Chetas Das
on 12 August, 2013

The Chalk And The Blackboard

Legend tells us how Eklavya, an aspiring student of the great Dronacharya gets rejected by the latter on account of his caste. Eklavya, thereafter, goes on to achieve a level of skill superior to that of Arjuna, who was Drona's favourite and most accomplished student merely by using Drona's clay image as a means of inspiration, a catalyst to drive his enthusiasm and sheer dedication towards archery and martial arts. Most Engineering students like Eklavya seek such a guide to help mould their talents and guide them onto success, not only in terms of marks but also knowledge.

With the advent of amazing technologies to aid students to grasp the most complex of concepts, teaching has become much convenient; if not easier. A strong need has been felt for teachers to shy away from the conventional chalk and board culture. A picture can convey a thousand words. A well made power point presentation can interest even the most fickle minded of students. Khan Academy is a pioneer in online education and defies conventional teaching by educating thousands of students all around the world and not using a single piece of paper or a single drop of ink. Microprocessors and Microcontrollers are widely considered by Engineers to be a huge monkey on the back. Prof. Bharat Acharya's avant garde teaching methodologies are unbelievably industry oriented and at the same time successfully fulfill the average student's need of wanting to clear the subject. Modern day technology has excellent teaching tools but should be used correctly

Power point presentations are a boon but when done in the wrong way can be exceptionally boring; even more boring than your everyday blackboard lecture where you at least have a minute or two to chit chat while the professor writes on the board. Teaching is NOT reading straight off a PPT presentation, nor is it translating the words on the slide into broken Hindi in a clearly stupid effort to 'teach' students who cluelessly stare into your deluded face.

Many such professors were students not long ago and take up teaching in a bid to support their own education. I have nothing against them and neither do I doubt their intentions, but what I doubt is their ability to teach and sometimes their knowledge. A lecture is one where the first half raises a number of doubts and in the second half it all starts to make sense, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Teaching is an art. Much like sketching, where a few are blessed with the steadiest of fingers, a professor may hone his teaching skills over a few years but will still lack the flair that a certain natural educator possesses.

Professors often make vain efforts to use pop culture as a means to reach out to their students. Let's face it! It becomes very awkward when such situations happen. Just like a bad singer won't accept the fact that his/her singing may be cringeworthy, a bad professor may find it extremely tough and upsetting to embrace the truth about his mediocre methodologies. A few of us are blessed with an innate ability to memorise the full textbook a day before the exam but for those who can't, we need professors who can install a textbook in our brains to refer to in the exams. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. That, readers, is the essence of teaching.

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Chetas Das

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