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).

 

The many devices and tools available to us for data processing and communication are the result of ideation and engineering. This lays out a stage wherein there are two archetypal characters in the play: the creator (developers, engineers) versus the consumer (users). Each engages with technology in a unique manner, their actions motivated by disparate needs and end goals, resulting in fairly distinct profiles. Naturally, both are required to sustain the digital community. It follows that each character’s attitude towards these tools, and ultimately their behavioral patterns can have a significant impact on what kind of community is cultivated. One such philosophical force has been the open source (software) movement, which albeit largely driven by creators has definite implications for the end user by the sheer economics of choice.

The movement towards openness and transparency in the creator’s process had its genesis in the 1970s and ‘80s, and gathered momentum leading up to the formation of the Open Source Initiative in the late ’90s. In contrast to the proprietary version of product development, the focus here was to lay the foundations for a creative culture “based on sharing and collaborative improvement of software source code. For those who are creators and developers, this method has borne fantastic fruit, particularly with regard to technological innovation for social change.

Take for example, FrontlineSMS, a product which has won accolades from entities across the globe. At its basic level, what it does is leverage the greater prevalence of mobile ownership (over computers and internet access) in developing regions, and allows internet independent communication with an ‘offline’ information portal. This technical innovation has found application in a range of development concerns such as medical assistance, micro-finance and citizen journalism. On the matter of the spin-off applications, FrontlineSMS creator Ken Banks says, “We make [source code] available to existing NGOs and grassroot organizations. If we hadn’t open-sourced it, we wouldn’t have this rich ecosystem of developers! People working in certain other sectors have identified some additional functionalities that can be added to the software that make it more useful and more relevant.

We always ask ourselves how we can apply technology in new ways to improve people’s lives, and we believe that the open source model helps spark creativity and more technology-for-good ventures.

Such endeavors, and myriad other examples, act as clarion calls to action for those who are keen on joining the force of creators in this field and have an inclination for affecting social change! For such young learners, early exposure to FOSS applications can work to inculcate in them an appreciation for collaborative creation that may well be sustained across the years, and result in an enthusiasm to actually contribute. Yet, what about their classmates who will graduate to join the ranks of the complement: the consumers? It does well to note that the values underpinning the FOSS culture are collaboration, creativity and meaningful problem-solving, thus mirroring the much touted “21st century skills.” Therefore, an introduction to FOSS is rather well aligned with the goals of today’s educators.

What remains to be unpacked is the practical implication for the future consumers who will now engage with FOSS-based computer application. One of the primary motivators to use proprietary tools is the real or perceived (depending on the software or feature in question) existence of a greater range of features. Another motivator is the easy inertia inherent in following the masses, toeing the dominant line of using proprietary software. One might quickly consider the basic office applications: word processors, spreadsheets, presentation tools, database tools, and perhaps multimedia editing tools. Today, the fundamentals of this array are expected to be imparted at the school level, whereas the higher order functions remain largely untouched out of a lack of necessity, knowledge or curiosity.

Here is the kicker: the very same fundamentals in question continue to constitute the entire repertoire of the average post-employment user! In April 2014, Softwatch, a software analytics company, published their findings on a recent Microsoft usage benchmark study. They sampled 150,000 individuals employed from across different enterprises. According to their press release, “The benchmark shows that on average an employee only spends 48 minutes a day on MS Office applications. It also reveals high numbers of inactive users in the organizations; in particular PowerPoint was not being used at all by half of the employees. In addition, most of the users of the other applications used them primarily for viewing and light editing purposes, with only a small number of heavy users: 2% in PowerPoint, 9% in Word and 19% in Excel.”The take-away? Mark Vizard, blogger/commenter at IT Business Edge summarizes, “The real issue is that the distribution of Microsoft Office across the enterprises continues to be pretty much taken as a given. But upon closer examination of how the applications are actually being used, it becomes clear that 80 percent of the users are not getting as much value out of them as the other 20 percent.”

If most people are not likely to use even half the available features, where does this leave us? Continuing the example of office tools, we may note that the FOSS counterparts to Microsoft Office (OpenOffice, Libre Office) are fairly competitive in terms of features and functions, the difference becoming negligible when comparing the features that are frequently used/”basic”/”fundamental.” What this then relates to is a need for end-users to focus not so much on particular softwares, but rather in honing the practical functions that one is able to perform, e.g. word-processing, data-crunching, representing information in graphs or presentations, and so on.

Whereas any particular application software may get updated or uprooted, it is the ability to explore and the confidence in self-learning that constitute the skills that will persist despite those changes, and therefore need to be developed today. This is the driving force behind InOpen Technologies unique computer science curriculum: Computer Masti. The academic program exemplifies this spirit of providing a much needed learning experience, spring boarding the exploration of underlying concepts and principles of topics off of FOSS platforms.

Fact Sheet-09

Now, add to this idea of no longer requiring software-specificity a reminder about how FOSS applications have the potential to further engender an appreciation for the creative process, the thrill of having agency to affect change behind the scenes and it quickly emerges as a great choice for those interested in financially viable, socially conscious learning platforms! It is imperative that today’s educators draw the widest arc possible in employing the range of tools available, so as to grasp the common principles that drive digital tools, to bring in young learners an understanding of their place in the spectrum of creators and consumers, and the nature of exchange betwixt.

 ‘Pedagogy is never innocent. It is a medium that carries its own message’ – Jerome Bruner, The Culture of Education (1996)

An eminent psychologist and an individual who made profound contributions to the field of (western-borne) education, Bruner was onto something vital. Whereas, one of the pillars was that of developing quality content (the “what”), the equally crucial column is indeed the manner in which academic matter is conveyed and experienced. The style and method that educators adopt are necessarily the product of a conscious choice – a message that points to the values that govern a given educator. That is to say, “How one conceives of education…is a function of how one conceives of the culture and its aims, professed and otherwise.” (Bruner, 1996) And so, once the course of content was ascertained, the Computer Masti Program set out to weave into the base syllabus a unique combination of characteristics designed to provide learners a contextual learning environment. This was integral, given that the goal was not of the former ilk, i.e. impersonal transfer of information. Masti is means Fun in several Indian languages, and it is this spirit that guided the instructional design and methodology when in development!

In order to give learners an opportunity to develop life skills, the Computer Masti way emphasises the need to first appreciate the basic principle or rationale that governs a new idea. For example, simply learning that input and output devices exist and being able to rattle of some examples is not sufficient. Rather, the learner ought to be able to grasp the underlying concept of “in”–> process –> ”out”, and be able to provide an instance where this may occur in real life. Say, hanging out with Brother and making fresh lime juice: is there a parallel that can be drawn in what constitutes the same cause-and-effect represented in input and output devices? Ensuring that the learner is able to internalise well enough to apply themselves in real life is really what this is all about. This idea pervades the entire program in that the focus is on first establishing core conceptual understanding upon which software application skills are based.

If applying what one knows outside the learning space is what this is really all about, then it seems self evident that a simulation of those “real” contexts be employed. In a program such as Computer Masti, computer science is explored through the lens of peers (Tejas and Jyoti) in the form of a narrative that sets the stage for a conversation. Through this medium, concepts unfold in an organic way, subject to the “real” needs of the characters. The presence of a guide-by-the-side character (Moz) ensures that learning takes place in a ‘scaffolded’ manner (another Brunerism!), having created a safe space where asking questions is highly valued. The Computer Masti way draws from the constructivist tradition, and holds in high stead this combination of guided-enquiry based learning and the integration of themes from the real world known to a learner. This relates to all spaces outside of the computer science learning space, and therefore draws equally from themes first explored by learners in other disciplines.

A combined focus on basic information, broadening the scope of core concepts to cover and transcend the usual suspects of a “computer education” (utilitarian application skills) through a constructivist approach that is informed by the local context is a unique proposition indeed. At the end, bringing the masti (fun) in learning is as satisfying as it is imperative to keeping the learner interested and moved to keep learning!