Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Electricity + OLPC Lesson Plans (Grammar School Science)

This post is about the lesson plans that I created for the Electricity chapter of the class 6, 7, and 8 students back in Meerut, India. They include the basic concepts, some examples of classroom interaction and homework, as well as the low-cost science experiments (materials and explanations) that I produced. Additionally included are notes on the learning curve and student interaction with the OLPC laptops. As with the OLPC report, this one wasn't written with a clear audience, and in hindsight, should have been separated into a mostly-science report and a mostly-OLPC report. C'est la vie. Take it or leave it.

[Sample of Lesson Plan / Notes used for teaching: Wikipedia graphics and custom graphics.]

Click here to download the Lesson Plans / Notes that I created.
Click here for a Test (with answers) for all three classes.

[Sample of student's work, showing the path of electricity from the source to a light in the home.]
It should be noted that I've posted this content just for blog readers - mostly friends and family. As the folks over at Iridescent Inc have discovered, random lesson plans on the internet aren't too helpful for educators, there are plenty of bad ones out there to sift through (I'd like to think mine are good although I'm sure we all would). The times are changing, and now even lesson plans are out - replaced by simpler concept maps that teachers can build around.

If you are an educator, and looking to contribute or to find content, check out Iridescent's new approach: a wiki for science education analogies! It's in it's early stages, so get involved and throw some content in there!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

OLPC Laptops in the Classroom - report

This post goes back to April when I was teaching science to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders
at Chiragh Grammar School, in Meerut, India. I was experimenting with the role of the low cost, rugged, OLPC laptop computers in science classrooms.
So how did it go? Well I just so happened to write it all up! Although I wrote up this full report (20 pages) in early May, we weren't sure where the report should go. If you're interested in reading it all, find it over at Iridescent Inc -- the non-profit science education group I've been involved with the past few years in Los Angeles.

Click here to download the report.
Click here for Iridescent's Educator website.

Since I wasn't sure the audience that I was writing this for, nor where the report would show up, I didn't put a whole lot of effort into polishing it (grammatically or otherwise). That said, I put in our experiences and hope that others can benefit from what we learned!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Backwaters of Kerala

Again, all I have are excuses. This time it's for completely skipping blog coverage for two weeks of my trip -- definitely some of the best weeks -- when I stayed with a friend at her yoga ashram. Among other things we learned yoga for the body, mind, and general energy.

But I digress. This post is about our post-ashram experience in the state of Kerala, India. We came to a small town of Alleppey (Alappuzha). This is one of many of the towns along the rail line where you can catch a houseboat and do a cruise up the backwaters -- the town's nickname is the "Venice of the East!" In addition to getting awesome Keralan food and a clean boat to ourselves we got something that you can hardly buy here in India -- peace and quiet. It seems to be a rare commodity in this country! This was our boat:
We had rented the boat for 24 hours, and sailed at 11am. After cruising some bigger canals and stopping for lunch, we made our way into smaller ones, which I fell in love with. I loved the idea that only our smaller size boat (single, with one bedroom, as opposed to the massive 3 bedroom boats [~30 meters long]) could navigate these. The palm trees arched over us, and the canal was formed by two manmade walls which held in rice paddies. The walls were between 3 feet wide and 20 feet wide, and small houses dotted the landscape.

When we stopped for lunch, a goat that was wandering on the sliver of land between the canal and rice paddies decided to join us -- he got away with two of our lady finger bananas!

The peace and quiet was seldom disturbed, and even then, always in a mild manner -- a quiet fisherman traveling home after work, school kids waiting for the school boat (no school buses here!), or some workers fixing a canal wall.

It was by far my most expensive night in India thus far, but as trusty Lonely Planet travel guide predicted, it was worth every rupee.

Excellent aerial shot from the Kerala Tourism group:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Varanasi, India

I'm going to have to do this one a bit out of order, because I don't have the pictures from Bodhgaya.

That said, I only have with me a small portion of those from Varanasi, but I figured some was better than none.

We stayed a few days here and were really sick of the constant hounding by the boatmen and their helpers who constantly bombarded us with offers for rides on the river, hotel rooms, restaurant food, sarees, and oddest of all, spices (I'm a tourist -- I have no kitchen. Why do you think I would want some turmeric!?)

I loved all the various 80's-video-game-style graphics that adorned town, and couldn't stop snapping pics:

When is Varanasi, the holiest town for one of the largest religions in the world, going to graduate up to 24-bit graphics? (I should be thankful they have such taste in style, and celebrate their own city!)

Here's a lovely scene: Families and strangers cheering on young boys and girls who are engaged in a swimming race from a rowboat back to shore, in a very holy, public river.

Here's a scene that I'm less in love with: The swimmers are as young as 3 yrs old, and the swimming is happening in the Ganges. The Ganges is not particularly clean. In addition to people drinking and swimming in the water, it is used for bathing, a trash dump, a sewage dump, and for the disposal of human bodies (either post-cremation ashes or if you happen to be alive, but in a coma). Apparently "80% of all health problems and one-third of deaths in India are result of different water-borne diseases." (Source) Yikes. You can do more research, but I found that there is roughly 10,000 times the WHO limit for bathing of fecal coliform in the water. That's what I want my kids swimming in. MMmmmm!

More on that topic: Smithsonian Magazine Article

And here's me earning some extra rupees:

ps. I realize that I have not posted about the better sides of this city, and I apologize. I did see some pretty awesome stuff, I just don't have the photos with me now.