[#FromTheField: Stories of transformation through the eyes of an InOpen’er]

This was to be the third visit to this school in low income area of suburban Mumbai. The school was its first year of operations and enrollment was low, and had also adopted Computer Masti program at the start. As she planned the visit, Education Officer Dipika tried to keep her expectations reasonable, being sensitive to the fact that massive changes in the education sector are unlikely to occur in a duration as short as three months…

Manyata is a Grade I student who has had a difficult time keeping up with students her age. There were days when no matter how many times a point was explained, Manyata was unable to grasp the instruction or the assignments. Her class teacher, Ms. Vishwas would spend extra minutes to guide Manyata. However, this soon took a toll on the teacher who had to also cater to the needs of five other learners during the day! Manyata was often misunderstood; even irresponsibly labeled “dumb” by a system that failed to reach her through verbal and conventional instruction methods.

This school visit was different. Dipika was greeted with a laughing smile on Ms. Vishwas’ face! Her Grade I students had recently covered the third lesson their Computer Masti books. Till date they had covered all kinds of thought exercises followed by lab exercises. And it was after this combo that she witnessed a real transformation – Manyata had taken to the conceptual lessons tied in with Tux Typing lab time with such enthusiasm, she was now clear ahead of the entire class! Apart from having fun with the class exercises, she also found herself in a position previously least expected of her: being confident in leaning over to help her neighbours with typing tricks.

Pen,jyoti showing her  thumbMs. Vishwas was thrilled for her. Manyata responded beautifully to avenues for visual and tactile learning, and she had also found a way to focus her energy on something she liked – and was good at!  She had finally found a way to connect with a student and give her opportunities that furthered, not fettered, her learning experience.

Success!

 

The first full week of 2015 is here. Everyone is back at their work desk or the field after a fairly holiday-laden week.

Rested. Relaxed. Rejuvenated. Ready to hit the ground running!

We created a fun newsletter to share with all of you with all the amazing milestones achieved in the past year. Check it out! –>  New Year Newsletter.

New Year

[You may have already received the newsletter through our subscription mailer list. If you are not on our list yet, go ahead and subscribe! Scroll to the bottom where you can "update subscription preferences". We are rather averse to spam ourselves, so trust us when we say we only send out updates of relevance and importance. We mean it. :) ]

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Once again, have an excellent new year!

News Flash to all our stakeholders and social media friends!

Funds up to $15000 available to help undertake Teacher Professional Development at your school. For those interested in equipping all subject teachers in the use of technology and its integration in the classroom, Google for Education has just expanded to include applicants from India for their CS4HS initiative (Computer Science for High School). Partner with a university and apply by March 15, 2015. *The application is fairly thorough, so have a look at the details sooner than later!*

This is a great opportunity for schools to create a learning space for non-CS teachers who now more than ever are seeking to become tech savvy. Ultimately, it’s the learner who will benefit from relevant classroom instruction methodology, that which has the potential to be enhanced by thoughtful and meaningful use of technology.

To Read: http://www.cs4hs.com/index.html
To Check Eligibility: http://www.cs4hs.com/eligibility/
To Apply: http://www.cs4hs.com/application/

Like, Share, and Spread the word. Do it! :)

CM WC

 

The cool days of winter are here and children all across are gearing up for some time off from school. Thanks to the great popularity of their Summer Camp, education start-up InOpen Technologies has now organised yet another opportunity for kids to attend a classic Computer Masti Camp. The camp is designed to give children a chance to create, discover, connect and learn with fun, cchannelingtheir E-magination! Registrations are now open for the Winter Camp set to take place at IIT Bombay over four days, 26-20 December 2014.

InOpen Technologies is committed to developing 21st century learners through the Computer Masti program. This four-day camp is a platform for children to add to their winter holidays an experience that is fun and educational. Tailored around a gamut of computer application tools, the camp focuses on placing learning within a context such that campers come to appreciate the application of computer tools in their daily lives. In true Computer Masti fashion, apart from core application skills, learners will necessarily engage in thinking-process skills, also touching upon computer related etiquette and ethics.

Details about the two batches are as follows –

Junior Batch (8 to 10 years) 10 am to 1 pm: Junior campers will immerse themselves in Digital Story Telling- Animation for which they will explore:

  • Multimedia Editing- Tools for Image editing, Audio editing, Video editing (Audacity and VLC Movie Creator)
  • Productivity Tools- XMind, Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Presentation.

Senior Batch (11 to 13 years) 2 pm to 5 pm: Senior campers will get an opportunity to work on Game Design through an exploration of

  • Educational Games
  • Programming tools such as Scratch
  • Game Design

 

[Registrations are OPEN: Contact us if you are interested in signing up!]

 

Speaking about the winter camp, Mr Rupesh Shah, CEO, InOpen Technologies says,

I remember my days of schooling and how we use to wait for our winter breaks, hoping to explore something new while enjoying our breaks. It is with that logic that InOpen Technologies presents this winter camp full of fun and e learning! Kids will get an opportunity to become 21st century learners, and learn to collaborate for an effective communication, creativity and problem- solving. This will be a fun and imaginative journey and will bring something new to the participants, as well as to us. The children will also learn ethical practises when engaging with the digital world. I am thrilled to see how kids have really taken to our camps; it is only with their participation that we are able to create this meaningful experience, so I look forward to having a host of new and old faces at our Winter Camp.”

Children today are exposed to a wide presence of computers (in homes and elsewhere). Their natural curiosity leads them to explore these “interesting toys”. They often learn on their own (or from friends, parents etc.) to use a computer for a variety of purposes. Sometimes this leads to learning undesirable habits (playing on a computer for hours), incorrect usage, as well as unsafe usage (ignorance of the risks in Internet access). Hence it is desirable for schools to introduce learning about computers as part of the curriculum itself.

Now it is necessary to take note of what computer usage is prevalent among children of a given age group and introduce those topics into the curriculum itself, in a suitable manner. Otherwise the school curriculum would lag behind the learning in other settings, leading to boredom, in addition to the dangers of incorrect/ignorant usage. Also, new computer-based tools and technologies are constantly finding their way into popular use. So it is necessary for the curriculum to be dynamic and adapt appropriately to the introduction of new tools, while simultaneously keeping a focus on conceptual learning. Moreover, there should not be emphasis on learning computers at the expense of other subjects/activities and the curriculum should be well-balanced. This document is an attempt at defining the details of what we believe is an appropriate, balanced curriculum for computer science in schools according to students’ level of maturity and demands of the present century. We emphasize nurturing clarity of thought and learning of concepts associated with various tools, rather than just the usage skills of a specific tool. We also include topics like stepwise thinking and logical reasoning to facilitate and improve thinking skills which are not subject specific.

Indian schools have already been offering computer science as a subject to their students for the last 10 years or so. Some of them introduce it as early as 1st grade and some of them introduce it in 3rd grade. Unlike other subjects where there is a prescribed textbook and syllabus, there is a lot of ambiguity for teaching computer science. One reason could be lack of a well defined top level framework. Currently the NCF defined by NCERT forms the basis for the CBSE board syllabus and the schools tied up with this board do teach the topics mentioned in the framework. However the emphasis on topics is open to interpretation and there is wide variation in the treatment of a given topic across books. The ICSE system has defined syllabus only for 9th and 10th grades and for the lower grades, the school can teach what they feel is appropriate. This leads to variation in the books chosen by individual schools and hence the topics covered at the primary and middle school level.

Essentially the topics covered currently are more driven by the market demand at that point of time and more of usage and skill based content is covered for specific applications [ eg: Java, MS Office]. There is very little emphasis on thinking skills or concepts of broad applications that would be useful across subjects. As the individual schools are given the flexibility of following their own curriculum and textbooks, there is a huge variation in topics that are being covered. Hence there is an urgent need to define a detailed curriculum to teach computer science in schools.

To summarize, in India, a formal curriculum for Computers does not exist for the lower grades. Yet several textbooks have been written for Computers as a school-level subject, and many schools are offering Computers as a subject in the lower grades, leading to a variety of ways in which it is being taught. What should be taught in the lower grades is being left open to interpretation for textbook authors and schools. There is no metric by which a school or a textbook author can check whether the topics being taught and the manner in which they are being taught are suitable. Hence there is a need for detailed specifications for a school-level Computers curriculum in India.

 

As they traipse through the landscape of Computer Science, Computer Masti arranges for learners to be accompanied by fun-loving travel buddies.

Meet Moz.

 Moz (5)
Moz is your friendly neighbourhood guide, who gently points you in directions meant to help you make that discovery on your own. Our champion of guided inquiry based learning!

And here are Jyoti and Tejas,  your friendly neighbourhood young learners.Jyoti & TejasThey represent the Child’s insatiable curiosity, energy and will to learn.

These three computer science musketeers (Mastiteers!) have embarked on this journey to uncover facts, figures and knowhow in a way that invites the reader to assume the role of the fourth! What is special is that the journey will be a spiral one. Round and round, they’ll go in circles.

That doesn’t sound like they’d get anywhere, you say?

Rather, every area of knowledge within computer science is like a town they encounter as they navigate through all there is to know. Across the years, they revisit every town periodically, only to discover something new and more complex than was known before!

The #ComputerMastiKid is joined by our three friends through the course of every lesson, which is always kick-started with a scene that is draws from the real life needs of a child of that learning level. The real life setting allows Jyoti, Tejas and Moz to engage in a conversation that flows in an organic way. This in turn allows the reader to learn, in a most unobtrusive way, as the narrative unfolds!

Flipping the pages will reveal generous use of colours, shapes and cartoons, designed to draw the attention of the learner, as well as to inject into the introduction of core concepts elements of fun and a relaxed learning environment. Committed to celebrating the great diversity in every sphere of life, of learning minds and learning styles, Computer Masti includes a cast that reflects this diversity. Across the journey, our Mastiteers are joined by those who are featured outside of the formal lesson: built-in activities, projects and worksheets. Here are a few samples:

Level2Lesson3Theory_Images-02                 Level6Lesson3Activity_Images-01                    Level4Lesson5Activity_Images-05 Level3Lesson7_Theory-22                 Level3Lesson4Worksheet_Images-01                 Level3Lesson2Theory_Images-09              Level2Lesson7Activity_Images-05          Level1Lesson10Theory_Images-01        Level1Lesson3Theory_Images-03
The Computer Masti Way is one that is dedicated to placing learning in the context of real life, responding to the real needs of today’s learner.

If you would like to see more, do drop us a line at info@inopen.in, and we’ll be happy to walk you through the program!

There are often so many tiny life-hacks that go undiscovered, unsung and unused. Sometimes we stumble upon one that makes so much sense, and our lives so much easier, we usually end up wondering, “Gosh, why didn’t I think of that?” or “I never thought about this in this way” or “I didn’t know this was even possible!!”

We’re going to periodically bring together some of these Did-You-Know moments geared to help tap in to the potential presented by the technologies we use!

Today, we stumbled upon , Superintendent at Ottawa Catholic School Board, who has put this useful little slideshow on Google Tips! Apart from pointing out fun and new ways to maximize our use of Google’s myriad functionalities, you can also test yourself on Google trivia.

Have a go at it!

 

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Childhood: That temporal human experience, existing in the aftermath of birth, preceding puberty’s recalibrations. It is that time when the twin forces of nature and nurture embark upon marking inroads, busy in the business of forming bodies and minds. This is a period in the human life cycle that witnesses the fastest absorption of knowledge.

Childhood is an opportunity. Childhood should be seized! It is marked by an appetite for knowing, borne out of insatiable curiosity. If this inclination is allowed to simply exist, let alone be actively encouraged, the foundations of creativity can be laid without much effort. To question the status quo is the genesis of creativity.

Our hope for this day is that we take a moment to recognize the fantastical phase that is childhood, and take a moment to cherish young learners in their pursuit of knowledge.

Every day presents a new moment of learning. Why, every day is “children’s day”!

Masti Out!

 

Several team members at InOpen attended a public lecture at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (TISS), and here’s what they had to say!

About the speaker

The public lecture titled “ Right to Education- Where do we go from here ?” was conducted by Dr. Archana Mehendale, who is a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Education, TISS. Revered in her field, Dr. Mehendale has been extensively involved in policy discussions with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Her areas of research have included the implementation of specific provisions under RTE such as monitoring child rights, regulation of private schools, and the inclusion of marginalised children. She has worked in the field of Child Rights for over 15 years now, and was a member of the working Group established by National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

 

What was the Right To Education Act of 2009? Retrieved from careerindia.com

Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, (shortened to RTE) is an act of parliament which was enacted on 4 August 2009, and came into force on 1 April 2010. It guarantees to provide Free and Compulsory Education to all children between the age group of 6-14 years.

 

Overview of the talk:

Over the past few years, the 86th Constitutional Amendment (a precursor to RTE) and the RTE have together dominated various policy decisions made with regards to education. As with most policies, whereas the content and intent of the policy document is often very promising, it is in the implementation where the system often falters. Dr. Mehendale provided an ‘insider’s’  perspective on the key concerns related to the application of RTE. She explored the manner and modes of its operationalisation and interpretations through the lens of child rights, privatization of schools, and quality of Education. The lecture was also engaging in its discussion of new developments that have been taking place at the policy level, and explored how we ought to reconceptualize the architecture of RTE given the flux of changes experienced in this sector.

The speaker gave us a brief idea about the history of events that led to enactment of Right to Education Act. References were made to Unnikrishnan Judgement, 86th constitutional Amendment, and Article 21 A.

According to Dr.Mehendale, RTE has both reinforced and diluted directives that have existed across a number of existing policies. For example, it has positively reinforced the system of Continuous and Comprehensive Education (CCE), formally introduced in the National Policy on Education (NPE) of 1986. Other policy alignment can be seen in the sections against corporal punishment, and not allowing teachers to take private tuition classes.

In contrast, there are cases where the RTE has worsened what has previously existed. For instance, formal recognition of a school requires an ‘essentiality certificate’ which ensures that the school in question is in fact going to serve public interest. An essentiality certificate is not required by the RTE. Dr. Mehendale went on to present several anecdotes that exemplified the more disappointing aspects, such as the miserable state of various committees, and how the Government is not ready to constitute committees which actually monitor the implementation of RTE. In addition, there appears to be a federal disconnect, wherein there is great disparity in how different states are implementing this the RTE.

The speaker left us with the following vision/solutions to the key issues arising in the implementation of RTE:

1) We need a unified vision.
We need to seriously consider and answer for ourselves important questions related to what should children do, at what and up to what age children should attend school, who is eligible to be the teacher, and all such questions that bring us to poke and prod at the assumed axioms.

2) Strengthening Federal relations (Center-State Relations)

3) Pay attention to Schools
At the end of the day, no matter what the purple prose in our policies, change is really borne out of action at the grass-roots level. School management and leadership, as well as the teachers, play a major role in mediating the policies, and ultimately determine how the policy gets translated to action.

 

Editor’s note: For us at InOpen, these are questions and thoughts that unavoidable. If we are to bring meaningful changes in the way we conduct computer science education, there needs to be a paradigm shift int he way we prioritize our educational values. Our values as a nation are reflected in our policies. The call to action is to think critically about the concerns about  The call to action is to equip ourselves with the information, and then formulate an opinion on the direction in which we are headed. Are we better or worse of, and how? With these thoughts in mind, we urge you to educate yourself further on the RTE! You are invited to explore the Department of School Education & Literacy page, as well as these additional resources on knowing the RTE and discussion on RTE (UNICEF).