ACE Inauguration Function
Click here to see photos from this event.
There has been a lot of excitement at Asha since the MOU was signed with the education department to implement various projects to take computer science education to government school students. It heralds a new chapter in Asha’s aspirations to catalyze socio-economic change in India through the education of underprivileged children. In particular, the main project covered in the MOU, enables Asha to work with teachers in government schools to facilitate a one-year computer science curriculum to any one class of students from 6th to 9th standards. The project will be funded by Amazon under its Amazon Future Engineer program. The project will serve as a pilot to take computer science education to all children in Tamilnadu.
Our team came up with several interesting names for the program. After some deliberation, we decided to go with ஆஷா வழி கணினி கல்வி-Asha Computer Education – ACE, since it perfectly captures the essence of this project.
Selecting the Schools and Teachers
Asha through the broader outreach projects in Thiruvallur district, has been working with several (more than 250) middle, high and higher secondary schools. Our trainers talked to the school teachers and Head Mistresses to identify the interested schools. We narrowed down to a list of 52 schools. All these schools primarily had a teacher who was keen to get trained and implement the ACE project at their school and the Head Mistress who was able to allow one teacher to do this activity.
Asha trainers will provide initial and ongoing training to these teachers both in person and online. In addition, Asha trainers will visit these schools on a regular basis to make sure that the program is implemented well and provide support as needed. All teachers will be provided a laptop and all schools that do not already have a computer will be provided 3 computers.
Computers from Amazon
We received 267 laptops from Amazon out of which, 83 laptops were donated by the Amazon Chennai office and the remaining 184 laptops were collected by our team from the Amazon Hyderabad office. Amazon had to removed SSDs from all their laptops owing to security issues. We installed new SSDs in the laptops at our office out of which around 6 laptops had to be condemned. 55 laptops were sent to Thiruvallur from Chennai office and the rest were directly dispatched from Hyderabad to Thiruvallur.
To get the laptops ready, our team had to run initial check on all laptops. This involved-
- Checking if laptops are working properly or not.
- Installing the SSD in working laptops.
- Installing the Windows OS on the laptop.
- Installing the Asha Setup (Including all Applications required for Asha Kanini).
- Checking the faulty laptops.
- If any part was not working properly we replaced the parts from faulty laptops.
On the inauguration day, we have distributed 52 laptops to the government teachers. The checking of remaining laptops is still ongoing at our Thiruvallur office.
The inauguration function was held on 19 October, 2023, at Govt High School Thirupatchur. Ms. M.Mohana, the District Educational Officer for Thiruvallur was the chief guest. She spoke to the teachers. The Kutthu Vilakku was lit by Ms. Mohana, Mr. Rajaraman, coordinator of Asha Chennai, Mr.Poovaraghava Moorthy, BEO Poondi Block, Ms. Patricia Porkodi, also BEO of Poondi Block, and Mr.Sriram V S, a volunteer of Asha Chennai.
Rajaraman said, “To reach all students, it is imperative that motivated government teachers are themselves supported to teach computer science in their schools. We are hoping to successfully demonstrate this through the ACE program.”
The District Educational Officer Ms. Mohana, who oversees the primary and middle schools talked about existing Asha programs and the new Government Teacher training program and said “More than 8,000 children are benefiting from computer education provided by Asha through projects in partnership with Amazon. We expect that the ACE program which will start today will be useful to the government teachers to teach computers.”
Ms. Mythili, the head mistress of GHS Thirupatchur and other teachers at the function talked about how the ACE program will benefit their school and the students. Ms. Mohana distributed some of the laptops provided by Amazon to the teachers and launched the training program.
The Chief Educational Officer, Ms. K. Saraswathy joined us later during the training and spoke to all the teachers. She talked about the importance of computer education and said “Now it has become more important than ever for students to learn digital literacy. The teachers assembled here should utilise the opportunity provided by this ACE program and learn computer science. This can pave the way for its introduction in all schools in Thiruvallur and Tamilnadu.” She also distributed laptops to the government teachers present. District Educational Officer for High and Higher Secondary Schools Mr. M.S. Suganandam also visited our training along with the CEO and participated in the distribution of the laptops.
The first part of the training program was conducted by one of Asha’s volunteer, Mr. Rajaram. He talked about the growing importance of making our students digitally literate and confident in using computers. He then talked about some of the pedagogical techniques that will play an important role in the implementation of the ACE program. Asha strongly supports the idea of Learning by Doing and Project work. This shift in pedagogy needs to be emphasized, as it forms the crux of the entire efforts of Asha’s computer science initiatives.
After the lunch break, two of Asha’s Lead teachers, Ms. Nathiya and Ms. Kumari took up the training. The group started off with some fun activities and later were taught how the children can be introduced to computers using the GCompris games. The government teachers were encouraged to use GCompirs. They played a few games on it, after which there was a discussion on the basics of computer science. The teachers were informed of the schedule for the next training sessions and with that Asha wrapped up the day.
There are three more training sessions planned in the next 3 weeks. The training in the coming week will also be a common one for all the teachers. The subsequent trainings will be held in three places and will be just for about 15 to 20 teachers in some of the areas.
The training will be focused on the curriculum and lesson plans of our 1-year curriculum. We will also be distributing the laptops meant for the schools during the next training session. After that they will be able to teach the students in parallel. Our teachers will also start visiting the schools to assist the teachers, and clarify any doubts they may have in the implementation.
At the start we were apprehensive about undertaking this training. This is the first time Asha is training government teachers. However, our concerns were quickly dispelled when we saw the motivation in the teachers. The teachers were very keen to learn computer science and were very comfortable working with our trainers. This has given us a lot more confidence about the success of the program in the coming year and a half. It is indeed going to be an interesting time ahead for all of us in Asha and the 52 government teachers who are taking this journey along with us.
After the successful inauguration of our ACE program, we received good press coverage across local media. Here are a few links and photos.