Tell us about the idea behind the innovative training module Easy Now!.
I am basically a nuclear scientist and have worked in BARC. In the 1960s, our digital struggle was to convert some numbers into a meaningful model by which we could run our nuclear reactors. Then India made a computer CDC-12, in which you could feed the data and have the desired models on a teleprinter. We were on top of the world. That is how my association with computers started.
Between 1969-73, I went into an ad agency, where my training as a nuclear scientist was put to good use. I started using mathematical calculations in market research to establish consumer choices, patterns and standard sizes of products. I also worked with an engineering consultancy helping people solve practical problems using mathematical models. Then I joined a company called Computronics India where I was involved with various projects for for different groups of clients across the globe. I realised then that although we have made technological advancements, these are not being used for right applications.
When computers came to be used extensively, the ability of calculating simulation through graphics, etc was of direct interest to education. At Computronics, we were involved in the development of a software called the White Board. The software allowed simultaneous transmission of messages or data between the teacher and students. Through this technology students could communicate with the teachers by typing in queries and receiving answers. However, during demonstrations I realised that the teachers found it difficult to utilise to make drawings. So I created a product for them called Easy Now!
Please elaborate on the concept of Easy Now.
Using the Easy Now! module, teachers can create a slide show for students, which would be optimum so that it could go up on a regular dial-up line net connection. This would allow the teacher to record the lecture in an audio, match it with video of the lessons on the whiteboard and deliver it in no time. Through this system, almost 120-150 hours of classroom teaching can be recorded in one CD and disseminated to students who may not be in quality schools.
Using the Easy Now! module, teachers can create a slide show for students, which would be optimum so that it could go up on a regular dial-up line net connection
Similarly, lectures by a good teacher can be archived for future use for the benefit of a large number of students. This method is also very cost-effective as it requires simple tools for recording a classroom lecture. Moreover, this innovation is friendly to persons with disabilities and can be used by the visually challenged as well as hearing impaired.
How can the learning divide be surmounted using Easy Now?
Through the Easy Now! one can archive a classroom lecture and use it for educating students in a remote village or inaccessible place or even children who cannot afford quality education. The product is also inclusive in nature as it can be used by the visually challenged or hearing impaired. The learning divide can thus be surmounted by empowering the marginalised sections to use this cost-effective open source. All one needs is simple technological tools like the VCD or MP 3 player to play high quality classroom lecture. For example, we have conducted training sessions for the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU), Nashik, Maharashtra and the teachers there are now trying to reach out to the tribal population there using this method. So Easy Now! is going to be a big revolution in terms of its reachability and affordability and further the mission of open and distance learning.
How has the response to this product been?
The response to Easy Now! has been very encouraging. Students find the whole concept of teachers preparing the lessons and archiving them very interesting. This year we have already conducted training sessions in YCMOU, Maharashtra, Sri Lanka Open University (SLOU) and the Bangladesh Open University (BOU). We would now be going to Tamil Nadu Open University (TNOU) and Malaysia for holding such sessions. We have also conducted classes for a private organisation ‘Chanakya Mandali’ in Maharashtra, which provides education to almost 4000 students. The Mandali feels that they would be able to reach out to more than 50,000 students through this technique.