Friday, July 30, 2010


Categorizing and drawing connections- I tried putting down everything I had done in the past 2 weeks, and look at how research was leading to form. I need to concretize soon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Immediate next steps

-I am currently looking at the traditional devices/techniques that are used to teach mathematics: The history of the abacus, and how it used in simple as well as complex calculations.


-Vedic mathematics- Patterns and techniques- The 16 sutras

-I will be visiting the Maths Mela next week:
Prithvi Theatre (Mumbai), along with the British Council Library has organized a month long Maths festival which is being hosted across different schools in Mumbai. The Maths Mela is an unconventional engagement with the subject, where the focus is on the concepts and applications of mathematics. The activities in the Mela include- Workshops, Maths lab, Games, Film screenings and live performances.

-I will be meeting a professional in the field of alternative mathematics education in Mumbai next week- Ms. Premla Rajkumar. I have already discussed my project idea with her, and she had a few interesting points to make.

-Consolidating and analyzing research- Looking at everything together, and then narrowing down in terms of which aspect/mathematical concept I want to work with- Deciding the direction I will be taking in terms of form (Keeping in mind that the system/structure that I will be designing could be used to demonstrate a range of aspects/concepts-Scope for expansion)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010



1. What are the teaching methodologies that differentiate your board (CBSE etc.) from the others?
2. How do your children enjoy the Math class?
3. How do they fare on Math tests (on an average)?
4. How much of workshop/practical learning sessions are incorporated within the curriculum? How do the students enjoy those sessions?
5. Do you think mathematics is better taught the traditional way, or do you encourage a more ‘learning through doing’ approach?
6. What are your views on ‘integrated curriculum’ and integrative learning?
7. Does your school spend money on new technologies for learning?
8. What are your views on technology, and how do you think it can be used to enhance learning? What in your opinion are the pros and cons of using technology and new media in education?

1. Do you like Math? If not, what do you not like?
2. How well do you score on Math tests?
3. Can you see Math in the world around you? Where?
4. Do you see purpose in the math skills you learn in school?
5. Do you play educational games? If so, which ones?
6. Would you be comfortable learning by yourself, through a game, or a book? Or would you need a teacher to instruct you?
7. Are you familiar with using the computer? Do you prefer playing games on the computer as opposed to reading a book?
8. If you were in charge of your class, how would you like to teach your 'students' math? What do you think is the best way for them to learn? Imagine your 'Dream Math Class'!


Delhi Public School (Bangalore North): (C.B.S.E) Std. 5 & Std. 6
  • Most children from this school were quite fond of the subject, though some of them found it hard to grasp. In terms of application, apart from ‘money’ and ‘school’, they weren’t able to relate mathematics to the world around them. 
  • The school organizes math labs once a week, where students work on group projects, class activities and games. 
  • Many students said they would be comfortable learning on their own, but would like some guidance from their teacher as well. 
  • They played educational games like “Math quiz”, “Scrabble”, “Think Fun”, and memory games.
  • Also, the school has an Educomp SmartClass ( in each class, and the students love learning from it.
(Smartclass is a digital initiative of Educomp, which is rapidly transforming the way teachers teach and students learn in schools with innovative and meaningful use of technology. Powered by the world’s largest repository of digital content mapped to Indian School Curriculum, smartclass brings in technology right next to the blackboard for teachers in the classrooms. Students learn difficult and abstract curriculum concepts watching highly engaging visuals and animations. This makes learning an enjoyable experience for students while improving their overall academic performance in school. Smartclass has a unique delivery model for schools. A knowledge center is created inside the school equipped with the entire library of smartclass digital content. The knowledge center is connected to the classrooms through Intranet. Teachers get the relevant digital resources such as animations and videos, interactive virtual labs tools etc. and use them as a part of their lesson plans in every classroom period.) 

Mallya Aditi International School: (I.C.S.E) Std. 4
  • Most children seemed to enjoy their math classes. They play class games like “Around the world”, “Multiplication facts”.
  • They were quite aware of the applications of math in the real world- They came up with answers like “Money”, “Time”, “Computers”, “Business” and “Stock Market”!
  • They liked playing games on the computer more than reading books, and solved online puzzles and educational quizzes. They also solved Sudoku and crosswords.
  • They wanted to play games like monopoly in class, and learn geometry by building 3D models, cutting shapes etc. “I want to learn Math only through quizzes. No tests and textbooks!”

Poorna Prajna Education Centre: (Karnataka State Board) Std. 4, Std. 5 & Std. 6
  • Most students preferred reading books to playing games on the computer.
  • The students preferred to have a teacher to guide them, rather than learning on their own through games and/or books. They also said that their ideal math class should be “stress free”, and the focus should be on fun and play, not on homework and tests.
  • They play educational games like “Word Building” and crosswords. Some children said they see math in the world around them in “Money”, “Measurement” and “Counting”- “From the number of pens in my pencil box, to the population of my country”. Rest of them said they see math only on the blackboard and in school.
  • Math teachers regularly attend workshops such as “Creative teaching”, “Classroom management”, “Evaluation techniques” held at the Poorna Prajna Institute of Faculty Improvement. The school is on its way to set up a Math Lab. 
  • Math teachers think that a “learning through doing” approach is appreciated by students, but some topics need to be taught the traditional way. They also think “integrative learning” depends highly on the motivation of the child and his/her aptitude to grasp concepts and draw connections. 
  • The teachers also think that technology should come with limitations- “Teachers and students are more important than technology. Especially when it comes to exams, I am sorry to say but drilling is a must, both at home and school.”

Friday, July 23, 2010


Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is a satirical novella by the English schoolmaster Edwin Abbott Abbott. Writing pseudonymously as "a square", Abbott uses the fictional two-dimensional world of Flatland to offer pointed observations on the social hierarchy of Victorian culture. However, the novella's more enduring contribution is its examination of dimensions. Noted science writer Isaac Asimov described Flatland as "The best introduction one can find into the manner of perceiving dimensions."

(The story is about a two-dimensional world referred to as Flatland which is occupied by geometric figures, line-segments (females) and regular polygons with various numbers of sides.The narrator is a humble Square, a member of the social caste of gentlemen and professionals in a society of geometric figures, who guides us through some of the implications of life in two dimensions.The narrator is then visited by a three-dimensional sphere, which he cannot comprehend until he sees Spaceland for himself.After the Square's mind is opened to new dimensions, he tries to convince the Sphere of the theoretical possibility of the existence of a fourth (and fifth, and sixth ...) spatial dimension.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reading: Mindstorms

Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas -Seymour Papert
  • “Constructionism”- It differs from constructivism in that it “looks more the idea of mental construction.” The computer is seen by Papert as a powerful tool for supporting children’s learning- for learning in a self-directed, self-motivated way, in the course of programming. Rather than seeing the computer as a mechanism for instilling knowledge and skills via workbook like exercises, Papert’s programming language, LOGO, allows children to take control of the computer, learning about mathematics through the experience of mathematical concepts.
  • In most contemporary educational situations where the children come into contact with computers it is usually the computer programming the child. In the LOGO environment, the role is reversed: The child, even at preschool ages, is in control: The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they themselves think. Thinking about thinking turns the child into an epistemologist.
  • Our culture is very rich in materials useful for the child’s construction of certain components of numerical and logical thinking. Children learn to count; they learn that the result of counting is independent of order and special arrangement; they extend this “conversation” to thinking about the properties of liquids as they are poured and of solids which change their shape. Children develop these components of thinking pre-consciously and “spontaneously,” that is to say without deliberate teaching. Other components of knowledge, such as the skills involved n doing permutations and combinations, develop more slowly, or do not develop at all without formal schooling.
  • Piaget distinguishes between “concrete” thinking and “formal” thinking. Concrete thinking is already well on its way by the time the child enters the first grade at age 6 and is consolidated in the following years. Formal thinking does not develop until the child is almost twice as old–The computer can concretize (and personalize) the formal.
  • Many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you either “got it” or “got it wrong.” But when you learn to program a computer you almost never get it right the first time.
  • This potential influence of the computer on changing our notion of a black and white version of our successes and failures is an example of using the computer as an “object to think with.”
  • Critics have pointed to the influence of the allegedly mechanized thought processes of computers on how people think. McLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message” might apply here: If the medium is an interactive system that takes in words and speaks back like a person, it is easy to get the message that machines are like people and that people are like machines. What this might do to the development of values and self-image in growing children is hard to assess.
  • Ways to take educational advantage by mastering the art of deliberately thinking like a computer, for example, in a step-by-step, literal, mechanical fashion. Some children’s difficulties in learning formal subjects such as grammar or mathematics derive from their inability to see the point of such a style.
  • By deliberately learning to imitate mechanical thinking, the learner becomes able to articulate what mechanical thinking is and what it is not. The exercise can lead to greater confidence about the ability to choose a cognitive style that suits the problem. “Style of thinking”
  • The intellectual environments offered to children by today’s cultures are poor in opportunities to bring their thinking about thinking into the open, to learn to talk about it and test their ideas by externalizing them. Access to computers can dramatically change this situation.
  • The computer is not a culture unto itself but it can serve to advance very different cultural and philosophical outlooks.
  • The educator must be an anthropologist

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Very apt at the moment

"The scariest moment is always just before you start."
-Stephen King


Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, games, and animations – and share your creations with others on the web.
Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab ( This is a fascinating software for children (or anyone else) to create, design and learn. With a very simple interface and instructions, it is easy to grasp. It allows children to play with characters, animation, sound, narrative and the concept of programming. I was introduced to this today, and have been experimenting ever since. Extremely addictive :)

Science in Art: A Perpetual Motion Machine

A moving sculpture by norwegian artist Mr. Reidar Finsrud. It appears to use a combination of gravity, magnets, and pendulum effects, which modern physics would say is impossible, to generate nearly continuous motion since 1996, when it was assembled.

(A steel ball (about 2.7 inch diameter, 20 pound) is rolling on an aluminum track, about 25 inches in diameter, placed horizontally. Three pendulums, about 45 inches long with tunable weights at the lower end, controls three horse-shoe magnets that the steel ball has to pass by on the track. Embedded in the track is a (mechanical) controlling/timing mechanism. It looks like a steel wire bent into a triangular track, 5 inches long. The ball rolls over it and pushes the wire down through a slot in the track. This affects one of the pendulums and regulates its swinging motion.)


Meeting with Palash and Dipti
-Target audience: Why elementary school? At that age the student’s mind is still developing, the learning tools they will need are to aid that. At a middle school level, children adapt easier to alternative methods, and are more capable of playing and exploring educational concepts.
-Approach: Mathematics through storytelling, with storytelling at the forefront? Or playing with mathematics and understanding numbers through storytelling, with mathematics at the forefront?
-The language of Mathematics
-History of Mathematics education- Why was the abacus used? Other tactile methods and the purpose they serve-Vedic mathematics.
-Locate yourself and your project in a wider body of work. Find what is lacking in what has been done already, what you can contribute to that, and then work with the possibilities.
-An art installation that demonstrates a mathematical concept?

Look at:
-Exploratorium (San Francisco): The museum of science, art and human perception
-Scratch: A platform to create and share your own interactive stories, music, games and art
-PicoCricket: An interactive platform where you can create playful inventions
-Geometer’s Sketchpad: A dynamic construction, demonstration, and exploration tool that adds a powerful dimension to the study of mathematics. Students can use this software program to build and investigate mathematical models, objects, figures, diagrams, and graphs.
-Museum exhibits

Role-Playing Your Way to Math Mastery?

A massively multiplayer online game requiring players to employ mathematical concepts could revolutionize the teaching of mathematics at the middle school level, according to Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin.

Key points:
-The importance of 'context'
-Using mathematics to achieve goals, and to see the outcome of that immediately
-Video games help students overcome that period when they haven’t seen value in the mathematics they learn
-The one thing that is missing in a math class is the meaningful environment

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reading: The New Media Reader (Introduction)

Inventing the Medium -Janet H. Murray
  • Establishing the genealogy of the computer as an expressive medium
  • Bush and Borges-Failure of the linear media to capture our structure of thought
  • Reflecting not a new technology, but a change in how our minds are working
  • We see the scientific culture articulating a medium that “augments” our humanity, that makes us smarter by pooling our thinking and organizing it at a higher level, and even by facilitating new ways of thinking that are more synthetic and have more power to master complex operations and ideas.
  • Englebart did not think of the computer as merely improving human thinking, but as transforming the processes of our institutions in a more profound way.
  • A decade before the development of “multimedia” and at the point when “hypertext” was just a concept, the sheer representational power of the computer was apparent to those who were leading its development. They realized that the whole of the medium was much more than the sum of the various enabling technologies.
  • The awe-inspiring representational power of the computer derives from its four defining qualities: its procedural, participatory, encyclopaedic, and spatial properties. 
  • The more fundamental properties, the procedural and participatory foundation of the computer, are the ones that provide the basis for what we think of as the defining experience of the digital medium, its “interactivity.” Although this word is often used loosely it can be thought of as encompassing these two properties, and also the pleasure of agency, the sense of participating in a world that responds coherently to our participation. 
  • The critics of technology are an important part of the development of a new medium because they challenge us to identify more clearly what we find so compelling about it, why we are so drawn to shape this new clay into objects that haven’t existed before. 
  • The videogame also won over the young to the new medium and developed an expanding vocabulary of engagement, including ever more detailed and intricate elaboration on the theme of the violent contest as well as increasing interest in creating detailed, immersive, expressive story worlds. 
  • Sherry Turkle offered the foundational view of the psychosocial dynamics of the digital medium, calling it a “second self” upon which we projected consciousness, and an “evocative object” which had tremendous “holding power” over the interactor. 
  • We are drawn to a new medium of representation because we are pattern makers who are thinking beyond our old tools. We are drawn to this medium because we need it to understand the world and our place in it.

New Media from Borges to HTML -Lev Manovich
  • The logic of the art world and the logic of new media are exact opposites. The first is based on the romantic idea of authorship which assumes a single author, the notion of a one-of-a-kind art object, and the control over the distribution of such objects which takes place through a set of exclusive places: galleries, museums, auctions. The second privileges the existence of potentially numerous copies; infinitely many different states of the same work; author-user symbiosis (the user can change the work through interactivity); the collective; collaborative authorship; and network distribution (which bypasses the art system distribution channels).
  • As digital and network media rapidly become an omnipresent in our society, and as most artists came to routinely use this new media, the field is facing a danger of becoming a ghetto whose participants would be united by their fetishism of latest computer technology, rather than by any deeper conceptual, ideological or aesthetic issues.
  • In the last few decades of the twentieth century, modern computing and network technology materialized certain key projects of modern art developed approximately at the same time. In the process of this materialization, the technologies overtook art. That is, not only have new media technologies actualized the ideas behind projects by artists, they have also extended them much further than the artist originally imagined. 
  • New Media vs. Cyberculture: Cyberculture is focused on the social and the networking; new media is focused on the cultural and computing. 
  • New Media as Computer technology used as a distribution platform 
  • New Media as Digital Data Controlled by Software 
  • New Media as the Mix between Existing cultural conventions and the conventions of software
  • New Media as the aesthetics that accompanies the early stage of every new modern media and communication technology
  • New Media as faster execution of algorithms previously executed manually or through other technologies. 
  • New Media as the encoding of modernist Avant-Garde; New Media as Metamedia. 
  • New Media as parallel articulation of similar ideas in post-ww2 art and modern computing.

    Children's Number books at the M.A.I.S Junior Library

    Simple narrative style
    Questioning and Problem solving through storytelling
    Colourful and friendly illustrations
    Basic interactivity (Counting beads)
    Bold use of type

    Ko's Journey: An online story-based math adventure

    Ko's Journey is a first of its kind web-based application designed to teach the core concepts of middle school math through storytelling. Paced for learning and comprehension, it provides more depth and context than most math games.

    Crayon Physics

    This is a concept game on the Nokia N810 tablet, which involves using physics concepts in an environment to make objects interact. A fun way to learn and explore :)

    Math, Memory and Thinking

    This is an article I found online which talks about basic mathematics, and the neurodevelopmental functions involved when children think with numbers.
    (Misunderstood Minds- © 2002 WGBH Educational Foundation)

    Mathematics is often thought of as a subject that a student either understands or doesn't, with little in between. In reality, mathematics encompasses a wide variety of skills and concepts. Although these skills and concepts are related and often build on one another, it is possible to master some and still struggle with others. For instance, a child who has difficulty with basic multiplication facts may be successful in another area, such as geometry. An individual student may have some areas of relative strength and others of real vulnerability.
    In recent years, researchers have examined aspects of the brain that are involved when children think with numbers. Most researchers agree that memory, language, attention, temporal-sequential ordering, higher-order cognition, and spatial ordering are among the neurodevelopmental functions that play a role when children think with numbers. These components become part of an ongoing process in which children constantly integrate new concepts and procedural skills as they solve more advanced math problems.

    For children to succeed in mathematics, a number of brain functions need to work together. Children must be able to use memory to recall rules and formulas and recognize patterns; use language to understand vocabulary, instructions, and explain their thinking; and use sequential ordering to solve multi-step problems and use procedures. In addition, children must use spatial ordering to recognize symbols and deal with geometric forms. Higher-order cognition helps children to review alternative strategies while solving problems, to monitor their thinking, to assess the reasonableness of their answers, and to transfer and apply learned skills to new problems. Often, several of these brain functions need to operate simultaneously.

    Because math is so cumulative in nature, it is important to identify breakdowns as early as possible. Children are more likely to experience success in math when any neurodevelopmental differences that affect their performance in mathematics are dealt with promptly - before children lose confidence or develop a fear of math.

    Competence in mathematics is increasingly important in many professions (see sidebar). And it's important to remember that this competence draws on more than just the ability to calculate answers efficiently. It also encompasses problem solving, communicating about mathematical concepts, reasoning and establishing proof, and representing information in different forms. Making connections among these skills and concepts both in mathematics and in other subjects is something students are more frequently asked to do, both in the classroom setting, and later in the workplace. For specific information about the range of skills and concepts in school mathematics, please visit the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Web site.

    Math and Memory Memory may have a significant impact on thinking with numbers. As Dr. Mel Levine points out, "Almost every kind of memory you can think of finds its way into math." Factual memory in math is the ability to recall math facts. These facts must be recalled accurately, with little mental effort. Procedural memory is used to recall how to do things -- such as the steps to reduce a fraction or perform long division.

    Active working memory
    is the ability to remember what you're doing while you are doing it, so that once you've completed a step, you can use this information to move on to the next step. In a way, active working memory allows children to hold together the parts of math problems in their heads. For example, to perform the mental computation 11 x 25, a child could say, "10 times 25 is 250 and 1 times 25 is 25, so adding 250 with 25 gives me 275." The child solves the problem by holding parts in his or her mind, then combining those parts for a final answer.

    Pattern recognition also is a key part of math. Children must identify broad themes and patterns in mathematics and transfer them within and across situations. When children are presented with a math word problem, for example, they must identify the overarching pattern, and link it to similar problems in their previous experience.

    Finally, memory for rules is also critical for success in math. When children encounter a new problem, they must recall from long-term memory the appropriate rules for solving the problem. For example, when a child reduces a fraction, he or she divides the numerator and the denominator by the greatest common factor - a mathematical rule.

    Memory skills help children store concepts and skills and retrieve them for use in relevant applications. In turn, this kind of work relating new concepts to real-life contexts enhances conceptual and problem-solving skills. For example, a student may already know that 6 x 2 = 12. To solve the problem, "If there are six children, each with one pair of shoes, how many shoes in total?" the student will rely on memory of the multiplication fact and apply it to the particular case.

    Math and Language
    The language demands of mathematics are extensive. Children's ability to understand the language found in word problems greatly influences their proficiency at solving them. In addition to understanding the meaning of specific words and sentences, children are expected to understand textbook explanations and teacher instructions.

    Math vocabulary also can pose problems for children. They may find it confusing to use several different words, such as "add," "plus," and "combine," that have the same meaning. Other terms, such as "hypotenuse" and "to factor," do not occur in everyday conversations and must be learned specifically for mathematics. Sometimes a student understands the underlying concept clearly but does not recall a specific term correctly.

    Math and Attention Attention abilities help children maintain a steady focus on the details of mathematics. For example, children must be able to distinguish between a minus and plus sign -- sometimes on the same page, or even in the same problem. In addition, children must be able to discriminate between the important information and the unnecessary information in word problems. Attention also plays an important role by allowing children to monitor their efforts; for instance, to slow down and pace themselves while doing math, if needed.

    Temporal-Sequential Ordering and Spatial Ordering While temporal-sequential ordering involves appreciating and producing information in a particular sequential order, spatial ordering involves appreciating and producing information in an appropriate form. Each plays an important role in mathematical abilities.

    Dr. Levine points out that "Math is full of sequences." Almost everything that a child does in math involves following a sequence. Sequencing ability allows children to put things, do things, or keep things in the right order. For example, to count from one to ten requires presenting the numbers in a definite order. When solving math problems, children usually are expected to do the right steps in a specific order to achieve the correct answer.

    Recognizing symbols such as numbers and operation signs, being able to visualize - or form mental images - are aspects of spatial perception that are important to succeeding in math. The ability to visualize as a teacher talks about geometric forms or proportion, for example, can help children store information in long-term memory and can help them anchor abstract concepts. In a similar fashion, visualizing multiplication may help students understand and retain multiplication rules.

    The Developing Math Student Some math skills obviously develop sequentially. A child cannot begin to add numbers until he knows that those numbers represent quantities. Certain skills, on the other hand, seem to exist more or less independently of certain other, even very advanced, skills. A high school student, for example, who regularly makes errors of addition and subtraction, may still be capable of extremely advanced conceptual thinking.

    The fact that math skills are not necessarily learned sequentially means that natural development is very difficult to chart and, thus, problems are equally difficult to pin down. Educators do, nevertheless, identify sets of expected milestones for a given age and grade as a means of assessing a child's progress. Learning specialists, including Dr. Levine, pay close attention to these stages in hopes of better understanding what can go wrong and when.

    New Media Technology, Education, Learning tools: MIT OpenCourseWare

    New Media and Learning Innovations
    -Rainer J. Steindler
    This talk is about projects which use new media technologies to enhance communication, the use of multimedia to bring about an interactive experience. There are four award winning student projects that are showcased here, one of which is educational in nature (An interactive interface-a Reactable-that enables pre-school children to play, explore and learn). This project is similar to what I am working towards, and is quite inspiring. The other student projects are very interesting as well, and the use of new media and technology adds layers to the communication effectively.

    Educational Uses of Technology
    -Steven Lerman
    Steven Lerman talks about education systems today, the learning process, and using technology to facilitate learning. Some interesting points:
    -‘Learning’ over ‘Teaching'-Teaching is a synchronous process, learning isn’t.
    -The student becoming an active participant in his/her own learning
    -Enabling technologies that help students
    -Applications: Building real world educational software and learning technologies and applying them to real learners. Looking at opportunities, building things that will help students, and then putting them in classroom settings
    -Evaluation and assessment- Does a technology help people learn differently, better, faster?
    -How does that compare with traditional settings? Learning outcomes.

    Media, Education, and Technology
    -Bonnie Bracey
    This is a very interesting lecture about educations, educators, changing times, and how we can make the most of technology.
    Key points:
    -Children nowadays have grown up digitally. To them , technology is a part of their natural world
    -Teachers think technology can be used everywhere, except the classroom. They have no understanding of the way technology can be used in the classroom, and transforming education from last century into 21st century education. It is still “chalk and talk”, and children are bored.
    -Not because teachers aren’t doing anything differently, it is because the world has changed
    -Media allows children to be creators and producers. Allows them to think and analyze. Allow them to talk to people everywhere.
    -How do we engage teachers? Allow them to play with technology, to create a learning landscape- The way in which they use technology to help children learn, understand, explore.
    -Converging many ideas to allow children to learn- Create pedagogy
    -Access, support, learning the technology- Taking the educator to the point where they understand what engaged learning is. How does it work? Seamless interface, structure?
    -Product, Project, Objectives, Assessment
    -Learn to be a learner
    -Create paths to lifelong learning
    -Change learning into seeing information, and changing it into knowledge that becomes personalized
    -Children can begin to make decisions, ask questions and begin to explore
    -Stakeholders-Community needs to understand the technology
    -Think forwards
    -Technology brings a face to communication 

    -It is about learning to push the technology to a point where it is invisible, and but a tool

    (MIT OpenCourseWare:

    Monday, July 19, 2010


    TED: Alan Kay shares a powerful idea about ideas

    Key points:
    -Ways of seeing-Difference in perceptions- The world is how we see it
    -Using technology to enhance learning experiences, educational applications on the 100$ laptops
    -Children learn better through practical application, rather than studying
    -Technology is replacing the role of a mentor
    -"Children are the future we send to the future."

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Digital teaching aids make mathematics fun

    Anyone who struggled with maths in school will appreciate how difficult learning complex mathematical formulas can be. Books, exercises and traditional teaching methods instruct students on how different maths equations work, but often fail to explain why they work or, even more importantly, what use they have in the real world. This gap between what is taught in the classroom and what applies in reality has widened further in recent years as new technology, the internet and computer games have made traditional teaching methods seem antiquated and out of touch.

    “Students are increasingly living in two worlds: the world of the classroom and the real world... and the two are growing farther apart,” cautions Chronis Kynigos, a researcher at the Research Academic Computer Technology Institute (RACTI) and director of the Educational Technology Lab at the University of Athens.
    The problem has not gone unnoticed by the European educational community. But efforts to use computers, games and digital media in maths teaching have often been disjointed and sporadic, with results varying widely between schools, curricula and countries.

    Working in the EU-funded ReMath project, the team developed new teaching aids, in the form of software tools known as Dynamic Digital Artefacts (DDAs), and a comprehensive set of Pedagogical Plans for teachers to use within the guidelines of national education curricula. The results of their efforts have been put to the test in schools across Europe and are being commercialised by three spin-off companies.
    “The state-of-the-art tools and Pedagogical Plans cover a wide variety of mathematical fields,” Kynigos, who coordinated the ReMath project, says. “Some use traditional mathematical representations while others are more like interactive games that show the role maths plays in the real world.” For example, MoPix, one of the DDAs developed by the team, uses animation and games to explain Newtonian formulas. Another program called MaLT provides students with a set of programmable mathematical controllers with which to manipulate objects in a virtual environment.

    The introduction of this interactive style of teaching can have a dramatic effect in classrooms, something the ReMath researchers witnessed for themselves during trials conducted in high schools in the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Greece.While some teachers took time to warm to the idea and adjust their teaching style accordingly, they quickly came to see the benefits as students showed more interest in class and found it easier to grasp difficult mathematical concepts, Kynigos says. “Many students commented that they didn’t even feel like they were in maths class at all,” he notes.

    By themselves, the tools can only go so far toward improving mathematics education. In addition, the Educational Technology Lab has created Polymechanon, a science theme park in Greece containing a set of serious collaborative games using technologies from two of the DDAs: MaLT and Cruislet, a vector-driven geographic navigator.

    (ICT Results. "Digital Teaching Aids Make Mathematics Fun." ScienceDaily 24 February 2010. 19 July 2010 <­ /releases/2010/02/100224134027.htm>.)

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010


    After an informal meeting with Matt and Sudipto today, I realized that I needed to look at my project from different perspectives. The following questions are the starting points for my research:

    -Why am I doing this project? What is it that is different from what already exists, and has been done in the past, in this field?

    -What do I want to communicate? What is the most effective method to do so? (Form follows function)

    -Who is this project for? Children in urban schools, or for children in every part of the country/world? (Affordability)

    Considering this is a learning device, shouldn’t this be accessible to as many people as possible?
    Or, as a designer, am I aiming to experiment with new age technology to communicate this material, which would be costly, and thus limited in its outreach?

    -Accessibility: Where is this book/game/etc going to be sold? Is it going to be SOLD, or DISPLAYED? Is it something a school library would keep a copy of, or something that every parent can buy for his child, or something that is purely on display in a learning centre/playschool?

    -My initial idea for the product/output was an electronic pop-up book. But I will be keeping that open as of now.

    Concerns: Paper is not sturdy enough, especially when the target audience are 4-6 years of age. Also, a pop-up book is too delicate, and needs to be handled with care. For the specified target audience, I could consider a game, an object or a range of objects, etc. At this point, I need to be open about the form that will communicate my idea most effectively. (Also, keeping in mind my skill sets and specialization)

    -From a visual communication design perspective, I need to look at design for children, illustrations, typography, and other elements that are within my skill sets, and incorporate them in my project.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Electronic Popables

    This is an electronics project done in the MIT Media Labs. I am looking at exploring this direction, as it is tactile and the electronics allow for dynamic interactivity.