Delhi schools gear up for the net age

By : |February 26, 2003 0



NEW DELHI: Not to be undone by the fast pace of changing technology, schools in Delhi have embraced technology and going by the looks rather adeptly at that. And the children, the little enthusiasts, are having a whale of a time lapping up the learning offered by the new medium.

“It is the window to a whole new world,” gushed Amita Mishra, Headmistress of the primary section of Delhi Public School (DPS) at East of Kailash. “By giving impromptu online tests we are able to assess conceptual understanding of children in abstract sciences,” said Anuradha Mathur at the Teacher Resource Center of Modern School, Vasant Vihar.

By and large, schools have used computers to aid curriculum-based learning besides encouraging children to use the medium to enlarge their worldviews. Although most schools are still experimenting with the way computers can be woven into the school curriculum, they are clear that computer education would be outside the realm of formal education.

Schools would facilitate the learning of the new medium and also encourage its imaginative usage but nowhere would it be made mandatory, at least as of now. “As a junior school we look on computer education as a facilitator and acknowledge the potential it can play in the child’s learning process. But nowhere have we made it mandatory in the curriculum realizing issues of accessibility,” added Mishra.

A key issue plaguing educationists has been how to integrate computers into the curriculum of the schoolwork. Should computers be taught as a separate subject? Should it be made an integral part of all subjects? If it is integrated into the curriculum should there be structured learning or should it be left to the child to learn on his own?

Schools have approached computer teaching in an open manner. While it has been introduced as a medium of fun learning in junior schools, senior students have been encouraged to use the medium to expand the scope of conventional learning while learning useful tools at the same time. Students from middle school onwards learn office application tools like MS Word, spreadsheets and how to make multi-media presentations.

Computer Science is a separate subject with both theory and practical classes. “And children have produced some wonderful results from their practical sessions by developing some excellent CDs”, said Mukesh Kumar, Head of the Computer Science Department at DPS, RK Puram.

Schools also organize competition at the school level and at the inter-school level to promote computer usage. For instance, there is inter-school quiz competition on computers, extempore speaking on computers, seeking the bug competition, etc.

Corporate like Apple Computers have also joined the bandwagon organizing inter-school competition on developing movies using Apple software. Some educationists believe that computer education should rather focus on practical aspects like teaching how to give the right keywords and the art of sifting through the mountains of information bombarded from the Internet.

Said Shashank Vira, Director, Shriram Educare, “Come to think of it, the child is lost in the maze of information which is available on the Internet. Unless you teach the child how to make sense of that information, any other kind of teaching would be rendered useless.” Schools have not been far off the mark in their approach to taking computers to children.

Going by the excitement amongst junior school kids glued to the computer screen playing “drag and drop games” in order to learn opposites or learning to write correct grammatical sentences, schools have indeed touched the right cord. Schools have been enabled by third party service providers like classteacher.com who host the site and take care of the backend technical needs while schools provide the relevant content.

“Being in the initial stages, schools require a lot of handholding in developing the online curriculum although the ultimate aim is to make the schools independent of the service provider in developing the curriculum,” said Rahul Pande, CEO of Mind Shaper Technologies and the owner of classteacher.com.

For instance, the teacher should be able to creatively imagine the wrong steps that a student could take in solving an algebra problem and alert the program to debar the progress of that solution. Such exercises are particularly significant since schools have widely used online tests and exercises to help students reinforce their class learning.

Schools like Modern School, Vasant Vihar with the help of service providers have enabled children to take tests for self-assessment. Training teachers is the key When students take to technology so easily and when computers are set to become an integral part of the school curriculum, it is important to make teachers equally tech savvy. And schools and training companies have taken up the task of training school teachers seriously.

NIIT and Intel have focussed teacher-training programs in order to equip teachers with computer skills, which would help as a teaching aid. Said Mukesh Kumar, Head of the Computer Science Department at DPS, RK Puram, “We regularly hold training programs for new teachers in partnership with private companies. We have also identified teachers who are tech-savvy and more inclined towards using more technology and train them in advanced skill sets.” The school in fact has a sizable team of 16 computer teachers, one senior programmer, four DTP personnel, three lab assistants and one computer engineer.

Some schools like Father Agnel in Gautam Nagar have laid out structures for teachers to help them incorporate computers into the regular curriculum. Teachers are required to make at least two multi-media presentation to classes every year and during every second Saturday the school requires a group of teachers to make a multi-media presentation to the faculty on any topic of their choice.

“Such exercises are expected to help teachers get familiar with the medium and explore ways in which to use it more creatively in their delivery sessions,” said Bhushan Kumar, Head of the Computers Department at Father Agnel.

Infrastructure Schools however state that resources are not a problem in providing computer facilities to children. Most schools have a laboratory of 20-25 computers, which in effect comes to one computer being shared by two students. Schools also make available computers for teachers or students who may be interested in making multi-media presentations.

While senior schools like DPS, RK Puram provide Internet access in all the computers in the school at all times, junior schools have provided Internet access to only a few computers. DPS, RK Puram, for instance, has six PC laboratories with over 200 PCs in the school, which are all Internet-enabled.

Besides, it also has an advanced computer lab called the Shogun Lab in collaboration with an Israeli company to stimulate the curiosity of technically bent students. A smaller school like Father Agnel has three PC laboratories with 25 machines each. While the advanced P4 machines being allocated to senior students, PIII to middle school students and PII machines to junior school students. The school also has a server from which it experimented sharing a single CD on all PCs in a project with NIIT.

The project, which has been successfully concluded, also earned the school a small remuneration. As computers get more and more integrated into the curriculum and children get more exposed to the tools of the Net Age, learning would not be the same again with textbooks and structured learning giving way to more holistic education.

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