IT's a great success here

ICT EDUCATION

IT's a great success here

UNIQUE FEAT Besides preparing interactive multimedia CDs, handbooks and training modules, the ‘IT @ School’ project has also prepared textbooks for classes 5 to 10.Nine years after Kerala embraced information communication technology- enabled education, the success of the IT @ School Project has been hailed as a model worth emulating. Unlike in some other states, the project fully integrates into the existing educational process by relying on teachers rather than private vendors to impart ICT-enabled education most effectively.

It was in 2001 that the Kerala government issued an order including ICT as a subject in  school curriculum. It was based on the report submitted by the IT task force led by U R Rao which laid stress on making teachers as master trainers to impart computer education among their colleagues and students. At present, there are about 200 such master trainers, 5,600 school IT coordinators and over 28,000 student school IT coordinators who have become its backbone. The project has also been termed as the “world’s largest simultaneous deployment of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) based ICT education”.  

According to Anwar Sadath, executive director of the project, IT@School through the implementation of the “ICT in Schools Scheme” had been able to holistically integrate diverse activities of ICT-enabled education such as capacity building, infrastructure upgrading, content delivery, e-governance and satellite-based education.

As many as 1.1 lakh teachers have been given training as part of the project. “Though initially the focus was on imparting various IT-based training programmes, now the scope has extended to enable them to handle their subjects using ICT as tool,’’ he says.

Some of the major training programmes included Basic Linux training, ICT training, hardware training, internet training, specific content training and IT training for the differently abled. The project identified students from Standards 8 and 9 in each school as Student School IT Co-ordinators (SSITC) who were given training in ICT and hardware.

On the infrastructure front, 4,071 schools in the state were provided with modern ICT hardware last year. These included 7,300 computers, 11,488 laptops, 6,510 UPS and 5177 netbooks among other things. Broadband internet connectivity has also been provided to all high schools and educational offices of the state in association with BSNL and the detailed usage norms were also issued to the schools.

Hardware clinics

One of the most innovative parts of the project was the launch of hardware clinics aimed at repairing or upgrading damaged computers and other hardware in schools. This was done by bringing them to a common centre on a specified date where they were inspected and defects rectified. Hardware clinics are conducted with technical assistance from Keltron, a state government undertaking. This served as a training session for the master trainers of the project, teachers and also students to learn more about the technical know-how of the hardware.

Mass FOSS deployment

Last year witnessed the shift to a complete ICT-enabled educational system which was propelled by the ICT-based content development processed and implemented by the project. The project rolled out its own customised version of Operating System – IT@School Ubuntu, which is now being used in all schools.

IT@School project functions on a free software platform since it provides the freedom to an individual to study, copy, modify and re-distribute any content. The project spearheads the free software initiatives in the state and with the implementation of free software-based IT Practical Examination in Standards 8, 9 and 10, it has become the single largest simultaneous deployment of FOSS-based ICT education anywhere. The Free OS IT@ School GNU Linux is bundled with several educational software and the packages are being customised by the teachers themselves. Besides preparing interactive multimedia CDs, handbooks and training modules, the project has also prepared IT textbooks for classes 5 to 10.

ViCTERS channel

The IT@School Project is the nodal agency for Edusat operations in the state. ViCTERS has become the most sought-after channel by the students, teachers and parent community in the state and its popularity has been on the rise. ViCTERS is currently available through ROTs setup in schools, through local cable networks, through DTH connection and also through internet-live streaming.

In 2010, ViCTERS was able to tie-up with Deutsche Welle, BBC and NFDC for telecast of educational video contents of global standard. The global content is custom-made by dubbing into Malayalam for better understanding among the students.  

Public awareness campaign

The project now plans to conduct a massive awareness campaign aimed at exposing the public to some of the popular free software applications. One-day seminars are being conducted during the holidays highlighting how to use GNU/ Linux applications in everyday life.

“The sessions would shed light on the use and benefits of GNU/ Linux, scope of Office packages, Malayalam typing, multimedia packages, image editing, sound recording, video editing etc,’’ said Mr Sadath.

Pat for project

According to a study by IT for Change, a non-profit organisation, the integrated model followed in IT@School, where the accent is on developing systemic in-house capabilities anchored around the role of school teachers, has shown considerable success. “This has been in terms of much higher level of teacher engagement, integration of computer learning with regular learning processes, greater per-learner availability of computers, significant cost efficiencies and development of teacher networks and collaborative content creation processes, which support teacher professional development. All of these together have led to the overall strengthening of the education system and better learning outcomes.’’

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