Friday, March 29, 2013

On Midwives and Wisdom of Unconscious~

Teaching, to me, is an art. And like some other art forms, I associate tremendous sanctity with it. It is a profession of practicing ethics, discipline, and love, while facilitating students to discover knowledge/concepts. 

There is a theory in 'Karma Yoga' that has also been believed in by some psychologists/psychiatrists like M. Scott Peck, Carl Jung - "wisdom of unconscious".

The theory goes on like this for me:

Our un/sub-conscious is all knowing, supremely fast and efficient in perceiving, calculating and predicting. All the knowledge and wisdom that we can gain at any instance already resides within us. 

Like the baby that is inherently present inside the womb of the pregnant female! She can not birth a baby that is not inside her womb already!

And, so is with knowledge:  At a given instance (x,y,z,t,...) one can not learn what one's un/sub-conscious does not know already.

Learning then becomes the process of allowing the subconscious to rearrange its knowledge in a way that is comprehensible to our loud, chattering conscious minds. 

(And learning is often tough, just like birthing a baby. For both involve bringing out what is inside in dark out onto the loud chattering perceivable/thinkable existence. )

Midwives can only facilitate the process of birthing. They can not make a baby out of this air. She is not the source. 

And, teachers can only facilitate the process of learning. They can not impart any knowledge to students. 
They can only help students to discover themselves, their wisdom, and their knowledge - through their words, engagement, or any other tool that they can employ. 

In the Classroom: 

Somethings that we heard in our GEDI class and elsewhere (I am heavily paraphrasing it):

1) Some students are just not ready and engaged no matter what we do. 
2) Teaching is a two way process- both students and teachers have to be ready.
3) Sometimes it has to click. We might 'know' (have memorized by rote) something, but the knowledge has to 'click' to actually 'know'.

Some stuff we might have experienced in a classroom setting:

1) The moments in which learning really happens- whether it is during brief moments in a class, or a homework that is due in 20 minutes. Those moments are so like Csikszentmihalyi's flow experience. Silent.
2) The 'aha' moment!  As if we always knew the truth (the knowledge), but did not know that we knew! Or, never thought of it that way!

To me these are multiple lines of evidence that we only learn what we already have in our shadows and   quiet shelves of our brain. We can only learn what we are ready to learn. 

And, then to me, the teacher is no more than a mid-wife - a facilitator. That is it! 

A very important facilitator though :=)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Emphasis, Directive, Apathy, and Hope

In our last class, we travelled over to three utterly different and beautiful countries: El Salvador, Ecuador, and China.

What a beautiful trip it was!

El Salvador has a remarkable UN
Development Index
  record for South America
What strikes me most is how the government emphasizes so well on primary education in El Salvador! Wow! Hopefully soon they will have their citizens well-equipped to accept and find information and knowledge. Government ensures that students are well cared for at least until the 'highschool' equivalent exam.

 The Biodiverse Ecuador!

I continued with amazement how Ecuador's government is so eager for stepping up to provide world-class vocational and college education. Their emphasis on training teachers and researchers from abroad, providing free college education based on merit- blew my mind away!!

The key phrase that is on my mind for these two beautiful nations are: Emphasis on Education on Primary and College/Vocational Level. They are doing their best in providing the facilities for their citizens to make use of opportunities and even create new opportunities.

 And, then we travelled off to China. China the majestic with a long standing history! Image of an extremely competitive and fiercely directed education system came on my mind as our colleague (Juan Ma) described the education system in China.
The state decides when students sleep, the states decides how many students go into engineering and how many into other streams. The key phrase for me was: State Directed Education.
and the Formidable economic giant of China!

The state perhaps takes on a very active and important role in imparting higher education! I am amazed at how involved the state is! With such a huge country, I can only try to imagine what humongous infrastructure they must have built to make such state directed education a reality! Woah! Woah!

 Golden Temple, India: A much complicated system

Today, hopefully, Sabithulla and I, (me/myself/mine??) will take the class for a tour to India and our educational system.
What scares me most is talking about what I have experienced, through me, my friends, people whose stories I have heard, read, and google! Apathy! Goverment apathy when it comes to emphasizing adequately on universal education. Apathy when it comes to directing education and enforcing standards. Apathy when it comes to the future of our youth!

Yet, on paper we are an amazing educational system! We have a vast net of very accessible universities, and free universal education for kids. I do not have answers to questions I ask myself about our education system. It is extremely daunting for me to face the class today as I present our highly divided (economically, regionally, socially) education system.

Yet, within this painful disparity, I have often found hope! Like islands in vast lost ocean ride! Like oasis in desert- a mirage come real- in form of students from extremely poor background (poverty beyond what words can do justice to) in one of our internationally esteemed technical colleges, with merit-cum-means scholarships.
Hope in form, of those multiple holes-in-the-walls that are busy allowing children to educate themselves. And, stories these students tell when they have done beyond everyone's (anyone's) wildest dreams:

Hope, the sweetest of all~

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dancing Science and My Experiment with it ~

Ever since the 'communicating science' class in PFP course, I have been trying really hard to write blogs for communicating the science we do in our lab at VT.

I found some super-creative, engaging, and insightful instances of science well communicated:

Computational approaches in high-throughput proteomics data analysis

My Experiment with Dancing:

Here is my attempt to explain the major stuff we do in our lab group: 

Whenever we do any of these things- drink, eat, sleep + everything else that we do in between drinking, eating, and sleeping,  we affect ourselves and our planet. 

In our lab, we try to measure the effects of our actions on our environment. We hope that we will be able to catch a potentially detrimental action much before the damage is irreparable.

Years ago, a man-made chemical called CFC was promoted as the coolest invention ever. It actually was used in refrigerators to help keep them cool. We were very excited for using and exploiting its benefits!

In fact, we were so excited that we forgot to breathe, step back, and enquire if this new chemical CFC is damaging our environment. 

Eventually, we did realize that we were fast losing a protective layer in our atmosphere. This protective layer (also known as ozone layer) is the layer that blocks sun's harmful rays and saves higher life forms from damage. We did find out that CFC, our awesome man-made chemical was responsible for depletion of this beautifully protecting and natural layer in our atmosphere.

Sadly, it is almost too late for us to repair the ozone layer within our life-time. 

So, we in Pruden lab at Virginia Tech, very carefully monitor man-made chemicals that include anti-biotics, and their effect on environment. We hope we will not make an avoidable CFC-type mistake again.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mine, Your and Other English-es

I was browsing through the multi-lingual world of internet, looking for the 'correct way' of pronouncing some English language words. What 'I' (believe that I) found is the following:

Basically, there are two ways of pronouncing most English words 'correctly'. One is the way some Britons do, and other is the way some United States of America-ns do. 

Now, I would happily give leeway and polite authority to Britons, as they sort of taught the language to the 'commonwealth' and can be attributed as being the leading cause for the wide-spread use of English language today. 

Dear USA-ans - (Is it fair that there is no unique, easy to say- way of referring to citizens of USA? Even Venezuelans are Americans in a way- their continent is also America, albeit a bit 'South') - so, USA-ans lead us in all ways in our universe. And, they definitely do so, when it comes to the 'correct' way of pronouncing English words. 

In an alternate reality:

On this truly democratic (and truly biased alternate) earth:

Being more than one-third of human population, Chinese and Indian pronunciation are the two widely accepted as standard pronunciations of English language.
(I wish to clarify that this is merely a hypothetical drama/imagination to highlight the absurdity of trying to correct individual accents, instead of recognizing the amazingly diverse heritage that we are creating/have created!)