Choice Architecture: Nudging students to make better choices

~Aravindh & Sunil

Choice architecture is a method to extend multiple choices to individuals and giving them liberty in choosing an option coherently. In Choice architecture, consumer behaviour is taken into consideration while designing the alternatives and represented in a way that individuals select the option that is more aligned to  the provider. In schools, choice architecture is an excellent way to improve students’ physical and mental well being. Healthy habits can be nurtured in children using Choice architecture.

In one of the outreach schools in Auroville,  around 4 in 10 students were anaemic. Students eschewed nutritious snack and preferred tasty snack. In this case, children are often under a familiarity bias. A familiarity bias is when one decides to stay within their comfort zone. In this case, children portray absurdity heuristics; they tend to put away the nutritious food. They didn’t want to consume healthy food separately. To overcome this, the facilitators came up with a brilliant idea to blend drumstick leaves, dates, and peanuts (which are rich in iron) with porridge to keep the taste balanced with nutrition. After that, students preferred this snack and started to consume without any excuses. This nutritious mix meal resulted in a significant improvement in their health. 

The core driver behind this action is that the mere thought of eating food reminds us of how we feel when we eat it. Digestion starts with sight and smell. Instead of giving nutritious food separately, we can blend both nutritional and non-nutritional elements in the lunch meal. Children usually default to choices which are suitable to their taste and tend to take smaller portions that are easy for them to digest. By disguising nutritious food as per their preferred taste and size, we can nudge them to have a healthy meal.

Nudging courtship with life

~Punithan & Poovendiran

“ A choice architect has the responsibility for organising the context in which people make decisions” – Richard H. Thaler, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

In general, Nudging is a choice architecture which is a positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to make a choice or course of action. The idea of Nudging is all about applying the concepts of decision making and behavioural economics to yield a better and spontaneous decision, without limiting the choice. Putting it more straightforwardly, Nudging is helping people in making better choices for oneself without restricting their freedom of choice.

You can nudge for GOOD, or you can nudge for EVIL. Nudging not only contributes to the business world but also for the wellness of the society. Nudging helps to influence and direct people in the right way as we discuss two topics and examples here. 

Social Nudging is the concept of positioning our direction of a nudge for a social cause. When you nudge a person, and if his choice contributes something to society, then it falls under this category. Recently, a 90 years old man was in the limelight on social media. The chat waala opens his ‘Bhaba ka Dhaba’ stall early in the morning and closes it by 5:30 in the evening, finishing all his stock. But during this pandemic, he couldn’t make ends meet. A famous food blogger got concerned about the older man’s dire situation. The food blogger recorded a video of the older man (she fondly calls her Uncle Ji) and posted it on her social handle. Fortunately, many people stepped up to show their support for Uncle Ji. Many celebrities also posted on their social handles. We can see both the food blogger and the stars have nudged the society to contribute something for someone’s good. 

Nudging can be a handy tool in teaching — a hard lesson in the right way. A famous incident became viral on social media. As the incident goes, a teacher intentionally wrote a wrong equation on the blackboard. Students started to laugh at the teacher’s mistake. Then, the teacher explained the reason behind it, “You students did not appreciate me when I wrote the correct ones, but you all started to laugh when I made one mistake.” She added “The world is more similar to you; when you do many good things, no one will appreciate you. But when you do one bad thing, people will start to criticise you, and they will forget all the good things you did”. This is behavioural science is related to negativity bias where one tends to have a negativity dominance and tend to emphasise on that. Mistakes are a never-ending part of our life. We should  improve ourselves from those mistakes. The teacher nudged an important message into those students’ minds – to be mindful, determined and confident in their life. 

Python course

~Logeshwari, Sandhiya

We had interns coming to STEMland to learn to program. A few of them were learning Scratch and making projects. We conducted a course on the basics of Python. It was a five-day course for one and a half hours each day. There were about 15 of them attending the course. Everyday based on what the interns learned assessments were given accordingly.

People shared their assessments with others at the beginning of the class for about 10 minutes.

One participant sharing his assignment

In the five days of the course, everyone learned the following.

  • Print statements
  • Variables
  • Data structures/data types (tuples, list, dictionaries, etc.)
  • Data type conversions
  • Functions
  • Imports
  • Global variables
  • Scope of functions
  • Classes


This is the first time that I took a technical course. It was a new experience of teaching/ sharing what I learned to adults.  I planned for the course and I decided the assignments before the day which made me clear on what I wanted to do. Instead of going to more advanced it is always good to review the basics not only in programming. It was a nice opportunity for me to review my basics in python

Where to improve:

I felt that I need to follow the time properly. I missed a few important things which I added later which I should have told initially itself.

TLM for Percentage

~Saranya , Poovizhi & Madhavan

Ravi from asha came to teach us to make material for learning. Each and individual choose one topic to make material. We selected topic call percentage.

WORKING:

In that we have made a rectangle from the circumference of a circle with the radius 5cm ,total height of the rectangle is 31.4cm as same as the circumference of the circle, from that we have assumed it as the 100% so that we have combined the circle at the top rectangle and it is been measured with the thread from the top of rectangle so that students can imagine the percentage and we have used to calculate the various percentage.

 

Flask Project

~Sandhiya

In the quilt dashboard, we used the flask language. I have created the sample project to learn the flask, Django and sqlalchemy .

 

Postman:

I used a postman to insert the data into the database. I also attached the link.

What is Postman?

Postman is currently one of the most popular tools used in API testing. It started in 2012 as a side project by Abhinav Asthana to simplify API workflow in testing and development. API stands for Application Programming Interface which allows software applications to communicate with each other via API calls.

 

 

 

10-day Vipassana course Experience

~ Ranjith, Sivaraman, Vasanth

We were participated in a 10-day Vipassana course. we found it useful in various ways.

~Ranjith:

In my first 10-day Vipassana course, I develop ability of tolerance to face problems in life. But I realize that ability of tolerance is not enough, because most of time I felt “I am submissive or aggressive“ when I face a problems, which leads me to question myself  about “my ability of metacognition”. So I decide to go another 10-day vipassana course with a goal in mind to improve my metacognition ability.

Three things that I got from vipassana meditation through experience (Bhavanamaya panya):

  1. When I push my mind out its comfort zone (ex: sitting for an hour without moving) for an hour, made me realize that, I have ability to adapt my body and mind to the situations.
  2. I had lot of thought about misery in the past, during mediation. After some time realize that “source of all my misery is an attachment towards my ego and my expectation”.
  3. Awareness of sensation, and ability to think “why and how certain thought are originated in my mind and how to control it”.

~ vasanth:

It was a great experience for me at Vipassana. There I learned to be aware of my sensations and to maintain equanimity. To be in equanimity I came to know that I should avoid craving and aversion. Because craving and aversion lead to misery in life. For this, I have to accept the joy and sorrow equally. And also I learned to get relief from my mental stress and to sharpen my concentration and focus.

There were three stages such as Anapana, Vipassana and Metta. In Anapana I was asked to observe my breath which moves in and out of my nostrils and to notice the places where the fresh air touched the inner walls of my nostrils for the first two days then on the third day I started to be aware of the sensation of my nose. Then, on the next day onwards I started to abserve the sensations in my body, from head to feet. As I kept my complete attention on my sensations throughout the body, my concentration was not distracted by anything. This made me to be away from craving and aversion.

On the nineth and the tenth day I learnt Metta, which taught me to share my love, compassion, kindness, peace, harmony and goodwill to all human and non-human beings.

~ R.Sivaraman:

The schooling for the mind to see things as they really are, the name is Vipassana. One of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha.

it’s a 10-day course given for free from Dhamma , for Dhamma to make everyone practice and get liberated. By Dhamma’s servers to help others to practice dhamma peacefully.

This course makes people feel the sensations, realize not to react blindly and just let pass slowly, slowly Anicha Anicha. we only react to our sensations good or bad, nothing out is making a sensation in us, its our own craving and clingings

Liberation, the word itself opens up the door to internal peace .no craving, no clinging and no madness only sensations and let them pass slowly, slowly.

Mental practice to come out of all our reactions and make us aware of our reactions and madness.

The art of living a liberated and peaceful life while sharing compassionate love and peace for everyone.

React, Respond and Realization: Brain Presentaion

~Saranya and Ranjith

I learnt about three brain. Which is,

  • Reptilian Brain
  • Limbic Brain
  • Neocortex Brain

Reptilian Brain:

  • It controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance.
  • Main structures found in reptilian brain is two:
  1. Brainstem 2. cerebellum

Limbic Brain:

  • It’s emerged in the first mammals.
  • It record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings.
  • The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus.
  • The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behaviour.

Neocortex Brain:

  • The neocortex first assumed importance in primates and culminated in the human brain with its two large cerebral hemispheres that play such a dominant role.
  • These hemispheres have been responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinite learning abilities.
  • The neocortex is also what has enabled human culturesto develop.

React, Responsibilty and Realise/Realisation

~Saranya and Ranjith

This story is about reacting to the problem, realizing  and being responsible.  If problem occurs in our life  either we react to the problem or we do realize and react.

Parikshith

(The story behind Srimad Bhagavatam)

 Parikshit, was the son of veera Abhimanyu and Uttara and was the only successor of the Pandavas.

After Krishna left the earth, the Bhu-devi sank into uncontrollable sorrow due to the entrance of Kali (Kali yuga, the age we live in). All kinds of adharmic activites starting taking place. There was a slow withdrawal from our Vedic heritage, charity decreased, adherence to Satya or Truth reduced. But King Parikshit, with his power, controlled Kali and kept him under check. Kali however begged Parikshit Mahaaraja not to kill him saying that following the dharma of time, since it is the start of Kaliyuga, he must be allowed to come and must not be killed. Thus obeying the kaala-dharma, Parikshith allowed Kali to saty in some specific places such as places of ill repute such as gambling, slaughter houses and the like.

Once after a long hunt in the forest, completely exhausted, Parikshit reached the ashram of a great rishi, Shameeka maharshi. The maharshi at that time was in deep meditation and completely detached from the external world. Hence, he did not notice the exhausted Parikshit mahaaraaja. King Parikshit, completely exhausted and very thirsty, thought that the maharshi, despite being aware of his exhaustion, chose not to offer him even water. In anger, he performed an act he normally would never have done. The anger itself and the way it was manifested was due to the presence of Kali it is said, because the King was a strict follower of Dharma and would have never shown allowed himself to get angry in such a manner. Thus in anger he put a dead snake around the neck of the rishi to insult him and left the ashrama. A little while later, the rishi’s son Shrungi, arrived and saw the dead snake around his father’s neck. Realizing that Parikshit had done this act, he cursed Parishit saying within a week’s time, the King who had insulted his father thus would be killed by Takshaka, a mighty snake. Meanwhile the maharshi opened his eyes from his deep meditation and learnt about all that had happened.

Maharshi Shameeka told his son Shrungi “Anger is the main hindrance to tapas / sadhana / meditation. It is a big hurdle for one who follows the path of Dharma. He never should give way to anger. One must always think twice before he acts and never come into the clutches of anger. One’s anger is his greatest enemy. A person loses his dharma-adharma discrimination, does not think and causes harm to others and himself because of anger. Parikshit mahaaraja is not an ordinary king. It is because of him that Dharma is still alive on earth today. It is because of him that Kali has been restricted. ”

“Alas! What a great sin you have committed yourself today in awarding such a heavy punishment for the small mistake King Parishit committed! Your command of intelligence is still immature.  Completely protected by his just way of rule, all beings in Parikshith’s kingdom enjoy prosperity. Once he is killed because of your curse, this world will be full of thieves who immediately trouble innocent, unprotected souls like they are lambs. Because of this curse, there will be great social disruption. The wealth everywhere will be seized by thieves and among the people there will be murder and molestation as also abuse of money, women and animals. The righteous civilization, of humanity united in proper conduct of progress in the vocations and stages of life according to the Vedic injunctions, will at that time systematically be vanquished. The protector of the religion, the king, is a highly celebrated emperor, a direct, first class devotee of the Lord, a saint of nobility and a great performer of horse sacrifices. When he, hungry and thirsty, is stricken with fatigue, he never deserves it to be cursed by us like this.”

“I am quite sure, Parikshit mahaaraaja will not give you a counter curse, such a great king that he is. Good people do good to those who help them and to those who hurt them as well. Mahatmas do not even feel the pleasures and sorrows, everything is same.”

The Maharshi thus regretted the curse of his son and certainly did not think that the insult by Parikshit was a sin. Generally saints are not distressed or happy when others pull them into worldly dualities because they are situated in the transcendence of the soul. These incidents (such as the dead snake put around his neck) they consider insignificant.

In the meantime, King Parikshit realised what he had done was something terrible, something he should not have done and thought thus, “Alas, it was uncivilized and evil what I did to the faultless, grave and powerful Maharshi. Because of the contempt of what I did against that godly person, I undoubtedly very soon will meet with a very troublesome calamity. I certainly hope that that will happen so that I will be relieved of my sins and never do anything like that again.”

Shameeka, knowing that now nothing could be done (since the words of his son Shrungi could not be undone), sent word to King Parikshit informing him about Shrungi’s curse. Thus did Parikshit mahaaraaja come to know about the curse.

Having heard that he only had seven days to live, Parikshit handed over his kingdom to his son and sat down at the banks of river Ganga in order to fast and observe religious rites unto his death. Many sages and wise men came to see him. Parikshit paid his respects to them and humbly spoke about his decision to fast. He stood with folded hands before them as someone whose mind is detached from worldly affairs. And thus it came to pass that the king, having arrived at that decision, fully self-controlled, seated himself near river Ganga. On this occasion the gods, who from the sky had seen that the king would fast until his end, all in praise scattered the earth with flowers, continually beating celestial drums in pleasure. All the great sages who had assembled there praised him for the wisdom he had thus shown.

It was at that time the great Suka Maharishi came that way, and he was received with great respect by the audience seated around King Parikshit. Then Parikshit asked him a question: “What is good for man, especially at this hour when his life is about to end? What should such a person hear about, repeat, do, remember and worship.”

How are we to answer this question? What is good for any person? In the freezing heights of the Himalayas, it is good to have a blanket over oneself. But a blanket is not good in the hot deserts of Africa; we would like to have cold water there. When we are hungry, it is good to have delicious food; when we are vomiting due to illness, it is good not to eat at all. Anyone who desires his or her own good cannot answer this question of what is actually good for oneself, because whatever answer we give, we will find it is connected to some cause thereof, and it is not the final good.

Riches will end, the body will wither, and life is uncertain. None of these things connected with life in this world can be regarded as really good in their ultimate sense. Then, what is really good for the human individual? The difficulty in answering this question arises because we think that we are living only in this world of sensory perception.

So, when we ask the question, “What is good for us at the end of time?” it is implied that it is that which is good for us at all times because, knowing the brittleness/short life of things in the world, all times are the end of time. The supreme good, therefore, is the Supreme Brahman, the Ultimate Reality that we call God which is intimately, vitally, inextricably connected with our own souls.

Suka Maharshi said, “This inquiry of yours, O King, for the good of all people is the best thing you can do. This subject of study carries the approval of Rishis. The subject matter is the supreme of all, Divine, God, is worth the attention. O Emperor, there are countless subject matters to hear about in human society that are of interest to those who, attached to their household life, are materially engrossed and are blind to the reality of the soul. They spend their lives, O King, with sleeping, making money, taking care of their family and other such related activities. They are unable to see the fleeting nature of these activities. For that reason, O King, He (Divine/God) must be discussed, glorified and remembered who as the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality, the controller and vanquishing Lord, frees those who are of desire from their anxieties.

Thus in response to the question Parikshit asked, Suka Deva narrated the stories of Bhagavatam. It is believed that this great scripture, the Srimad Bhagavatam, is like a delicious nectar. It is a combination of bhakti or devotion, vairagya or renunciation and jnana or knowledge. Jnana, vairagya, and bhakti – all the three are combined in a wonderful manner in the narration of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Sri Krishna Himself is supposed to be living in this wonderful scripture. Whoever studies the Bhagavatam is supposed to be reading the life of Lord Krishna Himself.

tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam

 kavibhiriditam kalmashapaham

shravana-mangalam srimad atatam

 bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah

 

your story which is like Amritam revives the scorched spirit of a man;

purifies a sinner, the holy men thrive on it.

To hear it is auspicious and peace generating.

Those who chant your name are the real benefactors.

Srimad Bhagavatam

Independance Day Celebration Aug 15th @ Isai Ambalam School

~Saranya & Poovizhi

On India’s 73rd Independence Day, 15 August 2019, children from Isai  Ambalam school celebrated the Independence day with bonfire, run , flag hoisting and cultural events.

We started our day at 5:00 am with bonfire and meditation for an hour in Matrimandir amphitheater at Auroville.

Students started their run from Auroville Matrimandir went across
Auroville communities, villages and reached the school. They covered around 7.5 km and the STEM land
team and teachers at the school followed and encouraged children to complete the run. This video documents the run.

English sessions by content team

-Logeshwari, Saranya

Bhuvana, Tamilselvi, and Vasanth from the content team are taking sessions on English for the team. So far we have completed present tense, past tense and common mistakes that we do in speaking and writing in English. Every week on Wednesdays we have our English sessions in the morning as a team. We have assignments based on the session that was taken.

We (auraauro team members) put up blogs and reflect back the weak. In order to improve our writing and speaking skills, we are having these sessions.  The sessions clarify the doubts and it makes more sense and awareness of the mistakes when others do them or we do them.

For example, we learnt that a sentence cannot start with ‘So’. When others/we start the sentence saying ‘so’ we realize it is a mistake and we correct them.

We learn more from our mistakes and it is an opportunity for ourselves to learn them and grow.

Thanks to the content team!