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!

Our previous post discussed the appeal of computer science as a vehicle to impart life skills, resulting in an ICT education that transcends literacy. In the journey towards greater relevance of education as we know it, a key pillar that furthers this goal is what we teach. That is to say, what the concepts and skills to be explored at the different stages of learning will be, what the scope of coverage is within a given timeframe, and what overall trajectory the educational experience will take. It also relates to the underlying mission statement of the endeavour. Is it to conduct an impersonal transfer of information? Or is there a loftier goal, to inculcate a love for learning, perhaps? Answers to these questions help to inform the important aspects of content development and instructional design, ultimately leading towards a “what” that is of superior quality by nature of being tailored to the needs of a paradigm.

The present paradigm demands of learners an ability to simultaneously apply knowledge and rationale, along with an appreciation for healthy collaboration. The much talked of ‘21st Century’ skills have captured popular imagination in grand fashion, primarily because they are in fact imperative (albeit with varying weights) to whatever discipline one chooses to pursue today. It is with this aim, to respond to these demands, that we begin charting out a course. It seems simple enough to ‘go by the available syllabus.’ In India, schools and educators tend to defer to existing publications, and albeit they may tweak them slightly to suit their needs, they look to the tables of content as prescriptions of “what should we cover?”

Consider if we were given the opportunity to begin on a new slate, and create a whole new curriculum? This seems an entirely exciting prospect, especially when one finds from extensive research that there may well be best practices out there, the combination of which is yet to be brought together to form an elevated computer science program. Such was the beginning of the Computer Masti program. Content was ascertained based on deliberation about successes around the world, and an exploration of the development cycle of a learner.  Seeing as the programs targets the K-12 demographic, special care was taken to be unequivocally intentional about the trajectory that the course material took.

In a previous post, we established how the Computer Masti (CM) program endorses an engagement of computer science and not merely computer literacy. Basic functions and fundamentals of computers and software applications are enhanced by the development of thinking skills, which elevate knowledge to a force for agency and fluent problem-solving. (See post on thinking skills.) A special aspect of the curriculum is the introduction of computer programming to a learner rather early in the CM experience, two to three years into the program!

The spirit of holistic development recommends that a learner be encouraged to become conscious of their actions and decisions. On average, an individual is given to balking at a question which asks after the frequency of dental care; but of course the answer is daily, don’t be silly! Now pose a similar query asking after care taken to rest any of the muscles used during the course of ICT activities; *crickets*.  The question we ought to ponder is this: what consequences do our actions wreak, not just on our bodies, but also on our privacy and safety, and on the integrity of intellectual property? In a paradigm where fast is better, ‘access now’ is seen as an entitlement, and being glued to a device is rather the norm than outlier, it behooves a computer science academic program to address the need to develop keen awareness about the consequences of one’s choices.

That the quality of content being disbursed across young minds is of paramount importance cannot be understated. If we are what we consume, then content indeed ought to be the king.

That computer technology is here to stay is an understatement, for it pervades all aspects of our lives, not the least of which is education. Whereas in so-called developed countries access to technology and the involvement of ICT in education is gradually becoming the norm, others have been slower in comparison. Emerging economies like India are currently carving inroads in the movement from computer literacy towards ICT-integrated learning. The former relates to ICT as being the core area of knowledge, vis-à-vis the latter presents ICT as a framework upon which other areas of knowledge are explored and learned. Note that an important necessity for this move is the existence of quality digital instructional material, of which there is a dearth, let alone individuals who are adequately trained to incorporate technology in the teaching learning process. To expand the body of materials available today to a breadth of consequence will require a sizable army of contributors who will be able to research and create meaningfully. The prerequisite in the march towards computer enabled learning is thus a focus on getting digital infrastructure in place, and to establish digital fluency.

It is not uncommon across the globe to encounter the buzzwords du jour of the education sector. Favorites have related to the development of 21st century skills; critical thinking skills, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are life skills that equip students with the agency to tackle a variety of scenarios. In the process of garnering the basic functions of application software and tools (computer literacy), the life skills in question allow the student to transcend into a realm of computer fluency: an ability to analyse, apply and rework their knowledge of the tools to suit the needs of a solution. Yet, most school subjects remain marks-oriented, often leaving little to no room for the development of this skill set.

Enter Computer Science. As a subject and discipline, computer science represents an opportunity to incorporate the nurturing of these skills. Critical thinking can be primed through an enactment of choices inherent in step wise thinking, problem solving skills, and multiple representations of data. Collaboration and communication skills, through group activities that facilitate knowledge sharing, coupled with ICT tools such as multimedia presentation, online content sharing and real time interaction with others across locations. Creativity is visited at every stage through activities that necessitate original thought, using the tools of digital story-telling and multimedia-based programming to express said originality. The questions to ask are: Are students engaged in actions that go beyond given texts? Are they given opportunities to practice these thinking skills?

Imparting life skills through computer science is immediately appealing, and is in theory a no-brainer! However, in practice, if efforts and effectiveness are to remain sustained, there is a need for the introduction of relevant policies that endorse and enforce such standards to incorporate life skills in computer education at the school level.

Often in the absence of said official policies, individuals and entities take it upon themselves to fill the gaps in services that would benefit the polity. The development of the Computer Masti program exemplifies this spirit of “be the change you wish to see in the world!” It is a pioneering effort to impart life skills (as such as they have been outlined here) though the medium of school level computer science, and is unique in its open commitment to facilitating an educational trajectory that truly results in more: Computer Literacy –> Thinking Fluency –> Power of Agency.

The journey has begun.

Last month, a contingent from our academic team attended the LEAD 2014 conference in Mumbai. Education Development Managers (EDMs) Shanti Davedu, Nishant Lodha, Surbhi Nagpal, Saman Siddiqui and Pem ZAS made their way to SNDT University for the two-day event organized by Leadership Boulevard (LB). This is the first year of this conference by the LB team. Here’s a look at some of the events of impact that left our EDMs recharged and raring to go!

EDMs:  Hi-Five for Exploring Future Learning!

EDMs: Hi-Five for Exploring Future Learning!

LEAD-Leadership in Education and Development is a forum for all stakeholders in education to meet at a common platform to posit important questions and discuss pressing matters within the field of education. Attendees included school leaders, educationalists, education service providers, teachers, and most importantly students!  The overarching goal was to bring motivated minds together to come up with action items and solutions to these problems.

LB Founder Sumeet Yashpal Mehta kickstarted the first keynote with these three rousing questions, which according to Mehta affect the very purpose of education:

1) What is worth learning for the future?

                                            2) Who are the future learners?

                                                                     3) How can we enable this learning?

Shanti

Shanti

“The first and overarching question got me thinking. Why not remove unnecessary things that the students have to just cram up for namesake? Why not just keep what actually matters to the students? The earmarks for deciding what is worth learning are insight, action, ethics and opportunity. For example, instead of learning that the first war of Independence was started with the Revolt of 1957 and then memorise all related names and dates, the teaching can focus more upon creating and expanding the perspectives in students. What are the various reasons that that lead to wars in general? Why are wars fought? Are there no alternatives to resolve issues? And once the students come to form a perspective on a topic, they could be asked to ponder the nature of insight as a guide in our every day actions.”

 

The plenary was then sorted into Work Groups based on the part they playedLEAD2014 action in education: school leadership; faculty; students; parents; education professionals. InOpeners fell into the latter category, and were so joined by representatives from a range of organizations: White Collar Hippie, India School Leadership Institute, Teach For India, Skilldom, Zee learning, Writer’s Barn, Save the Children Program, Zaya, Education City, Shirsha.

“The workshops were meant to generate solutions to problems stated in the keynote addresses. We were also joined by an amazing network of experts in a variety of domains, including sex education, clinical psychology, image consultancy, and arts therapy!” – Nishant

“It was amazing to see how people from a varied range of interests all want to achieve a common goal!” – Shanti

 

The second day’s keynote address by Melvin Freestone underscored the need for a transformation on multiple levels. Learning has to be transformed from being instructional to creation of knowledge, from learners being merely consumers to learners embracing the role of the producer, from curriculum being fixed by a teacher to personalisation by choice!

Surbhi

Surbhi

One of the highlights of the conference was the participation of young adults from the Akansha Foundation Service learning program. They shared how despite coming from poor community, they overcame all obstacles and are pursuing their Bachelors’ degree, and are giving back to the society by volunteering to teach students like themselves during their free time

“It was an altogether different experience! This was a reflective journey where thoughts, ideas and actions were all derived from the participants themselves. The encouragement and support from the faculty members inspired us to put our ideas into action at our own individual level.” – Surbhi

 

Q-for-U: Two words/phrases that describe your last thoughts as you walked away from the experience?

Pem

Pem

 

 “Refreshed and Renewed!” – Pem

“Celebrate the failure. Relearning.” – Saman

Nishant

Nishant

“Reflective. Energetic.” – Surbhi

“Relearning. Collaborating.” – Nishant

 

            

*Thanks to our fantastic EDMs for sharing their experience with the rest of the team!*

The education sector has witnessed a sudden drastic growth in the E-learning space over the last few years. Technology is playing a crucial role in leveraging the education standards of the students and adapting rapidly to their ever altering requirements. This age of innovation is all about making studies interesting and this can only be done if an interactive mode of learning is adopted by the schools and the students alike. The next generation white board solutions seem to be easily penetrating into the education system, thereby allowing students to enjoy the benefits of technology. It also helps the students in understanding the curriculum in a more effective and playful manner.

Parents and Students are now accepting this new digital change and many schools from different regions also understand the need to dwell into the e-learning space. Also, the teachers need to be abreast with latest developments and carry out research to be able to answer the questions that the kids ask in the classroom. It is only through E-learning that the teachers can do their homework in timely fashion.

Despite these developments, at a more fundamental level, it is ultimately the quality of the content and not the technological tools that enable a child to develop right kind of skills which are required to help him progress in life. Whereas technology defines and refines the way curriculum is taught in the classrooms, the role of content and content providers is to distill the “what” and “when” of knowledge, a none too crucial aspect of ensuring the relevance of “education”. At this time, only a handful of players are truly succeeding in envisaging field requirements, and catering to it effectively.

The growing demand for quality content generators is the need of the hour, and indeed only a few companies are taking lead initiatives in this field. Content generating companies ought to aim at providing effective learning solutions after recognizing the need to transform the quality of curriculum and the way it was taught in schools across India. The quality of content must be enriched at the hands of meaningful research and findings, and also ought to emerge flexible enough to cater to the myriad combinations of needs presented in the education sector.

At InOpen Technologies, we believe that e-learning or any technological advancement is just an extension of the content, rather than the other way around. We often say: The ability to write a good letter will very likely be proportional to the ability to write a decent email. On the other hand, if one only knows how to use email service, that does not guarantee that the quality of communication and etiquette skills will be at par. It is the content which matters not the technological tool.

E-Learning has certainly made strides in making learning more interactive. However, this obsession with technological advancements has shifted our focus from the content that is being taught to the student. We have been focusing more on how a subject is being taught rather than what content is being covered. Curriculum content should necessarily focus on processes like observing, listening, thinking critically, questioning and figuring, searching and organizing information, solving problems and evaluating the concepts. We need to pause a bit and reflect if we are imparting these abilities through the content that we are teaching to the students.

Mars by MOM  (courtesy Isro.org)

Mars by MOM, courtesy Isro.org

Mangalyaan snuck into a comfortable orbit around Mars, and a nation came alive. This was a feat of fantastic precision, generating great pride in the hearts of millions. So precise were the underlying calculations, so daring in expectation, so sublime in execution that a senior scientist associated with the mission likened it to “hitting a golf ball from Bangalore to London, and getting it into the hole in one go.” The array of reactions to this achievement has spanned across jingoistic pride, lively optimism for a new future, a sense of vindication for the space agency and its efforts, and yet, through it all, an unmistakable timbre of surprise! It is this last piece that warrants special attention. Closer inspection suggests either a lack of public knowledge of current projects and advances, or reveals a decidedly low opinion of aggregate national ability that may have translated to a general disinterest in tracking such stories outside of a newsflash. It may not be wholly inaccurate to claim that the average citizen does not expect the nation to engineer scientific or academic achievements, let alone be at the frontier. In a significant way, this perception has its roots in a culture of creativity that relies on rote and reproduction; a culture wherein ‘creations’ are but shallow facsimiles, unable to reflect the rigor or audacity that is characteristic of pioneering efforts. If creativity is the source of solutions and progress, it becomes imperative to begin cultivating an atmosphere that stymies the urge to churn half-hearted work out out of sheer obligation, and instead develop one that proactively incentivizes integrity.

The seeds of a culture of creativity are sown at the earliest known moments of learning. Humans, whether in formal, informal or non-formal educational settings, are constantly learning. Exposed to an unending array of new and old stimuli, we learn through an assimilation of pattern and logic. We internalize portions of the extant world bank of knowledge, then springboard from there, adding new insights and dimensions, ultimately leading to the addition of new knowledge to the kitty. It makes sense that at the very early stages, we are rather more involved in the passive receipt of information, as we amass a wealth of building blocks in language, computation and heretofore established truths. Even at that stage, a seed can be as simple as conveying to a young child that her artwork does not conform to coloring within the lines. Now, albeit attention to the lines does hold value in that it represents the tuning of motor-skills, what is problematic is the likelihood of a teacher insisting that the child is “wrong” for not following suit. Such messaging of singular correctness sets the tone for a constricted educational journey.

Given that education is more a process than a phase, the academic habits imbibed at the formative stages of learning can vastly affect the manner in which a learner engages with new ideas and material in all the years to follow. When student ‘creations’ are assessed purely on, say, punctuality, completion and an unchecked adherence to given texts and sources, this sets a precedent that can have adverse ramifications for two important matters- 1) healthy pride in one’s own ability and work, and 2) the lack of appreciation for the history and efforts underlying the source material.

 

Research

 

Extracting source content for reference is fairly routine in the creative process. Academic and artistic need along with personal interest continue to remain motivators for research and exploration, only now the avenues available to a seeker are more sophisticated and user-friendly. The current paradigm bears that education is shifting in favor of digitizing components of the teaching-learning process. Wherever possible, source materials are undergoing a translocation from analog libraries to an unassumingly vast “online” database, access to which lies but a click away. Whether it is a teenager attempting to collect materials for her class project, or a PhD candidate cross-referencing cited works, the Internet has come to represent quick and easy access to (largely) free to low-cost content. Further enhanced by said ease and speed of access, the playing field is thus rife with opportunity to parade another’s work as a personal original, or fail to give credit when and where it is due. At a more fundamental and individual level, there appears to be an inexplicable trend to borrow even simple items, despite not being in one’s best interest to do so.

For instance, consider the especially comical case of organizations opting to use existing web images to populate their web pages in the hope of displaying their team at work. The only catch is that the images depict a swathe of people who look nothing at all like the organization’s diverse partners or beneficiaries! This particular scenario fairly begs this question: Was it really that difficult to take a picture of real employees in action, say, for the “what we do” section?

These may appear to be negligible “oversights” in the grand scheme, but they are symptomatic of a larger trend, of complacence and resignation within a creative culture. This is characterized by a growing tendency to take content for granted, underscoring a disconnect between the creators and the consumers. Surely, an appreciation for the struggles and satisfaction of creative process as experienced personally would translate to the ability to grant another the courtesy of similar acknowledgment? On the one hand, the ethics of intellectual property use and plagiarism are often deliberated to simply be a relatively innocuous matter of  failure at digital etiquette, requiring but a reprimand perhaps, whereas on the other hand, consequences emerge from the harsh and legal aspects of the transgressions.

Here is a new proposition: Rather than being seen only as matter to be resolved by punitive action, plagiarism should be taken seriously as an indicator of underlying sociological and pedagogical issues. Is it an honest lack of interest or joy in the pursuit of creation in a particular field? Could it be the result of ignorance? How did this cast come to be? The origins are not fully clear. It behooves us to wonder at the root cause of the urge to pilfer, or otherwise we must reconcile with the reality that rallying for punitive action does nothing to change status quo, addressing merely the superficial symptoms.

Mangalyaan’s success has underscored in a massively heartening way that academic independence yet thrives on the subcontinent. The question is how then do we take a page out of this success, and propagate the basic principles of creativity against the backdrop of increasingly digital nations? The onus falls squarely on today’s education providers. They are set to play an integral role in the process of laying a foundation highlighting the nature of the Internet within the context of the origin (of content), the various types and voluntary degrees of ownership, plagiarism and its consequences, and best practices in research etiquette. Demystifying these elements as early in the learning curve as possible can very easily make all the difference in the attempt to foster a can-do attitude, pride in indigenous creativity, and an ability to use existing materials critically. Educational programs need to take the initiative to create curricula that weave these important topics into its core. (Computer Masti is an example of one such holistic program that has achieved success across India.)

Aside: At a time when the digital globe is currently grappling with new finagled issues of the paradigm, a strong foundational grasp of the underlying concepts at work also affords digital natives a nuanced take on the dilemmas du jour, e.g. on open source versus financial sustainability of the creative process, on piracy, on net neutrality, on user privilege based on IP address, gender, socio-economic ‘categories’, and so forth. An authentic creative culture is as much dependent on the way individuals value their work, as it is dependent on the trappings of the playing field itself. As we engage in the critique of solutions and policies, it is imperative that we encourage young learners to use the foundation as a springboard to formulate and articulate opinions. If not, we may well unwittingly sentence the best ideas to oblivion.

Healthy Habits 1 “I have recently developed a nagging pain in my right fore arm.  My eyes also hurt often,” complained Bhavya, who studied in Grade V to her mom. Worried, her mother consulted friends and colleagues at the office about Bhavya’s niggling problem. One of her friends immediately asked her about the how long Bhavya spent at the computer. She suggested, “The pain you describe is quite possibly related to her continual exposure to the computer and likely to be due to repeated pressure on the wrist and/or elbow.”   Healthy Habits 2

Bhavya’s mom instantly related to what her friend had said. Her daughter’s summer vacation had just begun, and she had recently started spending a significant amount of time at the computer, scouting for information for school projects and chatting with friends. She knew she could not simply put an end to computer use, but she wanted Bhavya to observe healthy habits henceforth so as not to face health problems in the future.

 

Like Bhavya, aren’t we all facing similar issues in this technology savvy world? Consider these numbers: youngsters spend an average of 1h 50m on the Internet, and 2h 40m in front of the television every day. A report released suggests that screens are increasingly turning into electronic babysitters and young people are spending more time plugged in than out. Children spend more time in front of a screen in one day than they undertaking any form of physical activity in the entire week. The latter is expected to see further decrease with the onset of advances in technologically based home entertainment. The result: Physical activities have completely gone for a toss.

Healthy Habits 3

Body pains resulting from usage over extended periods of time are not just confined to the limbs, but can affect the back and neck, and cause eye strain as well. With the present generation of students exposed to long hours of technology usage, their susceptibility to computer related injuries has also increased. In light of this and as a proactive measure, we need to sensitize students to be aware of these injuries and adopt the necessary measures to prevent themselves from becoming a victim of health disorders from an early age.

One of the most significant factors that leads to the creation of “work space culture” at a start-up is that mix of individuals brought together by the same goal. At InOpen, we love to bring together self-starters and those who have a personal mandate to “give back” – in whatever shape or form that may take. We are absolutely inspired by the initiatives taken by InOpeners!

This is to acknowledge and applaud some of the wonderful work being done outside of our impact at partner schools. Read on to see a short feature of a few of those lives and moments cherished by InOpeners.

More power to you all!

Harish Bhuvan: Clown Extraordinaire

HB

 

We are a bunch of people who love clowning around in hospitals, to spread joy in the lives of others who may need a little sunshine. Clowning could involve just making merry, being silly, singing goofy songs, dancing around, shaping animals with balloons, and so on. It also brings about connections and a sense of kinship, and this is what keeps us going!

 

We have grown so much after we began Compassionate Clowning. The stories that you get to be a part of touches your life in a way that transforms you from underneath to upside down. We come out of those clowning sessions each time slightly more grown-up than we were going in. Hope we do touch everyone’s lives like this in future, and we aim at improvement each time we visit.

Compassionate Clowning!

 

Blog post by a fellow clown: http://www.movedbylove.org/blog/view.php?id=281
If you happen to be in Bengaluru, join these folks at Compassionate Clowns

Pemsochon ZAS:  Community of Service

Transformers Club, Mumbai exists to serve the underprivileged of our society. We work with children living in the slums of Mumbai, children from violent or broken homes, and children born within brothels. From time to time, we conduct special camps, teaching programs, get-togethers and other personal enrichment and empowerment programs to help transform the lives of these amazing kids at different locations of the city.

Being part of this program has touched me and inspired me to live my life beyond myself. Everyone who has been part of this initiative has been blessed beyond measure and enriched by the different stories each child brings. It is a joy and privilege to be serving them, and to be a small part of their growth.

PZ 2

 

Another program I am engaged in is the ENvision Foundation, a scholarship initiative which provides financial aid and scholarships to deserving students to enable them to pursue higher education without the burden of finance concerns, to encourage excellence in their academics. We provide scholarships based on two categories: Need-based and Merit-based. In addition to this, we also conduct monthly mentoring and counselling session for the scholarship recipients to help them achieve their greatest potential that each of them has.

Personally, this initiative has been one of the most exciting and amazing parts of my life because education is so close to my heart. To be able to reach out to the student community through this initiative is indeed a great opportunity.

 

PZ Scholarship

               (Pem, second from the left, conferring a scholarship to an awardee.)

The ENvision Foundation and Transformers Club are both programs undertaken by Every Nation Church Mumbai. Click on the links to know more about their socially responsible efforts!

Amitava Pal: Birth of a Teacher

 

AP2

 

I remember it was during my days at XLRI that I started teaching. At that time, I encountered a student from the Bengali community who was struggling with his 10th standard studies.  Given our family connection, his parents felt comfortable to request me to assist him in his studies. After the first few days, I was frustrated; whatever I taught him was forgotten within a few hours! It was then that I discovered that this would be his third attempt at taking the 10th board exams. I was surprised to hear that there had been another old tuition teacher who had simply given up on him. I felt as though I would not be able to do anything either. His mother and I had a conversation about the situation, after which I had an idea that I thought I would try out.

I began making efforts in understanding him first, to get a sense for how he understood things.  It turned out that this young fellow was fond of stories and loved them very much! The inability to retain information (“memory problem”) was not as result of not studying, but instead related in some way to a complication that had occurred during birth. His capacity to focus and remember was very low, and he could only engage if his interest was stimulated in a specific way. This triggered another idea in me:  if he held such an interest in stories and was able remember those, then surely teaching could be conducted in a similar format, and it might work out. And thus, our journey began. I tried to convert subject concepts into a story format – it worked! This young boy started taking interest in his studies, and, best of all, passed the 10th boards with an average of 75% marks in his subjects. His parents were thrilled. One moment that was especially poignant and overwhelming was when he came and hugged me, saying, “Bhaiya, aapne mera jindegi badal di” – Big brother, you changed my life. Today, this young learner has crossed the next few academic milestones: he is a qualified engineer, and an earning member of his family!

This experience had a profound impact on me. I realized that teaching can indeed be customized, such that all type of students have a real opportunity to learn – if we can reach out to them in the way they want to be.

My journey has continued since. The smile that I saw on the faces of the people my actions had touched became a great motivational factor, and I decided to give my time and efforts to teaching whenever I possibly could. I simply love the smile they give! Wherever I am and however stressed I become, I feel recharged when I teach them. I am happy and proud to be a teacher to the kids from neighbouring communities, who hail from both, well-resourced and under privileged backgrounds. I am recharged by their positive energy!