined to believe the stats) -

"Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, dominates all of these searches, appearing in the top ten every time.

  • China - Wikipedia = #1
  • acid rain - Wikipedia = #4
  • Montreal - Wikipedia = #3
  • Charles de Gaulle - Wikipedia = #1
  • Virginia Woolf - Wikipedia = #1"

Anyway, as it turns out, the founders of the Wikipedia are also worried about this trend; and so we have a Citizendium in the works!

"Citizendium works much like Wikipedia in many ways. Both are considered wikis, which are collaborative web sites that represent the ongoing, collective work of many authors. (Similar to a blog in structure and logic, a wiki allows anyone to edit, delete, or modify content that has been placed on the site--including the work of previous authors--using only a browser interface.)"

But unlike the wikipedia, the Citizendium will require contributors to register their names and the project has tapped subject-matter experts to serve as content editors.

I'm sure this will herald even more reckless use of information from the Internet, the only difference will be that the recklessness with the new wiki will be less problematic as far as the quality and sanctity of the information is concerned.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Arvind Gupta and Toys from Everyday Stuff...

Ref. previous post.. here's another youtube video...

My first foray into video sharing...

I had the pleasure of watching toymaker and tinkerer, Arvind Gupta (also winner of the National award for Science Popularization) in action at Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore where he was invited to spend a few days with 6th-graders. The children enjoyed their time with him immensely - building air and water pumps out of empty toothpaste tubes, straws and empty film roll cannisters, motors out of batteries, magnets and copper wire, sound-makers out of straw, toys and animals from paper and matchboxes and what not.

I uploaded a couple of short videos onto youtube to share it with the kids and teachers (and the whole world, I guess...)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth - 'you owe it to yourself'


"Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced."

 Al Gore's documentary film (which has been nominated for an Oscar in the documentary film category) is a must-see. I can see this film as a great resource for starting discussions in an Environmental Education middle- or high-school class. While the movie focuses mainly on the issue of global warming, it will not take much for a teacher to extend the ideas to topics such as the water crisis, renewable and alternate energy sources, sustainable living...the list is endless. A fabulous effort by the man who introduced himself as - "I'm Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States of America."

A quotable quote mentioned in the film (among many) - "You can't make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The importance of platforms for professional dialogue

Having just completed a very intellectually stimulating and fulfilling stint as a facilitator on one more successful rendition of an online course on Harvard University's WIDE world professional development platform, I am rejuvenated, and excited at the idea of having a platform such as this one for engaging in professional dialogue with my peers - other educators in India.

Hopefully this will herald the beginning of several relevant and compelling conversations among professionals involved (in different ways) in the significant task of educating our next generation.

(