Learning ICT in schools

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American India  Foundation, through its
flagship “Digital  Equaliser (DE)” programme has been working in  underprivileged schools
to integrate technology as a pedagogical tool into the classrooms. The  philosophy of the DE programme is that  teachers are the pivots to
the school system and by creating an enabling environment the  teachers would be empowered to make a choice on the use of technology as an additional tool in the teaching-learning process

Changing the traditional teaching-learning process is easier said than done, as
school systems which have been using the chalk-talk method find it  very difficult to adopt newer systems. E-mail facilities are beginning to be  used more in many schools as a management and administrative  resource and also in limited cases as a teaching and learning resource.  Internet access is becoming more common, but the use of the Internet  for teaching and learning purposes is
very limited, due to high connectivity and telecommunication costs, lack of  local content and examples, and inadequate technical and pedagogical support at local levels. Hence introducing an ICT program in a  school means a lot more than just providing relevant content or  technology training. Given the magnitude of the task, public-private-partnership is called for  to ensure that children receive highquality learning and teaching.  American India Foundation Digital  Eqaliser (AIF-DE) programme leverages on these partnerships so that the program is implemented in a  holistic and meaningful way and help the schools to build capacity within  the school system to handle teaching learning through ICT.

Digital Equaliser programme
Digital Equalizer (DE) programme is a  Computer Aided Learning initiative,which has been designed to bridge  the digital divide with a vision- “An India where ALL children have  access to resources and information that prepares them for participation in the digital age.”  At the macro-level the DE programme has two elements with different  phases. One is a pilot initiative where innovations on technology leading to  reduced cost and improved quality in terms of programme design will be  experimented on a continuous basis. The second is large-scale programme  implementation through partnerships with governments where learning from  the pilots would be adopted, adapted and appropriated for  replication and scale.

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Why AIF is involved in implementing the DE Program A. Bridging the Digital Divide
AIF believes that there is a need to  prioritise access to ICT resources to the more underserved population, which is being left behind on a digital  divide. Through its DE Programme AIF is providing opportunities to  underserved children to enhance their learning through the use of digital  technology and thereby bridging the divide and creating a level  playing field. B. Quality learning AIF sees a direct convergence of  technology and education where the
DE programme addresses the quality issue in the following ways.
1. Schools revising the present   to create more effective learning environments and improving lifelong learning skills and habits in their students
2. In the process the teacher’s own learning abilities getting improved The DE methodology involves
• Enhancing basic literacy and critical thinking skills
• Enriching and improving the quality of education by enabling teachers to use technology in the teaching-learning process
• Inspire curiosity, confidence, and teamwork by actively engaging children in interactive, collaborative learning using technology and the Internet

DE programme implementation
• School selection is done based on availability of basic infrastructure, target group (Classes 6 to 10), teacher motivation to adopt the new system and management consent to support this activity.
• A Teacher trainer titled as “DE Co-ordinator” who is an AIF resource handles professional development and training for all  subject teachers on ICT skills.
The trainer is allotted 5 to 10 schools in a cluster. If the  teachers are not computer literate they are put through a computer  literacy course before this phase.
• A Student Trainer titled as “DE Facilitator” placed in each school, handles student training on basic computer skills.
• ICT skills for teachers include  creating multimedia lessons, using project based learning methods, use of Internet and leading tele-collaborative projects.
• Regular meetings are organised by the co-ordinators so that the  schools get together and evaluate projects on an ongoing basis using feedback into the
• From year 2, each school is encouraged to  develop a school  technology plan,
which will be tracked by the DE co-ordinator.
• Commencing from  the third year the schools are expected to implement the
technology plan with minimal supervision from AIF to ensure sustainability beyond the DE Phase. By the end of 3 years the schools will be equipped to use
ICT in their day-to-day teachinglearning process.

Lessons from the learning
programmes implemented
1. AIF started with only a few dozen schools in 2001 and grew to 178in the following 4-5 years. A program of 100 schools will prove radically different from the one with 1,000 schools which is the stage in which the programme
currently is in.
2. Few schools tagged as test-beds  where experiments on the technology– hardware, software and connectivity, cost  effectiveness, user-friendliness,
acceptability from the target audience, perceived value  addition in terms of programme delivery are carried out.
3. It is found that teacher  motivation is a key factor in the programme implementation and there are 3 categories of teachers  to be handled: perfomers or  innovators, semi-performers, nonperformers or resistant teachers.
4. Monitoring and reporting on the progress of the programme  implementation are critical for ensuring that program is on track.  In our experience programmatic design improvement happens  through qualitative discussions
with schoolteachers and principals and not on the basis of  the monitoring reports.
5. While there is enough anecdotal evidence to indicate that the programme has largely been effective, and some empirical  studies have also been done, a
concrete model to assess the impact of the DE program is yet to emerge. The studies done could be classified as  “satisfaction surveys” which provided the necessary comfort level for the management to  continue with the programme approach.

DE growth path-the way forward
The DE program is in a stage where the programme will be implemented in partnerships with state governments  t a scale where the magnitude will be of the order of 500 to 1000 schools. This will be the first year of the programme where learnings from the pilots will be adopted, adapted and  appropriated for up-scaling. The programme management team is  gearing up with this arduous task of collaborating with other stakeholders,  chalking out clear roles and
responsibilities for each of the players. The DE programme will  complement and supplement the existing state government’s ICT  school initiatives through a collaborative effort rather than  creating a parallel system, which would breed competition. We are in the process of conducting impact  assessment for the existing DE centres and would come up with a  model to assess large-scale programs as we recognise that this aspect  needs to be prioritised.

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