Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Power of ICT Empowers Kashmir’s Schools

A tablet-based ICT Lab preloaded with digital learning content for offline and online and a monitoring dashboard for parents, schools and project funders is making education Smart in Kashmir schools.

ICT

It’s been a decade since we first heard about “smart-class”. In these years, many smart classes have been set up in different parts of the country to improve learning outcomes by driving student engagement through animated content.

While the “smart-class” concept has been fruitful for students, there have been psychological and infrastructure-based challenges that limit its regular use. The gap has made the concept lag far behind in reaching its real potential.

A special case has been of Kashmir. Education in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) faces paralysis because of unpredictable conditions such as political instability, regular internet outages and lack of resources.

Digital Challenges and Solution

The smart classes are set up using complex peripheral systems such as projectors, sound systems and CPUs. In addition, these classes require regular maintenance of these peripherals, which is often a challenge for teachers. The breakdown of any of the devices can make the system inoperative and turn teaching back to textbooks. The user adoption of such devices shall be the first yardstick towards learning evaluation, as true adoption can only happen when both teachers and students do not take this as a burden on learning.

A solution was presented by iDream Education, a company providing Smart Class solutions based on research and work on the issues of children and teachers. Its TabLab & PC Free Smart Class learning solutions have helped schools combat psychological and infrastructural challenges and ensure regular use of smart classes.

The TabLab learning solution is a tablet-based ICT Lab (information and communication technology laboratory). The tablets are preloaded with digital learning content for offline and online working with a monitoring dashboard for parents, schools and project funders.

The PC Free Smart Class solution consists of a Smart TV, or touch-enabled Interactive Flat Panel (IFP) based on suitability—using a pen-drive only. There is no requirement for computers, speakers or any other peripheral machine. The Smart Class application gets installed on the device and the content is ready to be played in both online and offline modes. The application is also multilingual, including English and Hindi, for a natural, easy and proactive adoption to happen from the children’s side.

Bridging the learning barriers

Under the partnership with Power Grid and the Indian Army in 2021, TabLab (Tablet-based Smart ICT Lab) and Smart Class were set up in 10 Army Goodwill Schools (AGS) in Uri district of Kashmir last year. The corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative of POWERGRID helped these schools become upgraded and digitised to provide uninterrupted learning amidst political unrest and regular internet outage.

Army Goodwill School – Boniyar (AGS Boniyar) is one of the 10 schools chosen under the project. While the school had a Smart Class system in place, the school administration was not able to use the available hardware due to its complex functioning and unavailability of relevant offline content. The system took 10 minutes to boot and arrive at the home screen. Entering personal details and login credentials was also time consuming.

“While accessing learning material, I used to get stuck on one type of content. Switching again to different content was restricted with passwords. To avoid this hassle, I preferred teaching with the handy textbooks,” said a teacher.

The implementation of TabLab and Smart Class made a difference, shared school principal Syed Abid Rizvi.

“Implementation of TabLab and Smart Class has solved the long-pending problem of the school by making the teaching process easy through a single login feature that gives access to all types of content to the teacher. Now, as school teachers are aware of the content they need to teach in their class, they do not waste time accessing passwords or searching relevant content. They just plug and play the classroom sessions,” he said.

The content taught to children has been kept interesting. “High-quality animated video lessons, assessments and books on life stories, poems and inspirational biographies in Smart Class keep students intact and encourage interaction. It has, thus, eliminated two main challenges of the school — decreasing student engagement and high absenteeism,” added the school principal.

How TabLab Learning Solution is Better?

Single login: A local server was set up where all types of content is uploaded and accessible to the teachers with a single login. The simple login made teachers more comfortable with the learning application.

Multilingual platform: Content navigation was made simpler with the option to use the platform in a language teachers preferred.

State Board aligned digital content: The digital content provided both on the tablets and the smart classes has been provided in Hindi and English, and more importantly, aligned with the J&K Board syllabus. The feature enables teachers to integrate their lesson plans with the digital content available on the platform, making it interesting for them and students both.

Engaging classroom content: To suit different teaching pedagogies and learning styles, multiple categories of digital content have been provided on the platform. There are videos to build concepts, digital syllabus books to refer to anytime, notes for quick revision, DIY project videos for practical and fun learning, stories, poems and biographies for holistic growth, and MCQ-style practice questions for an interactive classroom experience and personalised mastery development on different topics.

Availability of monthly reports: To ensure regular usage of digital content in smart class, the company shares monthly usage reports of students and that of smart class with the teachers and with the principal. This helps them keep track of their teachers’ use of digital content in classrooms and students’ engagement on the tablets.

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