Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teachers' strike--schools hit hard.

Teachers working in government schools in Andhra Pradesh have been on strike for more than a week now! The only outcome being-- the classes are discontinued in over 40,000 schools. And this is why we have not been able to visit some of the schools we had short listed for our Virtual Classroom.
That apart, the strike is such an unfortunate thing to happen for school children as if the holidays round the year aren’t enough! I was told that most teachers cannot finish their syllabus usually for whatever reasons, and this academic year with a very low number of working days and the strike still on, are we in for a grim pass percentage? And I say percentage because that’s the way we measure our students’ progress and their performance.  I hope JACTO (Joint Action Committee of Teachers’ Organizations) and the Government will come to a consensus soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

EFF updates...

Since this blog is one of our channels to stay in touch with people, I have another quick round of updates on what Education For Free has been up to:
For the past few weeks, our engineers were working on improving the video quality, and the whiteboard. The video quality works much better now. We will soon have a much friendlier ‘pen’ too to write on the whiteboard. Thanks to the Dusserah vacation, no classes were interrupted.
We were also testing the equipment, especially the microphones—to see which ones work best in a regular classroom. Ravi Shankar, one of the registered members of EFF, helped us immensely with figuring out the acoustics and the right equipment for our classrooms. He is a senior sound engineer with Ramoji Film City and his expertise in this field has helped us understand how the whole sound system works.  He has been extremely helpful, and has consistently gone out of his way, whether to help us solve some nagging audio-related issues, or to just stop by and say hello. We are now using the new set of microphones he recommended, and it works great. A big thanks to Ravi from all of us here.
We are also running around, meeting different organizations for more schools. And phew! by next week we will have 2 more schools with Virtual Classroom. I will sure be writing about this.
EFF as young as it seems, participated in the National Seminar for Education organized by Byyraju Foundation on the 21st October.  Sridhar presented a paper on “A technological approach to educational problems”. 17 other organizations participated in the seminar and collaborated on the issues with the present education system and ways to solve them. It is encouraging and challenging at the same time as we take our steps further, becoming more mature with each experience. And we are thankful to all the individuals and organizations that support and motivate us to do our bit --for our country.
Have the brightest Diwali Ever! :) 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A portal for Teachers of India

Teachers in India now have a website to be called their own. This is not school specific but a website for all teachers to collaborate, contribute and learn. Launched in August by the National Knowledge Commission in collaboration with a few non profit organizations, the site offers, for phase one, a section where articles, lessons plans, or any materials could be contributed which gets uploaded to the website accessible for other teachers to use. At present, the website can be read in five languages: Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada. In future versions, we are told, there is much more coming up. Here’s a list of what functions the website will perform in the coming day:
    This Portal will offer resources related to:
1. Education Perspectives (Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Economics)
2. Classroom Practice (Principles of Pedagogy, Pedagogy of Language, Science, Mathematics, History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, EVS, Art, Music, Dance, Sports) including manuals, activities, modules, tools, etc.
3. Subject Content (Language, Science, Mathematics, History, Geography, Political Science, Economics, EVS, Art, Music, Dance, Sports)
4. Stories, Songs, Games that teachers can use in class
5. Reading Resources (including links to other websites/portals/on line library
6. Research Information
7. Specific Case Studies
 The following will also be available:
1. Information on organizations/Individuals/Resources (district-wise)
2. Career Information (government recruitment details and opportunities available in organizations and institutions)
3. Teacher education courses – both short term and long term
4. Workshops and Conferences
5. In-service training programs
6. News/information/articles on relevant current events
7. Awards (honors)
8. Calendar of events
I quite appreciate the effort. However, to make this functional and accessible to all teachers, it is necessary to also publicize the effort well, to make teachers aware of the ways in which it can help them. Needless to say, Internet in schools is essential too. But if the launch is planned carefully and implemented successfully, the cooperation and participation from the teachers, and above all their enthusiasm will no doubt sustain this effort effectively.

Virtual classrooms for UPTU

The UP Technical University will be starting online classes soon. This initiative is to overcome the teachers shortage problem they have been facing for sometime now. The university is facing a shortage of over 2,000 teaching staff. Its a project funded by the union ministry of information technology. Read the story here

"For conducting online interactive classrooms, we are setting up a virtual classroom hub at our Noida campus"

According to officials, the upcoming hub will beam teaching programmes to nearly 12 institutes that would have direct access.

The institutes will then extend the online facility to at least 25 colleges located in their vicinity.