Academia’s perspective : Vasudha Kamat, Vice Chancellor, SNDT Womens University, India

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Vasudha Kamat, Former Joint Director, CIET and current  Vice Chancellor, SNDT Womens University speaks  about NCERT’s ‘Lab in Box’ initiative. Excerpts

What does NCERT want to achieve through the Lab in Box initiative?

ICT integration in schools is a major challenge. How do teachers integrate the ICTs in their day-to-day teaching is one of the important things to address. By creating this facility, CIET, NCERT plans to explore the way teachers shall use ICTs, (to create and share knowledge resources) and use them in classroom interaction. We plan to invite teachers from state governments and municipal schools in Delhi (in the vicinity of NCERT) to use this facility.

Secondly, we wish to explore how students use these facilities. The lab-in-box has five servers and 15 clients along with five touch screens. We plan to invite school students to use this facility created in the lab-in-box and study their use by the students. The systems have free and open source software (FOSS) only and it will also be a good opportunity to observe how students use them.

Another area of study will be how students like to work in this Lab-in-box environment.

How will this initiative facilitate school education in the country? What is the target segment and target area of the concept?

NCERT is planning to extend this experiment to our Regional Institutes of Education (RIEs) where a school is attached to RIE on the campus. School students from these schools will enrich our understanding about student use of ICT labs which are well equipped with FOSS, with thin client system and also with broadband connectivity. The learning from this experiment will help support Government initiative of creating ICT infrastructure in schools under
ICT@School scheme.

We wish to work closely with three groups of stakeholders in school sector: One is students, second is teachers and third is principals/planners/decision makers in school sector. Purpose of involving each of these groups is specific.

How HP Lab in a Box solution will help NCERT in universalising education and help implement more creative, sustainable and inclusive model of education?

It is a novel solution to the problem of introducing students to ICT tools to get global. Students love to explore the new technology and the lab in box just provides them that opportunity. Imagine an elementary school in a rural area where students drop out due to non-interesting learning environment. This box will open up a new world before them through which they can get connected to the whole world outside.

We need to involve teachers in this novel experiment who could help students in proper way.

The process of learning will become more innovative, explorative and access to internet will bring in many answers to students questions, but will also enthuse them to ask many more questions to solve the riddles of life around them like why does the tree sheds all leaves in summer, why the chameleon changes its colour, how energy gets transformed and so on.

They can learn to paint, to create new models, to identify stars in the sky with the help of interactive sky atlas, trace the satellites, prepare a map of their village and get involved in many other interesting activities and projects.

Girls, boys, special needs children all could be involved in using this facility. Lot of relevant resources (Audio books for visually impaired children, visually sound films for deaf students, and so on).

When would the prototype be implemented? How accessible and cost effective the “Lab-in-box” concept will be?

We have invited students and teachers from nearby schools to this lab. Meanwhile CIET is also working on the plans for implementation.

NCERT (various departments and Institutions) conducts many programmes involving experts (teachers, teacher educators, SCERT/XIE functionaries) and as such they visit NCERT. CIET invites them to visit the lab-in-box facility which is a novel concept for them. Discussions with these experts, visitors help in shaping the plan further.

I think this can work out to be a cost effective solution to computer lab in the school. This has enough space for 15 computers and also a table, board for teacher. It can also be fitted with Projector which can be used for presentation both by students and teachers. It also has small magazine stands where NCERT publications, magazine for children can be made available.

What are some other initiatives that NCERT is planning for school education?

NCERT is celebrating its Golden Jubilee year (1961-2011) and as a part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations, each constituent Institution/Department of NCERT has planned several programmes. CIET has planned three programmes:

First is reaching 1 Million students with CIET films: CIET is reaching about 1,000 schools with 1,000 student strength in the country. We have selected two themes: Environment and Water. Under each theme, 8-10 films are identified suitable for various age groups (6 to 18 yrs) and schools are requested to show these films to their students. As a token of appreciation, CIET will send an album of 20 more programmes to schools. This will initiate/motivate students and teachers to use these resources.

Educational Technology Lecture Series: During CIET’s Silver Jubilee Year celebrations (1984-2009), CIET had conducted Educational Technology Lecture series, under which eminent Educationists, Educational Technologists, were invited to deliver lectures in 12 cities. The last lecture was delivered by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, past President of India. This year Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Knowledge Commission has kindly consented to deliver his lecture on Open Educational Resources in School Education (to mark the inauguration of ET Lecture Series) on 29th March in CIET, NCERT. Prof. Ashok Kolaskar, Member, NKC and Vice Chancellor KIIT, Bhubaneswar (and Ex VC, Pune University) has kindly consented to deliver lecture in Kolkata in April.

International Conference on Web 2.0 Tools.

Other initiative of CIET:

Online Courses: CIET offered Online Course in Action Research in Educational Technology for Teacher educators from DIETs (District Institutes of Education and training). There was a very good response. Now we have planned to offer four more online courses during the year 2011-12. One in Action Research in Educational Technology, in Educational Audio Script Writing, Educational Video Script Writing and in Educational Gaming.

To motivate students and teachers CIET has planned three Contests: Photography Contest for students (This will be third in series), Poster Contest for teachers in RTE, and third video contest for teachers.

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