‘I am also a driver’: Assam teachers protest against education minister’s ‘driving license’ remark

Image: Twitter

Irked by a recent remark by Assam’s Education Minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya, teachers in the state are protesting by prefixing their names with ‘driver’ on their social media handles, taking a page out of the books of BJP leaders and supporters who prefixed theirs with ‘chowkidar’ while campaigning in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

On June 13, while taking a live question from a teacher in Barpeta on All India Radio, Bhattacharya had said that those teachers who had gotten their teaching certificates more than five years ago need to have their documents renewed, just like driving licenses. For this, they will have to sit for the Teacher’s Eligibility Test (TET) again.

The first general TET exam was held in Assam in 2012. Those who have qualified this exam are eligible to seek employment at government-backed primary schools in the state.

In 2012, over 52,000 people had passed the exam, of which around 26,000 were granted employment in a phased manner, as per a Times of India report. The last exam was held in Assam in 2014 with over 90,000 candidates having cleared heir exam.

However, a TET certificate lapses every seven years, warranting those who haven’t been able to procure a job in that period to sit for the exam again. As a result of this, around 40,000 teachers, who were working on a contractual basis, are left in the lurch because their jobs haven’t been regularized by the government.

The vexed teachers have given their social media mobilisation the form of a state-wide protest, demanding Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to regularise the jobs of TET qualified teachers who are working on a contractual basis for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan.

Teachers point out that it was the government at fault here that has not regularised them despite vacant posts.

Mirajul Rasid, general secretary of an organisation that represents TET qualified teachers, said as per a report by The Indian Express, “This is not out of disrespect for drivers in any way. But the comparison makes no sense. Do we have to sit for a driving test at the DTO every time we renew our driving licenses?”

“Our social media campaign is not derogatory but actually a mark of respect to drivers — us teachers are drivers of schools, of educating children, just like Sarbananda Sonowal is the driver of Assam,” Rasid added.


Opinion | The truth about creativity: It’s a process, not a serendipitous, magical occurrence

Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia credits the success of the global hospitality service to design thinking. (Photo: Reuters)

The theme of creativity conjures up images of lone geniuses working in isolation to produce game changing innovations. In today’s digital era characterized by user generated innovation, crowdsourcing and co-creation, this notion of creativity is being turned on its head.

The new notion is that anybody can be creative and there are toolkits and techniques that ordinary people can use to produce extraordinary results. Researchers refer to this as everyday creativity. Everyday creativity is the ability to summon new ideas while going through mundane life experiences. It is something that lets a person see the familiar in the unfamiliar and the unfamiliar in the familiar. To understand the new model of everyday creativity, we first need to explode a few myths.

Myth 1: Creativity is a serendipitous occurrence

A simple Google search on creativity brings to the fore plenty of images of a glowing light bulb. For some reason, we associate creativity with a serendipitous, magical occurrence with distinct on and off states. The surprising truth about creativity, however, is that it is a process, and when applied mindfully can produce consistent results.

Acclaimed design firm IDEO applies Design Thinking as a process to apply creative design to everyday objects ranging from a mundane shopping cart to a toothbrush to Nike sunglasses. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, says, “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Joe Gebbia, the co-founder of Airbnb, credits the success of the global hospitality service to design thinking. Gebbia, a student of design, recounts his experience from the design school. “If we were working on a medical device, we would go out into the world. We would go talk with all the stakeholders, all the users of that product, doctors, nurses, patients and then we would have that epiphany moment where we would lay down in the bed in the hospital. We’d have the device applied to us, and we would sit there and feel exactly what it felt like to be the patient, and it was in that moment where you start to go aha, that’s really uncomfortable. There’s probably a better way to do this.” This experience encouraged Gebbia to make “being a patient” a core value of the design team at Airbnb.

Myth 2: Creativity is the domain of lone geniuses

For the longest time, researchers have tried to understand the methods of extraordinarily creative individuals such as Mozart, Picasso and Einstein to codify the process of creativity. Could it be possible that studying ordinary people in ordinary situations can contribute significantly to understating creativity? The answer is a resounding yes.

Harvard professor Teresa Amabile says, “We may see a sea change over the next decade or so, where more and more things that are considered creative breakthroughs will be made by people whose names are never going to be known as famous individuals”.

Enabled by the collaborative power of the internet, ordinary people in their workplaces, communities and societies are now able to come together to solve problems and co-create ingenuous ideas. “Be my Eyes” is a fascinating example of this phenomenon wherein blind and low-vision people can connect with sighted volunteers through a live video call to get their problems solved.

Myth 3: R&D teams provide creative solutions

Innovation is no longer just the forte of research and development departments. Employees across levels today are given an opportunity to contribute to ideas and have a say in creating innovative products and services. In fact, companies today are going beyond employees and leveraging talent across the world to solve some of their toughest challenges.

Anheuser-Busch, a leading brewer in the world, sought input from the best group of taste-testers it could find—in excess of 25,000 collaborators in all – before developing a craft-beer. The company created a golden-amber lager named Black Crown through a combination of competition between brew masters, tasting sessions and crowdsourcing consumer ideas.

So far, the narrative around creativity has revolved around the talent meets opportunity story. Today, it is about ordinary people leveraging the community. Let us now focus on how to hone everyday creativity —in other words, develop the ability to unlock creative superpowers at will every day.

Ask yourself what problems you want to solve: If you are passionate about the problem space, chances are you will be motivated to solve it.

Immerse yourself in the problem space: Talk to various people, observe things in their natural environment, seek inputs to develop a strong point of view

Tap into social networks: Any creative process is, by definition, prone to high failure rates. Harness the creativity of individuals in your network to accelerate your learning curve and unlock novel ways of looking at problems. Iterate and test your hypothesis in safe environments to perfect your solution.

To sum up, creativity is not about being artistic, it is about a mindset—one that cares deeply about a problem, seeks solutions from the network to learn rich perspectives and has the perseverance to make a difference.


Now, a creative bot for artists

The Dara chatbot helps you connect with potential collaborators.

Discover like-minded artists and designers from around India and the UK with Dara, India’s first chatbot for creative professionals. Created by the British Council, the bot helps you connect with potential collaborators and a wider audience for ongoing projects. Believed to be one-of-a-kind, Dara came into existence as a result of the British Council’s Open Call for Digital Arts (2018), and has been conceptualized and developed by Bengaluru-based tech artist Archana Prasad and Sean Blagsvedt, head of international growth of Marco Polo, a video communication app. The project has been funded by the British Council for its objective of democratization of the arts.

Prasad is the founder of Jaaga, a Bengaluru-based firm which provides programmes and spaces for creative people, initiatives and enterprises. She believes that the project is in sync with her own practice. “My work is about creating spaces where the creative community and the technology community can meet each other. While a lot of our work is Bengaluru-centric and based on the ground, with Dara we wanted to create something scalable and online,” she says.

The chatbot has been envisioned as a digital friend with deep networks in the creative sector. The makers hope that with time Dara will be able to connect people across the network through email as well as offline interactions. “Dara could host multiple gatherings across cities, inviting people from her network to meet one another. Another way could be aiding people based in, say, Bengaluru and London initiate conversation online and help them embark on a collaboration,” says Prasad.

Initial research involved inviting around 25 respondents from the two countries, drawing from Prasad’s personal network. They were consulted at every stage of the design process. Two months ago, the British Council organized a dinner for 75 creative professionals. These invitees had a history of cultural and creative collaboration. “They were requested to nominate one-two persons. These nominees were then called in for a second event in May this year and became the registered users for Dara,” says Prasad.

The chatbot works on a progressive web application that leverages any browser, be it Chrome or Safari. Dara is also present on Facebook. The team is considering a downloadable app, but that will have to wait for now. “We have 294 users at this point, with a spike in the last two weeks,” says Prasad.


This Canon Gear Is 10x More Expensive, but Are the Results 10x Better?

Image result for This Canon Gear Is 10x More Expensive, but Are the Results 10x Better?When you put a Canon 5D Mark IV and an L series lens up against an entry level Canon with kit lens, you’re obviously going to get better results with the more expensive option. But are the results 10 times worth the price?

How many different ways can you say that it’s not the tools that create the masterpiece, but rather the person using them? A piano doesn’t compose a concerto, a typewriter doesn’t write a great novel, a camera doesn’t make a great photo. The list could go on and on, however, I think we can all agree that, by and large, when you pay more for a certain piece of technology or tool of the trade, you get something of a higher quality with more features and benefits. But are those features, benefits, and results worth the extra price that you pay? And if you pay 10 times more, are your results 10 times better? It’s difficult to answer these questions, because results and criteria might be subjective, and one person may have a different standard of grading than another. Be that as it may, The School of Photography’s Marc Newton has put a Canon 5D Mark IV paired with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L lens up against an old Canon 1200D with 18-55mm kit lens for your viewing pleasure. That entry level DSLR body has been discontinued in many countries but you can still get an entry level Canon DSLR with an 18-55mm kit lens included for about $400. One thing I must point out is that Newton’s video emphasizes the point that the more expensive pairing is $4,000, but the 1200D is only $200, however it should be noted that he’s using the price of an old secondhand 1200D model he picked up, which I didn’t think was apples and apples.

So, what of the results? Ultimately, whether one set of images is 10 times the quality of the other images will be subjective, and there may be other factors that you look for when you outlay for gear. But do have a look and let me know your thoughts in the comments below. How did the Canon powerhouse stack up to the cheaper version?