Being part of the education team in IT for Change, I have been talking about the greatness of the Kerala IT @ Schools project for about two years now. But I had yet to visit this project and learn from it first hand. Such an opportunity finally came along when the DSERT staff arranged for a one-day trip to the Kasaragod IT @ Schools project.
The day started with the District Coordinator Mr. Mathai explaining to us the structure of the project and all its various components. It was extremely interesting for us as well as the DSERT staff. A lot of questions were asked on the actual processes, the challenges, budgeting, etc. It was heartening to see the staff from DSERT engaging very deeply with the issues of the project, constantly comparing it to Karnataka's own ICT programmes. Everyone in the Kasaragod District Resource Centre was eager to share different aspects of the project. The enthusiasm levels were extremely high and not at all typical of a government set-up. Among other things, I was particularly impressed that passwords were easily available and kept well in an organised manner. (This may not appear as a big deal but we have come across these problems in vendor-driven programmes of Karnataka).
Luckily for us, a training session was also in progress for the master trainers of the district. Thus, we got to interact with some of them as well as observe how a training session takes place. The atmosphere was relaxed, with the participants keeping the trainer on his toes, constantly asking his questions of 'why this and why not that'. There was a air of seriousness around as well with everybody focussing on the IT textbook and experimenting with the tool.
In the afternoon, we were taken to a couple of schools. Although it was vacation time, we wanted to see the lab to get a picture of how computer classes actually take place in the school. I was impressed by the simplicity yet effectiveness of the computer labs. With simple equipment and furniture, the labs were clean, spacious and looked academically stimulating with charts showing different computer-aided learning tools. I was especially excited to see the below chart as it symbolised exactly what we are advocating for in Karnataka and the rest of the country. Also to see that we were not the only ones who knew about these educational tools and used them was truly motivating.