Accelerating IT Literacy

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2005
Accelerating IT Literacy
A class of 50-odd students is eagerly listening to their biology teacher explain the action of photosynthesis. She uses a PowerPoint presentation with numerous images to elucidate the synthesis of compounds. Sound  like a typical elite English-medium school? Well, the teacher is interacting with the students in Telugu, and the location is the Government Boys High School at Mustaidpura near Hyderabad.

The teacher, Sunita Yadav, claims that ever since she started using technology in the classroom, learning has become accelerated, more enjoyable, and more interactive for students. She says, "Earlier, I would require a minimum of three lectures to explain photosynthesis; now, with computers, I can do it within 20 minutes! And the students' attention is guaranteed!"

Project Shiksha
Yadav is one of the 42,000 teachers who have undergone IT training for teachers as part of Microsoft's Project Shiksha, which aims at "Empowering the future."

Project Shiksha is part of Microsoft's Partners in Learning Programme, which includes empowering students, educators, the developer community and IT professionals by providing greater access to the latest technologies and locally tailored training content.

Launched by Bill Gates, chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft, during his visit to India in November 2002, the project addresses critical challenges of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) access in education in India.

Project Shiksha is designed to deliver affordable software solutions, and comprehensive training and curricula-for students as well as teachers-in the Indian government schools.

The Project entails an investment of $20 million (Rs 92 crore). It seeks to reach out to over two lakh school teachers and one crore students-within a period of five years. The key deliverable of the project is, indeed, the teacher training programme.

Thus far, Microsoft has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, and West Bengal to implement the Project Shiksha programme.

Bridging The Tech Divide 
Rohit Kumar, Country Head, Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation India, says, "Project Shiksha is a nationwide initiative, wherein Microsoft is collaborating with state governments across India to reach students and teachers.

"We have a comprehensive India education programme wherein we are working closely with academia, universities, the developer community, as well as the education departments of the State and Central Government, to ensure IT adoption in the education process at various levels."

Microsoft also has a tie-up with the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) schools, which are under the Ministry of Human Rerource Development. In addition, Microsoft is also extending the reach of IT to students and teachers in the schools that come under the Municipal Corporation of New Delhi.

Kumar mentions, "Our objective is to take IT to the grassroots level. We believe that early access to technology for students can contribute significantly towards creating an IT-proficient next generation."

Early access to technology can contribute significantly towards creating an IT-proficient next-generation
Rohit Kumar, Country Head Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation India

Ensuring Tech-Savvy Pedagogy
Under Project Shiksha, teachers  are trained at Microsoft IT academy centres in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttaranchal, Lakshwadeep, and even in the  Andamans. The Project has helped build an online community for teacher collaboration, best-practice sharing, and honing of skill sets.

Yadav says, "In June of 2004, I underwent ten days of intensive training at the Microsoft IT academy at Banjara Hills. We were coached on many aspects-right from learning how to operate a computer to using it for academics and administration. This has helped me tremendously."

Yadav further shares, "The students in my school come from underprivileged backgrounds, and work in their spare time. Learning with, and about technology instils a great measure of self-confidence in them. In fact, they now complete most of their assignments online. Knowledge of computers has improved their overall grasp of the subject, and they now do better in exams." 

Promoting IT Know-How
So far, Project Shiksha has reached out to over 21 lakh students. Under the programme, the Innovative Teachers Leadership Awards were announced in 2004. This year, 15 teachers were selected from a nationwide contest; who will  now attend the Microsoft regional event in Korea. This will help Indian educators get exposure to global teaching methods.

Kumar adds, "In an Internet- dominated era, we have to ensure that the younger generation has the ability to access, use, and adapt to the tools of our time, to enable them to compete at a global level. This has to be across the spectrum of population, no matter what part of the country they live in. We believe educators are essential to making this happen, and they need to be recognised for this."

Technology, it is clear, facilitates the enhancement of teacher and student skills. Hence, it is essential that technology becomes an innate part of the learning process for students in all corners of India-not in A and B grade cities alone. Such initiatives are the need of the hour, and may help turn India into a nation of computer literates.

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