Student competitions are a great way to get learners spirited and striving to test their own abilities. Winning that prize is not too shabby either. ;-)

Our super academic team members Surbhi and Dipika headed to Nashik this week to conduct a Computer Masti Competition at the Panchvati Education Society (PES) schools. The group comprises both English and Gujarati medium schools, all of which implement our Computer Science program.

Students from Grades V – VIII were invited to the ring, with teachers getting involved in conducting in-house assessments to select fifteen students per grade (from across the two language types).

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Students worked in pairs to tackle competition prompts that were basically combinations of a theme and application activities:

  • Themes: Football, Other general sports, Swachh Bharat (Clean India)
  • Applications: Scratch (create a game or a quiz), TuxPaint (create a digital story/slideshow)

Countdown was set at one hour – and the pairs were off like a shot! Excited fingers seized the keyboards and mouses, and got cracking.

 

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The result of the competition was a great flurry of planning, collaboration, trial and error, and time bound submissions – every child simply had to put to work thinking skills and life skills! The final projects were graded based on a student-project rubric developed by the team for our Computer Masti Winter Camp student creations.

First and second prize winners were selected. The former won cool Headsets (with mics!), and the latter received sweet USB drives.

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ALL participants were awarded with bright yellow – official! – certificates, just for being such sporting competitors. :D

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Boy, what a day it’s been. Nice work, team!

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It took 20 years from the introduction of the Internet to reach 100 million users. The second 100 million will likely be reached within three years, and the third in less than a year. In fact, the next four years will see nearly 350 million additional Internet users…

…The Internet economy is also an employment generation engine. The ‘Internet’ sector already employs ~4-5 lakh people and is expected to create nearly 15-20 lakh jobs by 2018.

– India@Digital.Bharat, November 2014
(A Boston Consulting Group Report)

The numbers show that we yet abound at the 300 million mark. This is just a quarter of India’s population; we have a long way to go. Which is why the expected exponential rise is extremely exciting! The more widely spread web connectivity (infrastructure + access), the more likely its democratizing effects will actually “trickle down” to the masses.

 

What do we mean by democratizing?

A phenomenon wherein information becomes available and accessible to all individuals, in which Choice in participating is no longer limited by geography, socio-economic conditions, or educational background and exposure.

 

That last piece there is what we at InOpen want to help accelerate!

Through our Computer Masti academic program, we have been bringing innovative computer science curriculum, content and hands-on teacher coaching at schools from a wide cross-section: private, government, NGO-run, urban, rural, high income, low income, and all permutations therein!

Here’s what’s new…

 …last week we began a new intervention specifically targeting Adult Digital Literacy training needs in  four “blocks” (=sub-districts) within the Raigad District of Maharashtra. Planned three-day training events were flagged off by our amazing Marathi Team. They will continue over the course of the next weeks to cover a total of 150+ schools and 300+ teachers!

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Digital Literacy: I got this!

The training sessions will be more than just a digital literacy primer. Yes, teachers were introduced to the bare basics of terminology, tactile user experience, and evengraduated to using basic productivity tool. To generate a gauge for individual confidence, the team will employ work-in-pairs mini-project on Day 3. That’s not all! In classic fashion, attendees will walk away from our sessions with exposure to and awareness of additional life skills: brainstorming, mind-mapping, step-wise gathering of information, and interspersed with discussion and activities about safety, health and ethics matters related to the digital world.

That’s right, don’t forget: Stretch, rotate, take a break!

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The Team and Teachers

 

All schools under this new project are also beneficiaries of the Swades Foundation. InOpen is an official implementation partner of the Foundation. The first (and ongoing) project with Swades began with a pilot implementation of Computer Masti at 21 schools in a single block, later expanded to cover all four blocks in which the foundation has a presence.

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Before we get to technology in education, let’s examine the root of this term. “Techne” relates to skill or art. A technological advancement is thus a furthering of our ability to harness matter and forces with greater skill or artistic prowess. To be sure, we even speak of technique in the art world. Technology per se, however, has come to refer almost entirely to the development of practical tools in the digital space, applied sciences and engineering, and is, by definition and observation, in a perpetual state of change.

IMG_4994This leaves us with two areas of knowledge that must be acquired in order to leverage technology in learning. The first area concerns itself with what we call digital literacy, i.e. an introduction to the verbal, physical and functional attributes of available technology whether in the form of hardware or software.

The second relates to the development of digital fluency, which is the ability to independently repurpose the use of a piece of available technology in order to meet one’s shifting needs. The latter is integral in creating life-long learners, and is indisputably a worthwhile product of education.

One of the ways to facilitate a learner’s journey toward fluency is to instill in her an understanding of the underlying principles and concepts at hand. For example, with office application tools, encourage platform independence by exploring the rationale for the interface, the icons and menus, and widen creative assumptions by exploring their less obvious uses such as planning and organizing. Whereas with programming, why not first establish a grasp of step-wise thinking and the concept of giving directions? A healthy foundation of conceptual clarity is a prerequisite to digital fluency, and today’s educational content must rise to challenge. Take for instance, the academic curriculum Computer Masti, which was made for use at the school level and was specifically developed to achieve this transcendence from literacy to fluency. Educators are beginning to recognize this need, and are looking to such academic programs for implementation.

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Earlier, fluency was described as the ability to respond to shifting needs with agility. It follows then that another prerequisite skill in this case is the ability to recognize needs in the first place, and then to quickly ascertain whichfrom a list of known tech capabilities can produce the required outcome. This would require a mind that is familiar with different contexts and can think in interconnected ways. What better way to encounter variety than to be exposed to technology against the backdrop of the different disciplines taught at the school level? Animations for science class, mind-maps and flowcharts to visualize a historical event, Web research for a language project, to cite a few permutations. Instructional method that underscores the interconnectedness of disciplines is a closer facsimile of how information is received and how technology is used in real life. Enter the age of technology assisted teaching and learning!

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Teaching with technology not only opens a learner’s mind to the ways in which tech can be used, but also enhances the way the core subject content is received and internalized. Multimedia tools bring diversity in stimulation through audio, video and interactive components, disrupting the potential monotony of verbal-aural stimuli. Educators must of course ward against Ed Tech becoming just another addition to an automated assembly line of a lesson plan. Whereas content and creative pedagogy form the foundation of effective learning, technology can play a    significant part in making lessons more alluring to digital natives, thus increasing the chances of student alertness and participation. In addition, technological solutions to class planning and management are helping to expedite the transformation of the teacher’s function, from a “sage” to a “guide” to a “facilitator.”

Computer Masti Teacher Training Session
Technology in the form of information and communication tools has seen to it that knowledge has been vastly democratized, available to all, and theoretically accessible by all. The inadequacy of the proverbial four walls of a classroom has been touted for decades. We know that the age-old manner of one-way information transfer is an exercise that engenders rote learning. Over time, knowledge and life lessons began increasingly to be garnered from a variety of sources, in a myriad different ways, unbound by the borders of brick and mortar. This has also meant that other important stakeholders in education, not the least of whom are students and parents, have begun to play – and are now expected to play – more involved roles in the making of the learning experience.

Decidedly, we now live in a reality in which being a purveyor of knowledge is no longer a monopoly held by adult humans. Such a paradigm asks that we guide learners towards embracing their new role by devising creative ways to equip them with knowledge of available technological tools. Be sure to do the two-step at your school: teach tech, and teach with tech!

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

Remember that time you were seven years old?

You were probably in the second grade. Very likely, Young Girlat least one (if not both!) of your front upper incisors had fallen off leaving you with an adorable toothless grin. Information on science, language, math and art were pouring in to your highly receptive brain. You had for the first time begun to get a hang of stringing several written sentences together. You were happiest when exploring, by yourself or with friends. It was the age of introduction to New Tools to articulate your own understanding of whatever New Knowledge had been presented: grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, arts&crafts…

…and now to all those tools add computer science capabilities for students in today’s forward thinking schools! This is a story #FromTheField that occurred at one such school implementing the Computer Masti academic program.

Education Development Manager (EDM) Pem arrived at the school in the morning to conduct the visit she had planned. Making a visit to this particular school involved far less travel because it was located within city bounds. Her pre-planned agenda communicated to the school included visiting with the Principal, observation sessions in the classroom, followed by feedback and hand-holding meetings with the computer science teachers. Pem was excited to see how far the school had come along in its journey that had begun at the start of this academic year!

Pem sat in on a Grade II classroom, which featured a giddy mix of toothless grins on girls and boys. Prior to leading the band to the computer lab, the class teacher Ms. Graahi first drew a picture on the blackboard. It was the “classic” piece, churned out for decades on end: clouds, mountains, a peeping sunrise/sunset, a river running transverse, white space spotted with trees and houses. The prompt: Reproduce such a scene on the computer.

The kids opened Tux Paint. This is a free and open source tool for drawing, painting and digital storytelling that is incorporated into the Computer Masti learning experience. At this juncture, Pem began to see a trend unfold in the learning space.

Healthy Habits 1To many students, this “scenery” was a perfect abstraction! They had never once laid eyes on such a vista in real life, not when they had never left inner Mumbai. They were having a hard time being “creative” on a blank Tux Paint canvas when the assigned exercise was so specific. To compound this fact, several kids were as yet unable to handle the input devices effectively, let alone reproduce a picture. Drawn on a blackboard. In another classroom.

During the course of an observation session, the Computer Masti representative maintains a low profile, playing the part of a wallflower. Pem mulled over what she saw was an amazing missed opportunity to allow art and technology to broaden the minds of students and increase their confidence in technical application skills. She made a mental note to make this the key idea to leave with Ms. Graahi.

Much to Pem’s expectation, the open-minded Ms. Graahi took to her suggestion beautifully. There was a disconnect between the method of using uniform classroom exercises versus the twin learning outcomes of computer basics and creative exploration. “Art should be given a free hand!” exclaims Pem. In fact, in order for the learner to recognize the learning experience is an accumulation of interconnected knowledge of real life, instruction in any discipline should allow learners to tap in to what they already know and build from there. Also, as for the differing levels of prowess at the mouse and keyboard, it becomes important to devise a diverse set of class exercises with the aim of discouraging as few learners as possible.

The feedback discussion proved extremely productive, and Ms. Graahi is well on her way to creating meaningful learn-by-doing experiences for her second graders, toothless and otherwise. :D

Folks, Rashmi Bansal is at it again! In her latest work, ARISE, AWAKE, Bansal once again spins together a collection  of awesome tales of entrepreneurship. Co-founder and CEO Rupesh Shah is all set to make his debut appearance in a book – nice!

We’ve got a new newsletter out for a book launch event this weekend. Click on the screenshot below.

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Come along this Sunday, and say hello to Rashmi Bansal and Rupesh!

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Cheers and have a stellar weekend!

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InOpen Technologies is on a quest to change the way Computer Science is undertaken at schools. Over the past five years, the Computer Masti Learning Solution has touched the lives of 600,000 students and 4000+ teachers. It has been experienced in over 350+ schools from across India.

Case studies are useful for those interested in discovering innovative practices in the education field. A case study allows us to document the ways in which the program has affected change. Our idea is to feature an eclectic group of schools that showcase each one’s unique environment, challenges and success.

Our Method

InOpen’s Computer Masti Case Studies will draw largely from qualitative and anecdotal evidence at this juncture. They will also explore quasi-quantitative indicators when applicable.

We look to leaders and representatives at our schools to help us share their story. For each school, the participant pool may vary, subject to availability. For a meaningful look at the entire story arc, stakeholders with different perspectives are approached, including Trustees, Principals, Heads, HODs, Teachers, Students, or Parents. Those who participate are invited to be perfectly candid and open in order that the case study reflect authenticity.

The Case Study will ultimately be shared with the community at large, and specifically with the #EdChat community.

We will be sure to post updates here every time new case studies are featured at our website!

 [#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. :) ]

If you like what we’ve been publishing here at our blog, subscribe to the receive a notification every time we post. Just drop your email using the handy link that can be found to the right of any blog post.

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! :)

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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.”