Technological empowerment in Education

While the use of technology in education is prominent in certain parts of India, most rural children are yet to experience it. A collaboration between Vodafone Foundation and Pratham Education Foundation (PEF) will facilitate cloud-based technology solutions for underprivileged children across schools in India. The collaboration commits to provide learning solutions for over 50,000 underprivileged children. A successful pilot project has been conducted in schools across Karnataka, and the module will be replicated in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Delhi.

While Vodafone will provide internally developed softwares combined with the effects of mobile technology, Pratham will mainly be responsible for informing schools, identifying needy, willing and eligible institutions, orienting teachers in schools, and handholding classroom practices. Digital educational content, aligned to the prescribed curriculum, will be taught using low-cost internet devices that include tablets, smart phones and web box.

The project targets schools that work in low-income areas. In the initial stages, the programme will be established in government, private aided and/ or unaided schools. Working on the feedback received, the module will be introduced to other schools as well. “In a pilot project conducted in schools, our experience was that a significant majority of the parents in the villages did own a mobile phone, and basic technology, although they used it very sparingly. Even though the parents were not very familiar with using SMS, the children were very quick to grasp the nuances and were able to answer the questions presented. Insights gained from our experience with teachers, parents and students guided the product design, thereby providing an option to use SMS as a bearer for delivering the tests and updates as it is something available in any low-end mobile phone,” shares Laura Turkington, director, Vodafone India Foundation.

For technology intervention to be effective, it is critical for the teaching style to adapt to technological advances. Pratham Foundation will train teachers to use the solutions provided besides providing them with guidance on how to get the best out of technology. “We are trying to contribute content that could be used effectively with the help of some content providers. As the project progresses, the foundation will suggest possible improvements and changes,” says Madhav Chavan, chief executive officer, Pratham.

The project has a modular component called V-School that will be used by teachers to track attendance, exam schedules, provide updates to parents, and keep track of a child’s progress. This facility will be accessible via the web box, a simple, compact Android device that connects to any regular TV to provide innovative learning solutions. The schools will be provided with a web box, and other necessary equipment that would make administrative as well as educational functioning easy.

The collaboration, beginning June 2012, looks at establishing technology-based learning in over 1,000 schools in India over the next three years.

WHAT THE PROJECT OFFERS?

• A system to track attendance, grades and other administrative requirements

• Safe access to the internet to explore digital content related to curriculum

• SMS multiple choice tests for children

• A notification service, enabling the teachers keep parents informed