A Think-Tank For Students
"Never before has teaching science been so joyful and innovative, with students showing so much enthusiasm for learning," exclaims Kamal Peter, who has been teaching science at the Kendriya Vidyalaya Malleswaram (KVM) in Bangalore for almost 20 years. Peter is referring to using Oracle's Think.com programme, a globally hosted online educational environment designed for primary (ages 7 to 12) and secondary (ages 13 to 16) school students and teachers.
Think. com makes use of personal Web pages as well as powerful communication and collaboration tools-and it's all free of cost.
A New Paradigm In Education
A member of the Educational Technology Focus Group for the National Curriculum Framework 2005, Peter claims to be highly involved in all sources that make learning more interesting and enjoyable for students.
She says, "I feel Think.com falls under the paradigm of 'A3-anytime, anywhere and anyone' information. Thanks to the training by Oracle, we teachers are no longer techno-phobic, and can now demystify technology for children."
The visually-rich Think.com breaks the monotony of regular chalk-and-blackboard teaching by providing a highly interactive interface. According to Peter, "A bit of adapting is all that is needed to get meaningful interaction from your students."
Ease Of Learning
Think.com is a part of Oracle's Education Initiatives programme. Launched in 1999 in the UK, Think.com now serves more than 1,50,000 students and teachers around the globe.
Members have their own personal Web space within a protected online community, where they can exchange e-mail, create Web pages, upload images, and host collaborative learning activities with other members.
An added benefit is that HTML is not needed at all for the Web site to function. Powered by the Oracle Database and Oracle Collaboration Suite, it allows users to easily add text, audio and video to their personal pages, and interact with other members.
Oracle is helping students meet the challenges of the information age."
Krishan Dhawan, Managing Director, Oracle India Pvt Ltd
Accessible from a standard Web browser, members can stay connected to their classrooms from home, school or the library.
Think.com In India
The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) will roll out the Think.com initiative to over 900 Kendriya Vidyalaya schools in India in a phased manner.
Krishan Dhawan, Managing Director, Oracle India, says, "Oracle Education Initiatives are Oracle's philanthropic efforts to catalyse learning at all levels of education by leveraging the company's core competencies in information management and Internet technologies. By investing in the education of today's students and partnering with governments and academic bodies, Oracle is helping students counter the challenges of the information age."
A precursor to the rollout is the successful Think.com pilot projects conducted in two government schools and 25 Kendriya Vidyalaya schools in Delhi and Bangalore in 2004.
Dhawan adds: "The task of rolling out Think.com to all the 900 KVS schools is already underway. By the end of 2006, Think.com is expected to touch over 50,000 people."
As part of the rollout, Oracle is training a core group of about 40 master trainers selected by KVS. The master trainers will, in turn, train school administrators in the KVS schools. The teachers trained by the master trainers will implement, train and support other teachers and students in their respective schools.
Think.com is visually rich with a highly interactive interface
The aforementioned Kendriya Vidyalaya Malleswaram was one of the 25 schools to successfully pilot the Think.com project. Students at KVM continue to use Think.com in their day-to-day learning in both curricular and extra-curricular areas.
"Oracle's collaborative learning environment provides the opportunities for our school to be part of an increasingly highly- connected world. Kendriya Vidyalayas can now communicate and collaborate with the global student and teaching community," said R Jamuda, Commissioner, KVS.
A Global Learning Community
Essentially, Think.com uses the Internet to create a protected online environment where unfavourable elements not suited for young children are eliminated or not given access.
Through Think.com, primary and secondary school students and teachers from around the globe can communicate, collaborate on projects, share ideas, exchange information and enliven classroom-learning experiences through real-world discussions.
Think.com provides a tool set to easily create custom lessons that simultaneously engage students in technology, subject area curriculum, and the power of a global learning community.
Think.com provides global online interaction, and thereby, greater avenues for partnering with teachers and students worldwide. Akin to a Web-based student community, each student has an e-mail account and personal Web pages.
Students can post messages, assignments, and even audio and video clippings. They can exchange information not only with the other member schools spread across the world.
Peter also co-ordinates with Janet Damon, librarian of the Oakland Elementary School in Colorado, in the USA. Damon is involved in a project on Indian culture, information on which she is getting from Peter and her students in Malleswaram.
"I have been interested in Think.com since I saw the programme demonstrated at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in the US last year. The project I am working on is a lesson
in Indian culture and society for my students in Denver, Colorado.
"I teach in a very diverse neighbourhood; my students live in an urban community and some do not travel very much to other countries.
"Through Think.com I taught a unit to my students about the culture, geography, and customs of India. Ms Peter was a wonderful resource and partner; she has been enthusiastic about providing information on learning about Indian weather such as the monsoon when I taught that portion," says Damon.
She adds: "I asked my students to write letters introducing themselves to Indian students asking questions about this incredible country. I am travelling to India in July, and these letters are travelling with me to schools from Goa to Bangalore to Pondicherry.
"At the schools I visit, I plan to present these letters and a digital video of my school community and students. I hope to create partnerships with Indian teachers and students and to use Think.com as the medium for connecting our students in a human way that is only possible with technology."
In The Future
Students get a wider platform to express their ideas and independent thinkers and curious learners can learn more through this live and happening medium. With educators using Think.com in the classroom, the Internet is fast becoming a ubiquitous learning tool.
At the same time, a broadband connection is a must-have to facilitate this catching concept. India Inc needs to leverage its people, technology and resources to promote meaningful change and make education a fun learning experience across the nation.