GPS or Compass?

Formal education tends to behave like a GPS giving learners step-by-step instructions for a well-defined world. This GPS approach worked well in the 19th and 20th centuries when stockpiling knowledge in a domain, in the form of a University degree, usually assured lifelong employment because the rate of knowledge accumulation in most domains was not very high.In the 21st century, knowledge is exploding and the terrain is changing every minute. Most employment or entrepreneurship depends…

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ACGT Life Skills

In my forthcoming workshops in April, I plan to build on the theme of 'Tinkering with Electronics' that I had started last December and introduce robotics in rural schools in India I work with. For this, earlier in January, I had ordered robotic kits from two vendors in India and purchased one here in London for evaluation. The one I bought in London was nicely packaged, with clear instructions and worked like a charm. However,…

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What’s the Title of Your Life Story?

Thinking of a title of your life story can be a good exercise in catharsis. You can not only look back and think of appropriate titles for different stages of your life, you can also look forward and imagine captions for chapters that lie ahead, which will make your life more joyful and meaningful. You can then strive to live a life true to the future title of your memoirs. I did this exercise. Here…

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It’s About Time

In their annual letter, this year Bill and Melinda Gates write about energy and time. Among other things they describe the importance of opportunity cost of time. Opportunity cost is the next best use of a resource. If instead of doing what you are doing right now what ‘other’ thing could you be doing? That ‘other’ thing is the opportunity cost of your time. The letter highlights opportunity cost of time for women, especially in…

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Ooch Before You Leap!

Couple of days back I met a 15 year old. He mentioned that this summer holidays, after his GCSE examinations, he would like to do a short internship in a bank or a tech company to get a feel of what life is like in these professions. He is interested in economics and technology and he figures that such an exposure will get him a better sense of what pursuit of these subjects can later…

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When Watson is Not Sherlock’s Mate – How Future Ready Are You?

 If you are of a certain age you may have learnt your English alphabet reciting – A for Apple, B for Boy, C for Cat… If you were to say this out loud to young kids today they will think you mean – Apple, the company and Game Boy, the gaming console. They might still be in sync with you about cats but only because that is a popular theme on YouTube. Now let’s check…

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It’s About Being In Your Element – But How?

Have you heard the joke – my heart was a scalar, till it found you. Now it’s a vector. ‘Being in your element’ is like being a vector, an entity that has both speed and direction.Terence Tau is a vector. When he was two he watched Sesame Street, like many children do, but unlike most he used the television show to teach himself how to read! At age 3 he was solving equations, at age…

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This Life, Do Something Incredible!

My son recently got a document from his school that lists the subjects he has to choose from for his GCSE exams. We were discussing his options and I asked him what are his parameters for choosing a subject? Right off the bat he said, “My interest in the subject and how good I am in it.”I agreed but suggested that he also consider a third parameter to guide his subject selection decision. This third…

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Diversity in Thinking – Comparative Advantage in a VUCA Future

“Who won World War II?  i. Goodies  ii. Baddies”  Taken from a cartoon, this line nicely sums up how multiple-choice questions in standardised examinations are dumbing down education. We have become besotted with how students perform in examinations. Such exam-centric education unduly emphasises learning the content of a discipline, usually by rote, and students often lack a deeper understanding of fundamental concepts or episteme of a discipline and the underlying thinking framework. In the 20th century stockpiling…

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Tinkering with Electronics & Circuits – workshops in rural schools in the Himalayas, Dec 2015

In Dec 2015 I was back again in the Himalayas to conduct Timeless Lifeskills workshops in small, rural schools. The theme of the workshops this visit was ‘Tinkering with Electronics & Circuits – Thinking Like a Scientist’.The underlying objective of the workshop was to make students aware of how experts in different disciplines think. In other words focus of the workshops was on 'Modes of Thinking'. Figuring out how a scientist thinks (observation > hypothesis > experiments >…

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Anatomy of the A-ha Moment

The brightly lit bulb in comics depicts a flash of insight, when something incomprehensible suddenly makes sense, the moment you go ‘A-ha, I got it!’ The mental exhilaration you get when you makea connection between something new and something you already know is called the a-ha moment.True comprehension is also what makes knowledge actionable.But why is it that your formal education journey doesn’t have too many of these a-ha moments? And what can you do…

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The Positive Spiral of Education

As an independent educator, I often conduct workshops at schools and this gives me a chance to interact with teachers. Couple that with all the various parent-teacher meetings I have attended as a parent to a 14-year-old, and it means I have observations on the different kinds of teachers that people the education world. I find that they can broadly be classified into three types:Maximum Markus: Some who have a very narrow definition of schooling…

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The Promise of Curiosity: A 21st Century Superhero

Long gone are the days when curiosity killed the cat. Meant for a time when asking questions – being curious – was considered undesirable, since you were only supposed to “receive” information being meted out to you in classrooms mostly, today it is curiosity that’ll take the learner a long way. We could revise that proverb to say well, ‘Be curious and you’ll be one cool cat!’If you think of a 21st century superhero –…

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The Networked Learner

A common joke these days goes something like this –Child: “Dad, what is the meaning of the word omniverse?”Dad: “Umm, I don’t know."Child: “That’s ok. Can you ask Google?”We are living in an era that is often called the age of information explosion – which makes it impossible to know everything. But what does it mean, and what are its implications for the learners of today?When knowledge explodes, there is a big gap between ‘what…

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This Deepawali Light the Lamps Within… in the Right Sequence!

In his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman, physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman narrates this story – when he was around 12 years old Feynman got a reputation for fixing radios. Once he was asked to fix a radio that made an ear piercing noise when it was switched on and it took a few minutes before the music started playing. The initial noise ruined the listening experience.Feynman thought for a while and figured…

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The Evolving ‘R’ – Story of Education in the West (Part-3)

We are discussing the history of education in the West. In Part-1, we looked at Greek and Roman education, influence of Christianity that led to the formation of Church schools, Monasteries, Grammar schools and later to formation of Universities. The 3Rs of education at this point were – Reading, ‘Riting and Religion. In Part-2, we looked at the influence of growing trade that gave impetus to Apprenticeship and also added the fourth R - ‘Rithmetic…

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The Evolving ‘R’ – Story of Education in the West (Part-2)

We are tracing the story of education in the West and in Part-1 we considered how the disciplinary Spartans, philosophical Athenians, pragmatic Romans and zealous Christians envisioned an educated person.The Christian Cathedral schools and Monastic schools grew in numbers and in importance. These schools were effectively run by one teacher, and as some teachers became famous, their fan following grew. As it happens when local television personalities become celebrities and move to Hollywood, rising tension…

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The Evolving ‘R’ – Story of Education in the West (Part-1)

The answer to the question “How ‘R’ you?” over the centuries has come to epitomise who is considered an educated person. ‘R’ is the defining letter when it comes to understanding the evolving story of western education. ‘R’ stands for Reading, of course, but the ‘R’ of ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic follow not too far behind. How they got added and how ‘R’ was redefined from Rhetoric to Religion to Reason, reveals the changing emphasis of education, which…

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AI Versus Me

‘Humans Need Not Apply’ - a video that recently went viral describes the future of intelligent machines and how they will disrupt human employability. (https://youtu.be/7Pq-S557XQU)Famous inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts that exponential increase in computing power will see artificial intelligence (AI) surpassing human intelligence in 2045. He describes this as the ‘Technological Singularity’, because by then, Kurzweil postulates, self-improving machines will think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans will not even comprehend…

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The Idea Ecology

Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. Ideas too have their ecology.When the environment is VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, a lone genius is unlikely to find the most elegant solution to a complex problem. A network of curious people, with deep knowledge in different domains, has a higher probability of finding optimal solutions.Brian Eno calls such a network scenius – scenius is genius embedded not in the gene…

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