Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Ongoing ICT Interventions in Education

The spread of ICT in the use of education is making headway in India. Even as our education system tries to prepare to experience the full thrust of ICT in education, some organizations have already taken initiatives and are developing innovative products to meet the needs for digital literacy and innovative learning.

Some such initiatives currently being implemented in India are:

For- Profit Initiatives:

Educomp Smartclass: Known to be a market leader in education technology, Educomp has designed a system that enriches classroom learning by use of a smart board, that displays a wide repository of digital content (consisting of 2D and 3D animations, graphics, audio and video) on every subject in the K12 spectrum, and offers the teacher a wide range of options in teaching tools. The system is being used by about 8000 schools across India.

Iken School: Similar to the Educomp Smartclass in offering, Mexus’s Iken School provides a learning solution for schools. Though not as popular as the Smartclass, it goes a step beyond to create a learning ecosystem by establishing a learning lab, an English lab, etc in a school, as well as a virtual platform which connects students, teachers, parents and education experts for exchange of information and interaction.

Sundaram E-Class: Being in Mumbai, we often hear of schools using the E- Class. It is a device brought out by the stationery giant Sundaram, only for the Maharashtra board syllabus from Grade 1 to 10. This is a more affordable solution, used in the classroom by connecting the device to a TV.

Not-for-Profit Initiatives:

IBM’s Kidsmart:
IBM’s Kidsmart program is currently running in 7 states in India. The program developed by IBM and its partners provides education technology designed specifically to enhance theskills of pre-school and primary kids of the age group of 3-8 years. Specially devised computer units called ‘Young Explorer,’ are deployed in over 200 low income schools. Teachers at these centers are trained on specially developed training modules using technology to develop children's basic language, mathematics and science skills. The program is being implemented in partnership with such organizations as the Byrraju Foundation, The Promise Foundation, SRF Foundation, and some State Governments. 

Hole-in-the-Wall:Hole-in-the-wall offers a new twist to the traditional based learning. Here, digital learning stations are placed in outdoor community settings, such as in playgrounds or village centres, which provides free access to learning material, for the child to learn at his/her pace and in an individual or collaborative manner.

One Laptop Per Child: After its dazzling success in countries such as Uruguay and Peru, and its worldwide spread, OLPC has now established a presence in India. Though details of its work in India are unclear, the project has inspired many ICT related education schemes in India. The scheme to give out the Aakash Tablet, for example, is said to have been inspired by OLPC. Many state initiatives to give out laptops, such as the ones in Tamil Nadu and Bihar, are also said to have been inspired by OLPC.

ICT@Schools: This is the Central Governments scheme to bring ICT into education in all Government and Government Aided schools across the country. 1.08 lakh schools are going to be covered under the scheme with each school having a computer lab with a minimum of 10 computers. To know more about this scheme, read our blog on Plan Provisions for ICT in Education

Some upcoming projects to look out for:

Mobile and Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies (MILLEE): MILLEE is a project of the Human Development Lab at the Carnegie Mellon University. They aim to leverage on the high accessibility of mobile technology and its percolation even in marginal communities to develop educational games based on traditional village games that rural children find familiar. A partner project of MILLEE is Playpower that aims to develop games for $10 800-bit computer devices, now commonly found in low end video games, etc. They have conducted several pilots for these in India, and show great promise.
The Aakash tablet: Introduced with much hype by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, this $35 Tablet PC is to be distributed among the urban college students so that they can enjoy the benefits of the Government’s initiatives to bring ICT into education such as content available on EduSat, India’s education satellite, and Inflibnet, a resource hub for students.

With mobile phone sales reaching 50 million for just the first quarter of 2012, the spread of mobile technology is widespread even in the remote corners of the country. This offers a range of opportunities for developers to innovate and create applications and programs for the spread of literacy and education through the country. The portability and high functionality of tablet computers and laptops for education have made them the centrepiece of many ICT initiatives in India and abroad. Internet has become mobile, with a wide range of operators and services available, through cable broadband or even MTNL/VSNL schemes, and USB internet devices introduced by network carriers. Our education satellite, EduSat, has opened up many possibilities for education. The use of ICT in education is just going to increase looking forward, and hopefully, we shall be able to leverage on it to improve learning outcomes.