At Thiruvallur, Asha Chennai conducted training session for all our computer teachers. Teachers from UP, Thoothukudi, and Villupuram/Thiruvannamalai attended the three day training.
Here are photos from this training program.
One of the consequences of Covid-19 was also that most of the training moved to the online medium. But most of the teachers found that very unsatisfactory and expressed a strong desire to have in-person training. When I visited our project near Varanasi, the teachers there requested us to organise one in Tamilnadu and were happy to travel for the training. If the people farthest away were so keen, we felt we must organise one. The last in-person training across projects had been far back in Sept of 2019!
As our biggest project (Sangamam) was based out of Thiruvallur and the lead-teacher and others who will be doing the training were also based there, we decided to host the training at Thiruvallur. The following teachers travelled to attend the training:
Sangamam Rajatalab (UP): 4 teachers and one coordinator.
Pearl (Thoothukudi): 3 teachers and one coordinator.
Thulasi (Villupuram/Thiruvannamalai): 4 teachers and one coordinator.
Poorva Vidhya / Manigal (Chennai): 2 teachers.
At Thiruvallur itself there were 19 computer and lead teachers, as well as 7 Kanini trainers. Note the Kanini trainers did not participate in all the sessions on the 2nd and 3rd days. They were doing their own parallel work as well.
The training was mainly handled by our Computer Science lead teacher Kumari. She was assisted by volunteers Rajaram and Venkat. She was also assisted by several other teachers on various sessions.
We thankfully organised the program before the Omicron wave had become serious. We were having some concerns about it at the start of our training. But thankfully our training was completed without any problems.
The outstation teachers reached Chennai on 26th and we hosted them (14 of them) at the Youth hostel in Adyar. These were handled by Malliga and Ramakrishnan.
After a breakfast on 27th, Ramakrishnan and Rajaram took the women by car and the men came by bus and train to Thiruvallur. At Thiruvallur the training was held for the three days at the school in Kosavanpalayam. As the schools were closed during this week, the school HM graciouslt allowed us to use the school buildings to conduct our training. On Monday and Tuesday nights we stayed at KP Lodge a lodge just a Km or two from Kosavanpalayam.
Srinivasan also gave his car to Murugan to drive. We had our breakfasts and dinner at Perambur Srinivasa which was just 0.5 Kms from the guest house.
Then on the 29th evening, Ramakrishnan took the Pearl teachers directly to the railway station. I took the rest of the women teachers to the youth hostel and the men came by bus and train to the youth hostel. Thulasi teachers left the next morning and the UP teachers left on 30th in the afternoon for their 1.5 days travel back to Varanasi.
On Tuesday evening we took all the outstation teachers to see the Veeraraghava Perumal temple (a famous and ancient temple in Thiruvallur). They enjoyed the opportunity to see this temple.
Distribution of Laptops
Amazon had funded us Rs 10.25 Lakhs to equip our computer teachers with new laptops as well as equip our libraries with laptops as well as Android tablets. We had completed the purchase of these laptops, laptop bags and a speaker and mouse as accessories to the teachers. During the training we distributed these laptops to 18 of the computer teachers who needed their laptops replaced. Note we will service these and give them to the regular teacher who do not depend on the computers as much to do their work.
We also gave the laptops to the coordinators of Pearl and Thulasi projects for the libraries. Muthu received on behalf of the library in Sangamam project. There is one more library laptops spare as one of the librarian currently engaged is not comfortable with computers. We will be giving this laptop to a new library that we will be taking up shortly.Sessions
For the three days we planned to have sessions from 10:00 to 4:00 with one hour lunch break. Then from 4:00 to 5:00 we planned a hour of fun activities. Here is the session plan.
|Dec 27th – Monday|
|10.00.am to 10.30.am||Brief explanation about the training. Teacher’s introduction. They will introduce themselves||Rajaraman.|
|10.30.am to 11.30.am||Laptop,speaker and mouse with bag Distribution to Computer teachers and Asset Letter Signatures||Rajaraman & Muthu|
|11.30.am to 1.00.pm||Asha kanini explanation.- New features in our app and packages||Rajkumari & Nadhiya B – Features of Asha Kanini|
Eswari & sailaja – Types of content
Nirmala & Nathiya R – Types of Packages
|1.00.pm to 2.00.pm||Lunch||Srinivasan sir.|
|2.00.pm to 3.00.pm||CS Curriculumn and Lesson plan explanation.||Kumari, Rajkumari,Seetha.|
|3.00.pm to 4.00.pm||English,Maths and Science lesson plan explanation.||Radhika, Nathiya, Jayalakshmi.|
|4.00.pm to 5.00.pm||Fun activity.||Kumari and T. Divya.|
|Dec 28th – Tuesday|
|10.00.am to 11.00.am||Teachers will present their own Geoogebra presentations||Sasikala, Radhika, Eswari, Geetha, Jaya, and other teachers|
|11.00.am to 12.00.pm||Digital Treasure Hunt – An activity where the teacher figure out several things about Google sheets, file extensions, and have to search and find answers in order to find the answer at the end of the treasure hunt.||Venkat with assistance from Muthu.|
|12.00.pm to 1.00.pm||Programming activity (Pseudo code)||Kumari.|
|1.00.pm to 2.00.pm||Lunch||Srinivasan.|
|2.00.pm to 3.00.pm||Activity to improve the computational thinking( Cup Activity, For loop activity, Conditional checking(If -else)) – Unplugged activities from Code.org and CSUnplugged.||Kumari and Rajaram|
|3.00.pm to 4.00.pm||Write own language code to the puzzles (Match stick). This also exposes the teachers to data representation kind of languages vs procedural representation languages.||Rajaram and Kumari|
|4.00.pm to 5.00.pm||Fun activity.||Kumari and T. Divya.|
|Dec 29th – Wed|
|10.00.am to 11.00.pm||How to maintain our systems and the systems in the schools. Hardware and software. Common problems.||Muthu|
|11.00.pm to 1.00.pm||Scratch tool and basic concept of programming explanation.||Kumari|
|1.00.pm to 2.00.pm||Lunch||Srinivasan|
|2.00.pm to 3.30pm||Scratch programming presentation.||Rohit, Radhika,R. Divya, Ramya, T. Divya,Sasikala, Gnanasowndary,Seetha, Rajkumari.|
|3.30.pm to 4.00.pm||Distribution of some gifts and soap, made by Sangamam teachers to the visitors. Fun Activity.||Nadhiya, Sowndarya.|
Sessions: Asha Kanini
Our computer teachers teach regular subjects using Asha Kanini for half the time they spend in the schools. Several software and content updates have been added to the system in recent times. Kanini trainers are regularly providing training to the government teachers on how to use Asha Kanini. Therefore they also drove this session to teach Asha Kanini to the new computer teachers.
Sessions: Teacher Skill Development
There were several sessions that focussed on improving the understanding of the teachers. The benefit to what they will teach the children will be indirectly achieved. Here are some aspects of what we did.
Digital Treasure Hunt
We keep stressing the fact that teaching digital literacy to the children is not about teaching a set of tools, but about making them confident to deal with a new tool or new activity they need to perform with the computer. What better way to make the teachers understand this than give them a series of challenges that they themselves may not have encountered. We did a digital treasure hunt. Here are the steps that the teachers performed:
- Find the file StudentMarks.odt
- Total the marks of all students who passed. Pass mark is 35
- Subtract the total you got from the year in which India first won the cricket world cup
- Find the file that has the answer in the name
- Open the file with that name
- If you are unable to open it, change it to an audio file
- Open the file and go to the website spoken in it
- Change the language you want to search in to something other than english that you understand and find the first news item
- Create a document and insert a link to that news item in your file
- Export the file to pdf and encrypt it with a password Asha
- Save it in the cloud and share the file with us
They did several things in this exercise that they wouldn’t have done normally using their computers including,
- Searching and finding information on Google. This also included things like how to encrypt a file.
- Search and find a file on the local computer.
- Use formulas in a spreadsheet.
- Deal with file extensions.
- Encrypt a file and share it on Google Drive (or any other cloud storage provider).
Most of the teachers did these activities with very little additional inputs from us!
Here again we keep telling the teachers that this is not just about learning to program using a specific language but to develop a deeper understanding of data and procedures. In this activity we can made match stick patterns in a square grid. Here is a sample. The team has to design a language to represent these patterns. Once they agree on a language, we give a pattern to one of the team members and they have to write out the pattern in the language they have designed and the other team member will have to create the same pattern.
he teachers struggled a little bit with this and needed to be guided to come up with a language of their own. We also showed them two very different ways to think of this problem. As data representation where they go row by row and through 1s and 0s identify whether there is a match in a position or not. Or a procedural representation where they start from a location and place matches as they move along.
Kumari also organised a session where the teachers were all given a series of pseudo-codes. The teachers had to understand and explain what it performs.
There was also a session by Muthu on the teachers maintaining their own laptops as well as computers in the schools.
Sessions: Activities for Children
We exposed the teachers to several more unplugged activities for the children. There were sourced from Code.org as well as csunplugged.org. The teachers especially appreciated the card magic activity done by Rajaram. It teaches binary numbers and parity bit. Here is the activity.
Kumari taught the teachers the usual cup patterns and coding the graph.
There was also a session on Scratch. Teachers were taught some of the more advanced features in Scratch.
Sessions: Teacher Presentations
Through GoogleMeet we have been having online classes on Scratch and Geogebra for the last year during the lockdown periods. Several teachers had developed good programs of their own demonstrating several aspects of these programming environments. We gave them an opportunity to showcase the programs they had developed. This was also a good learning opportunity for the rest of the teachers.
Snacks, Gifts, Fun Activities and Bonding
A training session like this with people from UP and TN was more than just about training. People get to know each other well and it helps us grow as an organisation. The teachers from Sangamam really took the extra effort to make this a memorable occasion for all the visiting teachers. Every day one of the teachers prepared and brought to the session a snack that we serve as part of Project Arogyam. On the first day Tamilselvi prepared and brought her Payasam made from Green gram. The second day saw Jothi bring her rava urundai. On the third day Tamilselvi once again along with Iswarya brought black urundais made with mixed dhals, sesame seeds and jaggery. There were all delicious.
Every day in the evening T.Divya with help from several other teachers organised some fun-activities. You had to lift gems with a straw, lift cups with a balloon, thrown balls into a egg holder, blow balls into a cup etc. The teachers enjoyed themselves a lot. Here is a video showing these activites.
On the last day, Soundariya made soaps for all our teachers. In several of our mini-schools, this was undertaken as a student activity. Soundariya’s aloe-vera, neem and other soaps had come out very well. We gifted them to the visiting teachers. Nathiya’s craft activities in her mini-school were also always among the best. So she undertook the task of creating a nice wall-hanging as gift for the visiting teachers. This was also distributed on the last day. Dhinakaran, the project coordinator from Thulasi, also brought a nice craft item as gift to all the teachers.
Finally staying together at the youth hostel and KP lodge and interaction between the volunteers and staff was also very helpful in building strong bonds between all the teachers.
At the end of the session, most of the visiting teachers expressed the opinion that they learnt a lot and also really enjoyed attending this training.
And Some more good news …
During these three days of training we were also delighted to receive several more good news.
- Our FCRA got renewed for 5 more years and is not valid till end of 2026!
- Our registration with GiveIndia got completed/approved. This provides another avenue for fund-raising.
- We received permission from the Chief Educational Officer of Thiruvallur for continuing our programs all over Thiruvallur and more importantly our new initiatives to train the government teachers as well as teach computer science to children in classes 9 to 12 through our Rural Technology Centres.
- We got a nice press coverage. There was a article on the national edition of “The Hindu” talking about our mini-school and how we as an organisation managed during Covid. It was also very appropriate that they chose as the photo a photo of Kumari playing with the children at her Old Panapakkam mini-school.