At Govindpuri centre,we organised “ART and CRAFT” competition on 16th June.  This event was planned for kids who have timely renewed their subscription i.e. by 15th June.

Kids used newspapers, pulses, ice-cream stick , flowers, cotton etc instead of just colors and they made colourful paintings and handicrafts out of it.

Kids were high on energy and enthusiasm. Elder kids were helping younger ones and sharing the raw material with each other. Many did it in groups. Kids were using their innovation and were so engrossed that they didn’t even realise they have colours all over their faces.

Atmosphere at the centre reminded us of the painting competition scene of “Taare Zameen par” .

Sharing with you some creativities of kids.

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At Tekhand - This time we conducted our PTM with some new ideas. We realized that most of the parents are not that involved in what their kids are doing in MS, so we kept a session for parents also. The agenda was to talk to parents about how their kids learn through playing games. We got the parents to login with demo IDs of grade 2-3 which majority of mothers would be comfortable with. They did it in pairs with their kids. In the next session, we shared about our background with them, our education, challenges, decisions, role played by our parents/mother and then discussed with them on how much time they devote to their kids, their education, where do they feel their children are lacking/ good at and how can we help. We also shared the monthly report with the parents.

22 parents came for PTM . After giving them a brief idea we started with MS with parents. At first, some parents were saying no I can’t do, I never used computer before, it will be damaged etc. but when they saw other parents doing MS, they also got encouraged to do the same.

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At Tughlaqabad – We had our PTM on Sunday(i.e 15th June) at Tughlaqabad Centre because most of the parents were always not in the situation to meet us and see what their child is doing at Mindspark Center if we conducted the event on a weekday.

It basically included the parents of the dropout students.We wanted them to know the change in the format at our centres i.e. Introduction of HOMEWORK SUPPORT.The parents were quite satisfied with this new approach that we are trying because it will help them to save money which they were spending because of other tuition.

We made parents do Mindspark themselves so that at least they have an idea about what their child is learning here.It was quite interesting to see that they were really enjoying doing Mindspark on their own. It was necessary because the parents of the dropout kids sometimes think that children are just playing games here and not learning. It was indeed a good exercise for them.

We are also planning to introduce lending library, so that our kids can read well and we are helping them to comprehend stories well. Improving reading in Hindi and English is something that we want to accomplish from a long time and also what parents demand. So, this is a small step to make kids read well and improve their understanding level.

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Wishing you all and all the kids at centres a very Happy Children’s Day. This is the day for us and for our children. To celebrate this occasion we planned a series of activities and games. First we started by decorating the whole centre with frills and balloons where all the children helped us. Children did Mindspark for half an hour and remaining half an hour activities. It was super fun :)

Activities that we are doing are :

1. Musical Chair – a simple concept where chairs are arranged,1 less than total number of students. Children have to move around the chairs and have to sit on the closest chair the moment music stops. The one left standing is out.

2. Toss in the bucket Each kid is given 5 chances where he has to toss A ball in the bucket from a distance.

3. Pin the tail –  We made a donkey on a chart paper and white board. Eyes are tied with a piece of cloth and children have to pin the tail at right position.

For musical chair winner we gave a Rs 10 gift and distributed candies to every kid.  Alongwith kids we  also had a lot of fun playing these games with them. Sharing a  few pictures with you all

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Tughlaqabad, Govindpuri and Tekhand indulged the kids in an exciting Magic show – the center managers turned into magicians – complete with the tuxedo dresses, magic wands and tricks up their sleeves! This was only open to the kids who paid their fees on time! The event was organized jointly by Tughlaqabad and Govindpuri (The Govindpuri students walked up all the way to Tughlaqabad center) and together there were at least 150-160 attendees.

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The center members (Abhinav, Anurima, Kanika and Apurwa) had prepared magic tricks for the show to wow the kids – making things disappear, reading the minds of the audience and making a piece of plastic dance to their tunes! The magic show was interspersed with interesting videos like sand art and laser shows.

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Overall kids had fun (despite crowd management issues) and many were able to guess the ‘method’ behind our magic :-)

 

Gearing up for new academic year!: As the new academic year starts, we are all geared up to introduce a more structured and robust homework support set up at all centres with a help of a comprehensive academic calendar.  The calendar has been put together in a way that it will run parallel with most of the schools’ syllabus. Children will have a sense of connection with School and centre studies. This will help mentors to be well prepared in advance and also they will be clear on what to be done with the children, who haven’t got any homework from school.

After exam – Fun week!: All kids were done with their exams at the commencement of last week of March. A day wise plan was led down to make them have a lot of fun and enjoyment along with English language exposure. The plan started with learning how to greet others to a very interesting vocab game called Pantomime, where a group of kids were given a situation which they had to act out for their peers to guess. Last three days were dedicated to Theatre at centres! Kids were narrated a story with many characters in it. After have understood the story, kids were allotted each character and they were asked to practice the lines (in English) and finally on the last day of week, kids dramatized the whole story in English, in best of their capacities.

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The center also had a Dutch visitor (Maddy) who talked about Netherlands, Dutch culture and taught some Dutch phrases to our kids. Kids were excited. Many of our kids now leave the center screaming “Doei” (bye)!

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India has no strategy for technology in the classroom, but entrepreneurs and nonprofits are braving the odds in the sector

Anika Gupta
theguardian.com, Wednesday 7 May 2014 09.30 BST

Students in a computer studies class at school in Hazira, near Surat. Gujarat. India.

Students in a computer studies class at school in Hazira, India. Photograph: David Gee 5/Alamy

In 2012, engineer Raghav Gajula moved to an east Delhi slum to work as a teacher at a private school for low-income families. Most of his students’ parents are labourers in local factories but have paid 300 Indian rupees a month, about £3, for their kids to attend a school with busy staff and no computer resources. Gajula, who found the teaching position through a Teach For India fellowship, spotted an opportunity. He lent the kids his laptop and started setting up mentoring sessions for them with his friends, via Skype.

Many of the slum kids come from the Bhagwanpur Khera neighborhood where one of the main landmarks is a toxic sewage drain. Yet Gajula’s idea meant they were soon scheduling their own Skype sessions with their mentors, and talking about their ambitions in the arts and sports. Gajula now works with two activists on setting up a local after-school centre with the aim of expanding the mentoring programme. They have 25 students and five donated laptops, though they aren’t sure how the nonprofit centre is going to survive financially.

Gajula’s innovation could be transformative for India’s fragmented education system, but there is no overarching strategy for how to incorporate these kinds of projects into the sprawling Indian school system. According to government estimates, there are about 254 million pupils in primary and secondary schools both in the private and public sector, but there’s no overall technology policy for schools. Internet penetration is around 12%, and average connection speeds are slow.

Schools aren’t using equipment

Recognising the increasing importance of technology in education and employment, the Indian government has a scheme that grants every public school district, regardless of the number of schools it contains, of Rs. 5m [£49,700] every year to invest in educational technology. Districts have to submit a proposal in order to be granted the funds. The government estimates that 22% of primary schools have a computer, but the reality is that many schools aren’t using the equipment they have.

“Of the schools I visited, maybe 10% of the computers were working,” says Swati Sahni, a consultant who worked for the Indian government on education from 2010 to 2012. Five of Gajula’s students at a local government school know their school has a computer centre, but none of them can remember using it.

In India’s booming private education sector, technology is being adopted much more quickly. As many as 400 educational technology firms have launched in the past 10 years, yet the quality and longevity of their products is far from uniform.

In August 2013, India’s most prominent educational technology company, Educomp Solutions, laid off 3,500 workers. Educomp had done a great job selling digital learning materials and a multimedia whiteboard to as many as 14,500 schools, according to a company brochure. But some schools were unsure what to do with the technology, and critics say the firm failed to train teachers to use the equipment. Some cancelled orders, and in other schools the equipment went unused, according to an investigation by Forbes India. The company’s value dropped by nearly two-thirds between May 2013 and April 2014.

 Personalised educational content

“Now, the customer is very sceptical,” says Neil D’Souza, founder and CEO of Zaya Learning Labs, a three-year-old ed tech company based in Mumbai. “You have many schools which have bought solutions or been donated solutions which don’t add any value to their learning.” Zaya has 15 in-school learning labs, where students share tablets and computers that stream personalised educational content.

Companies has previously focused on delivering services to India’s high-end private schools, says D’Souza, where teachers were more technologically literate and where the revenue model was proven. But Zaya focuses on the growing number of low-income private schools, where many teachers aren’t regular technology users. “The teacher is the key person to deliver,” says D’Souza, who says Zaya offers teaching assistants and spends hours on training.

But Zaya faces challenges when it comes to profits. Affordable private schools charge fees between Rs. 300 and 1,500 [£3-£15] per student per month. In order for an ed tech solution to be viable in this space, it should ideally be priced at less than Rs. 50 [50p] per student per month, says Shabnam Aggarwal, founder of the ed tech advisory Perspectful. She says that’s a very difficult target for most companies to meet.

Educational philanthropies and nonprofits may be able to provide a bridge, finding ways to make technology interventions affordable and scalable for lower-income students. One such philanthropy is the Central Square Foundation (CSF). It has been developing a library of free and open-source educational content in Indian languages, something that founder and CEO Ashish Dhawan says private companies have little incentive to do.

A product for the low-income segment

A former private equity investor, Dhawan says India is now at an inflection point with educational technology, as internet and hardware penetration are set to explode in the next few years. Inspired by this belief, CSF has also invested money and time in trying to find revenue models for ed tech in the low-income space. “We thought: why don’t we give a grant to create a product for the low-income segment?” says Dhawan.

A year and a half ago, CSF tied up with MindSpark, a company that already provides adaptive learning tools in elite private schools, to test the company’s software on low-income and government school students. The students come to the centres for an hour a day, six days a week, to learn Hindi, maths and English. They spend half their time working with a personalised adaptive computer program, and half working with a teacher.

 When the pilot started, the students were about two years behind their age group, says Dhawan. Although they’ve now improved, it’s still a struggle to get them to the point where they’ll perform well on tests. Dropouts are common and the pilot still hasn’t proven a revenue model, Dhawan says. The parents, who pay 200 to 250 [£2-£2.50] hard-earned rupees a month for the program, want results in grades, viewing education as a path out of a life of hard manual labour for their children.

But for the students, technology offers a window on a different world. The students in Gajula’s class type messages and paint pictures, dreaming of the day they will start using the internet. Twelve-year-old Parsunath Sahoo describes his father’s long days working in a factory that makes pots and pans, but Parsunath dreams of joining the police. “On the internet, you can do anything,” he says.

Link to the article published in The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/07/technology-transform-india-education-system/print

 

“My son tries to read each and every billboard be it in Hindi/English on his way to his grandmother’s house.” says the father of Anurag Raj; a student of Mindspark Centres for the past 18 months. You can hear and see from the father on this video.

We are a proud species. We rejoice when we achieve something and more so when our children attain heights.It is a feeling of victory when our child takes admission in a good school, when we see our child excelling in herclass, when we see her being appreciated. But nothing can describe our pride when someone asks her a question (we assume its tough for her) and she not only answers it correctly but also gives a logic behind it. Isn’t that the whole thought behind education, tuitions, good school, good grades – that our child is ‘learning with understanding’? A lot of factors contribute to this trait in a child mainly:

  1. Being Inquisitive – This is a trait she picks from her surroundings, parents and peers. The more she is answered in a satisfactory manner, the more she would be curious to learn new things.
  2. Learning atmosphere – Its not just the school where a child learns. She is learning every second of the day through her observations of human behaviour and surroundings.
  3. Exposure – Exposure to new learning measures apart from text books.

At Mindspark centre we have children coming from surrounding urban slums. 75% kids are going to government schools while majority of others are studying in affordable private schools. These kids have a rare exposure to the above 3 factors. For us it’s a challenge not just to equip them with right knowledge but to also inculcate the feeling of ‘Why we need to learn’. Hence for us it’s a feeling of accomplishment when we see our children learning and working hard to understand concepts, therefore bridging the gap between their actual levels and class grade. This obviously doesn’t happen overnight,despite what most parents of low-income neighborhoods want. While in school it takes a complete year to get promoted to the next grade, its not the same in our centre. Here a child learns and progresses at his speed and aptitude. There is no defined/fixed period to promote him. The only criteria is ‘has he learned and understood the topics of that grade’ and ‘can he apply them in day to day life’. None of this is at the discretion of staff. The promotion to next level is supported by some very strong data and systems. To elaborate and emphasise on this point we would like to share one such story of Anurag Raj.

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Anurag’s family has been a resident of Nehru Camp, a slum in Govindpuri for past 3 decades. Anurag goes to a close by Government school and is also studying in Mindspark Centre, Govindpuri since December 2012. When he joined our centre his basics of whole number operations were very poor. A simple mixed digit addition, Example, 148 + 73 would take him a lot of time to solve as for him it was not just addition of 2 numbers. He had to comprehend the concept of Place value and carry over along with adding up the numbers manually which posed as a huge challenge. At that time he was in class 4 in school. We took his screening test to determine his actual learning level for Maths and Language. The result was quite disheartening.  A child who has been promoted for 3 consecutive years in school only knew some concepts of grade 1. One should know that there isn’t just one case like Anurag, instead there are many many such kids owing to current education system where children are being promoted every year by default. There is no actual analysis of whether or not they learnt anything. In simple words, all kids pass and none fail till they reach Class 9. In this process many parents and children neglect the importance of learning in initial years of schooling and realise it only when the up gradation to next class becomes dependent on the marks they score. But this wasn’t the case with Anurag. Elaborate discussions took place with Anurag’s parents (as is done with every parent) to make them considerate towards their child’s real learning levels.Anurag’s father first recognised where his child was lacking and then emphasised that we are free to teach him the way we want, we can demand any help or cooperation from them and that he wants to see a difference in his kid even if its gradual and not immediate. This was quite different from what parents usually demand. We are more accustomed to hearing parents demanding immediate result without real understanding of their child’s current status or suggesting that its ok to resort to punishments because that is how kids learn.

Anurag hence began his classes from Level 1 for both Maths and Language. Now a child can move towards higher levels in 2 ways –

  1. If he clears a quarterly test of his current level and scores above 70% in the next level as well i.e. he appeared for Level 1 test and scored >70%, he was then given test of Level 2 and he scored > 70% in that case his current level would be updated to Level 2

OR

  1. If he completes all the topics of his current level successfully and is then promoted to next.

In the table below is a summarised progress of Anurag over each Level Test. He worked very hard during his Mindspark sessions, asked doubts everytime he was stuck, made best use of offline classes and ensured that he was upgrading a level every 3 months by understanding the concepts of that grade in detail. His progress is not just limited to Mindspark. This change was reflected in his school result as well where he proudly says ‘ Didi! I stood first in my class this year’ and offers you a candy.

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In the above table –

  • Class – means his school grade level.
  • Langauge Level (LL) and Maths level (ML) are the one’s he achieved post tests.
  • Gap in LL and ML depicts the gap between his school grade and Mindspark level.
  • Highlights in yellow – show that child is now at same level in Mindspark as his school grade.
  • Highlights in green – show that child is 1 level ahead in Mindspark with respect to his school grade.

His growth through levels depicted in graphical format below –

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In the above graph – his class progress in school is on yearly basis (as shown in blue line). In case of Maths he progressed one level in each quarterly test uptill the month of November 2013 after which it took him 6 months to progress to next level i.e. 6 which is also his current school grade. In language his growth has been linear with respect to quarterly tests.

Anurag has not just grown linearly in his studies but also in his personal development. He has progressed from a shy kid who wouldn’t talk to anyone to an ever smiling kid who participates in each and every competition and wins most of the timeJ He wants to become a doctor when he grows up so he can help others.   His father is very happy with the progress and shared some Mindspark moments that he noticed–

  •  “He cannot stop talking about Mindspark centre after coming back home.”
  • “He fights with us to skip outings with family just so he doesn’t miss out on one class.”
  • “During PTM he makes sure we get ready and reach centre way before time just because his teachers emphasised on importance of reaching timely.”

These are some of the very proud moments for the Mindspark centre’s team.

Tehelka team has always been quite straight forward about the prevailing issues in our  country. Their voice reaches to nooks and corners of our society bringing real picture in the scenario. As a special for Independence day edition in 2013 they visited one of our centres and shot a documentary.

You tube link for documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcGbugUR5Ko

The special edition can also be viewed at – http://www.tehelka.com/independence-day-special-2013/

 

Student Interviews are a way of getting to know a concept from the viewpoint of a child. Deepening our understanding into how a child grasps a topic and what misunderstandings s/he can have helps us prepare questions and design the module in Mindspark, so as to address those misconceptions.

Below is a small student interview conducted by Karthik Dinne, Educational Specialist, Mindspark on the topic - Concept of Zero

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Case 1:
While doing the “remedial on division”, for a particular question student got the remainder in work space as “000”.He then tried to enter “000” in the place the answer box. This box accepted only two zeroes. Then he was complaining that the system is wrong and is not accepting “000”.
Me: So, Are both 00 and 000 the same?
Student: No, they are different.
Me: What about 0, 00, 000 ?
Student: All three are different.
Me: Why?
Student: Number of digits are different in each of those.
Me: <Showing “1” and “01”> Are these the same?
Student: No
Me: Why?
Student: There is extra zero in “01”.
Me: What about “01” and “10”?
Student: Both are different, ek zero aage hai, ek zero peeche hai. !
Me: 002 and 3, which is bigger?
Student: 002
<This student didn’t understand the concept of zero. He was comparing numbers by merely comparing the number of digits>
Case 2:
 
Question:  8-9 = ?
Student: 0
Reasoning: Student opened up 8 fingers and said “I have 8 chocolates”. I have to give 9 to my friend. He slowly started closing his fingers one by one. By the time he counted 8, all his fingers were closed. He didn’t know how to count the next number 9 but then said.. “abhi toh mere paas koi chocolate nahi bacha hai. So “0” hi hoga answer.
 
This student was still using the analogy of subtraction using objects learnt in his lower classes and was finding difficult to comprehend while trying to apply the same to negative integers.

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27 October ,2013 – 200 enthusiastic kids, 7 staff members, 19 parents and lots  of fun :D

Children are a bundle of energy and ideas. They interact,study,play and fight with us inside the centre. They follow a set of rules that instill value and discipline in them while breaking many other that allows them to be free. Although we lay special emphasis in establishing Human connect inside the centres but trips and outings are a key to establish connect with even those who would rarely speak to you in the confined premises of an educational institute.

A trip to Qutub Minar was organised by Govindpuri and Tekhand centre. A lot of preparation went into it since this was the first time we were organizing anything at this scale. Permission letters were sent out to all the parents,children were asked to get their tiffins and water bottles along with games and stuff to play with.

Staff had made preparation on their front by a few taking responsibility of children by taking them on a  guided tour,while others were paying more attention to children staying together,counting them ‘n’ number of times, ensuring all calls by parents were attended,all demands of children were met.

Kids had a blast not just in  Qutub Minar but also on way in buses where they played so many games with their ‘didi’ and ‘bhaiya’, sang songs,danced, clicked pictures, teased each other and did a lot of ‘masti’. Our kids were particular about maintaining cleanliness wherever they went, taking care of kids they were in charge of, throwing garbage only in bins and standing in a line.

Altogether it was a fun and learning experience not just for kids but also for staff and parents. We realized that managing 200 kids and organizing such a event can be a hectic and tiring experience but at the end of the day when you hear your kids say that ‘this was the best trip we have ever been to’, ‘we had so much fun’ and ‘ thanks for organizing it’  – it kind of makes up for all the hardwork :)