Un Film des Dix Mots

We submitted a short animated film as an entry to Les Caravane de Dis Mots.

As is said here, to particiapte in the Caravan of ten words, is "to go fishing beyond the meaning of the words," beyond their own definition and in that to find and show the richness and diversity that every human being bears. An adventure across the world, which showcases the cultural diversity and gives voice to everyone.

The general idea is to use any or all of the given ten words (in French) and use them and their meanings (in any language) to create something - anything - a film, a speech, a dance, a skit, a quilt, a poem, a recipe.

The ten words for 2010 can be found here. And we entered it into a competition organised by the Alliance Française de Bombay.

And guess what, we came in second!

Here is the film:

Un Film de Dix Mots

Here is a short Making of of the film:

MakingOfFilm

And here is a short writeup about it.

Teaching is Scary

Nothing. Nothing at all, will prepare you for teaching - except perhaps, ummm... teaching.

A gruelling Ph.D. and a labourious postdoc later, teaching was supposed to be easy. At least, it seemed easy when I was a student. I would have never known otherwise had I not crashed into a class full of young though stolid faces staring at me with what seemed like a mixture of amusement, curiosity and disapproval. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let's start from the time the course was announced. CS475. Computer Graphics. I thought it is not a difficult subject to like and it seemed fairly easy to win over kids who walked into my room, starry eyed, asking will I teach how to program computer games in my class. My first impulse was to answer in the affirmative. But then I started wondering, Will I?

The question of What should I teach? caught me unawares like the sudden chaotic cacophony that drowns anybody who walks out the gates of this hallowed campus. What should be aim of my course - what do I want my students to learn from this first course on Computer Graphics? I expected them to fall in love with the subject, but then how does one teach that!

Coupled to this was the question of how to teach the subject. Use slides and notes only. Or use the board and engage the class in discussions. When I was a student, I remembered how easy it was to fall asleep in classes to the soothing monotonic sounds of read-aloud-from-slides lectures. Now, were my lectures to suffer the same fate? The lectures had to be visual because Graphics is a visual subject. Demonstrations seemed to be a must because experience told me that all the beautiful math in the book can fail miserably in practice because engineering a program to do Graphics correctly is difficult. Yet, the very fact that the math is beautiful in itself, is difficult to get through in the first place! It seemed like I would never ever get started.

But a deadline often does wonders. And so the course started because it had to, on a certain date. I walked into class, armed with slides, notes, movies, demos and a bag full of confusion and apprehension.

First lecture. Introduction to the subject was easy enough. Even the announcement of the first written homework was taken with just a murmur of dissent. Even though talking non-stop for one and a half hour left me with a very sore throat, I came back with a content smirk on my face, thinking things were finally looking up. Little did I know, I was heading into a Venus Flytrap. Next lecture, I started with something fairly easy. That was till I was asked a question. A question I had never read anywhere. A question I would have never thought about, by myself. I went to the whiteboard in a daze and attempted an answer. Convinced that I had figured it out correctly I turned around to face my students, to find even more hands reaching up into the air. This time, I came back feeling humbled and with a dent on my self-esteem.

I never studied so much as a student, as I did before I went in for my next lecture. All the questions forced me to navigate many tricky, murky, dark-lit corners of the area I had not ventured into before. As this became regular practice for each lecture, making slides and notes began taking more and more time. Everything else that demanded my time - my newly constructed marital jigsaw, the guerrilla warfare between my unaccustomed body and the humid Mumbai weather, living out of a suitcase - took a backseat. And I managed to hold on to a semblance of a schedule in my lectures.

Till the first bundle of homework submissions landed on me. As I write this, the first written homework has been submitted a second time by most students, another written homework and a programming assignment has been completed - all are still pending evaluation. In the interim, a quiz has happened and the marks will go out in today's lecture. And as I think that perhaps a better use of my time would have been to finish correcting those assignments, I still continue to write this article.

Not because I am compelled to write. Not even because this serves as an escape from checking assignments (although it does). Instead it is because I have made a startling discovery about myself. Something I did not expect. Yes, it is a nerve-racking and intensely solitary activity preparing for every lecture. It is turning out to be almost dictatorial in its demands and ethereal in its rewards as a profession. Obviously, being a fumbling amateur, I do not have a clue about whether my students are actually falling in love with the subject or not. Neither can I fathom how to teach them things like the value of citations and references in a body of so called original writing. And the only person who I am sure is learning a lot better than what he or she would have, had I not been teaching, is me. Yet, during a lecture, even the slightest hint of any kind of comprehension on the face of any of my students seems to be enough to keep me coming back for more!

Scary, isn't it?

An edited version of this article appears in the August-September 2009 issue of the IITB Campus Magazine, Raintree.

Academic Integrity of Assignment Submissions

If you are submitting an assignment to me I expect you to follow certain standards. Please ensure that you take care of the following when you are submitting an assignment (ideally it should apply to anything you ever claim as your own - assignments, report, papers, ideas).

  1. You are expected to always write it in your own words. Mostly everything can be written entirely in your own words. Except when a precise algorithm or proof has to be written and it has to follow a certain sequence of steps.
  2. Write what you understand. By default, it is assumed that whatever you have written you understand that and you may be quizzed about it (you may have an impromptu viva-voce during submission or anytime later).
  3. Everybody (mostly) needs to refer to things that other people have done. But it is important that you cite your sources when you do that. Copying without citation is considered plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
  4. Learn to cite your references properly.
    1. Citations should be cross-referenced, i.e., citations should appear in the text and be cross linked to your list of references.
    2. Learn to use BibTeX if you use LaTeX for typesetting.
    3. Learn to use cross-references if you must use MS Word.
    4. If you are citing a website as a source then always include a note at the end of the reference saying “ Last visited on : \date.”
  5. I am looking for your original thought in my assignments - the idea is to get you to think. The originality and the effort put into the thought are primary. The correctness of your answers come after that. Though both are important and I will make an effort to evaluate both.
  6. All assignments submitted to me are checked for plagiarism by default.