Capacity Building or Training has been one of the prime activities of IT@School Project since its inception in 2001. The Project has bought in a new culture of learning wherein the teachers would transform themselves into IT enablers, wherein they are capable of handling their subjects more efficiently using ICT. This new culture would also pave way to a situation wherein in the near future, students would themselves become the IT enabler, with the support of these teachers. As IT education is provided by subject teachers (who need not be experts in IT), there is a need for providing training to impart adequate IT skills to teachers and support them with content and support systems to help them transfer this learning to the students.
During the first phase of the Project, it was understood that even though some of the schools had appointed a separate person as IT instructor for their computer labs, it was learnt that a huge gap existed between the so-called instructor and teachers as well as students. It was evident that by posting an IT instructor would in no way help in facilitating ICT education in the schools but indeed would negatively affect the entire learning system. The subject teachers in schools themselves had to assume the role of the IT enabler and this core principle of empowering the existing teachers to use IT as an educational tool was a major strategy adopted by the Project.
So far, the Project has trained over 2 lakh teachers of the state till 2009 and in 2009 a total of 14,546 teachers were given specific training in ICT especially for Physics and Chemistry and this year the same training would be extended to 60,000 teachers covering all subjects. As part of implementing a complete ICT enabled educational system, the Project has imparted ICT training to 10,000 Student School IT Co-ordinators (SSITCs) in the state. The 2 day intensive training programme was carried out at selected schools statewide.
Some of the training programmes provided to teachers are the following
i. ICT training: Training given to familirise the basics of Operating Systems and office packages and other application software.
ii. Hardware Training: 3 day training programme on hardware maintenance and basic support.
iii. Internet Training: This 20 hour training programme was given to all SITCs and interested school teachers. The trained SITC then trained all High School teachers in their school. Government has also issued strict instructions that every student in Std X in the school should get atleast 10 hours of internet exposure per year.
iv. IT Training for the Visually challenged: In association with Insight scheme of Kerala State IT Mission, the Project has successfully imparted IT training using free software for teachers of special schools for visually challenged, by exclusively using free software based screen reading software named ORCA.
v. Camera handling training: Two day training on camera handling was given to the teachers, enabling them to create educational videos which could be beneficial in implementing ICT enabled education.
vi. Training on ICT enabled content: Specific training on ICT enabled content was provided to teachers so as to enable them to use ICT enabled content in all subjects in order to equal teachers in classroom transaction.
Before the commencement of the Project as little as 500 computers only were available in the entire schools in the state. The Project conducted a detailed school survey with the help of Master Trainers and School IT Co-ordinators and subsequently the Project was able to provide necessary infrastructure in schools in a phased manner. Initially computer labs and multimedia rooms were setup at schools. The Project was able to provide all necessary infrastructure and ICT equipments to the schools, with the help of the centrally sponsored “ICT in Schools” scheme. As per this scheme a total of 4071 schools covering from Std 8 to 12 benefits in the state. Several ICT tools such as Laptops, DLP Projectors, Printers, Scanners etc were supplied to the schools after scrutinizing their actual requirement. The Project cameup with a unique concept for the maintenance and repair of damaged computers at schools – the Hardware Clinics. Through this programme, intensive hardware training was given to the teachers which boosted their confidence to such a level that they could handle most problems found in PC.
The Project has provided Broadband internet connectivity to all High Schools and Educational Offices of the state, in association with BSNL. Detailed usage norms were also issued to all schools with respect to the internet connection provided to ensure safe and secure browsing at schools. The project was able to completely implement this scheme in 2008 itself, two years ahead of the planned period. IT@School Project has also come up with a unique programme for funding the electrification of more than 20,000 class rooms in government schools this year. A total of over 2035 schools, which include 1045 high schools has benefited in this scheme, by getting 10 classrooms and their computer labs electrified. With electricity available in classrooms, it would be possible for the teachers to bring in laptops and projectors and even wireless internet into classrooms, enabling ICT based teaching and learning.
To foster the content development processes, IT@School Project has successfully rolled out several programmes which included the development of its own Operating System - IT@School GNU/Linux- which is now being used in all the schools in the state. Apart from this, several educational softwares like Dr. Geo, Rasmol, K-Tech lab, Geogebra, Chemtool, Kalcium etc are being extensively customised by the Project in developing teacher friendly applications for facilitating complete ICT enabled education in the state. The Project has also prepared interactive multimedia CDs, Handbooks & Training modules for ICT, as well as Text books for IT in standard 8, 9 and 10. Every content developed by the Project is strictly as per the new curriculum approach based on the National Curriculum Framework 2005. The Project has also associated with Intel Skool for collaborative content development programmes http://kerala.skoool.in .
The Project has also developed contents for Upper Primary classes – for 5-7 classes and the same has been given to all schools. To add with this, the Project had developed E-Text books for Std 8 to 10.
The ICT enabling process which was piloted in the state two years back has become a success; with this year’s 8th Standard IT text book being entirely based on ICT enabled education, with inputs from all subjects. An unique 8GB Resource DVD for teachers was also developed by IT@School Project, which included the latest edition of Edusoft, 50 selected articles from Malayalam Wiki, Malayalam Computing tools, IT@School Linux 3.2 Operating system, New Edition of Ubuntu OS, ICT Training module, Educational contents on Biology & Maths and PDF versions of Textbooks and Handbooks. The ICT training by making use of the Resource DVD is been imparted to over 60,000 teachers in the state.
The Project also introduced a customized version of WIKI, namely www.schoolwiki.in which provides a comprehensive knowledge database of all schools in the state. The aim of SchoolWiki is to bring out collaborative data building and to generate more interest among students to learn Malayalam and to generate more contents in various subjects. Schoolwiki also features an ICT Learning Corner, which would include the various contents prepared by schools for all subjects in ICT enabled education. The various contents are packed in DVD and CD ROMs which are supplied free of cost to the schools with the idea of free distribution among the learning and teaching community. This process eventually resulted in the Free Digital Library at Schools wherein the contents included the subjectwise contents, contents which are telecasted through ViCTERS channel, exam oriented programmes etc. With all schools provided with Broadband connectivity, most of these contents were also made available online.
An important fact to be noted here is that all these contents and applications which are developed by the Project are completely developed or customized using Free Software only. The main reason for adopting free software platform is that it gives freedom to an individual to study, copy, modify and re-distribute any content and this process would be beneficial to the whole society, besides considering the cost factor.
IT@School Project has successfully implemented several E- Governance initiatives in the state. The major e-governance initiatives are the Single Window admission system for Plus One admissions and the Online Transfer and Posting of technical assistants to teachers. The online transfer and posting of teachers gains more advantage as it benefits over 60,000 teachers in the state. Some of the other e-governance initiatives of the Project include the Noon meal distribution computerization, Youth festival software, Pre-metric scholarship online, Centralised Online Text Book Intend system, Implementation of SPARK (Service Payroll Administrative Repository for Kerala) within General Education department, Total Physical Fitness Programme software etc
A snapshot of the e-governance activities
- Single window admission system for Plus One admissions
To facilitate a systematic admission process for Plus One students. The system brought transparency, efficiency and social equity to the whole process.
- Noon Meal computerization
Was setup to implement the management of noon meal distribution program in all schools by using an online system.
- Online Transfer and Posting of teachers
Was setup to enable smooth transfer and posting process of school teachers throughout the state.
A complete free software based ERP for the State School Festivals in Kerala.
To enable pre-metric scholarship programme online using a software so as to help the right students benefit through the scheme
- Centralised Online Textbook intend system
To facilitate the timely distribution of all text books even before the opening of schools, through which even the online status of text book printing was made available.
- Implementation of SPARK (Service Payroll Administrative Repository for Kerala) within General Education department.
SPARK is a program of Department of Information Technology (DIT) of Government of Kerala for digitizing the service book details of all employees of the state so that the database could be used for the decision makers and to ensure the welfare of the employees. Through this process implemented by the Project, details of as much as 72,256 service books from 2266 schools were entered in the database. Moreover currently 107 schools use this software to generate the monthly salary bills of teachers and staff on a regular basis.
- Total Physical Fitness Programme software
Completely digitized software on Total Physical Fitness Programme wherein details of 30 lakh students are available for further action.
Online Transfer and Posting of teachers- In detail
The online procedure was intended to facilitate the smooth transfer and posting of over 60,000 teachers in the state as well as Head Masters and Assistant Educational Officers. Every year, the department receives applications from teachers working in government schools requesting to be transferred to a place of their choice. In the manual system, the process of handling these requests was riddled with corruption and nepotism. Through computerized counseling, all the requests are now prioritized according to the reasons indicated in the request. One of the significant reforms is the online submission of application and transparent transfer policy. The system being transparent eliminates bribery and corruption prevalent in the earlier manual system. The entire process of transfer and posting in general category can now be done even within one week.
Vacancy details of Government schools are entered online well in advance, enabling the applicant to view the vacancies even before the application form for transfer and posting is set off. Thus the applicant can request for transfer based on the vacancy. Each candidate can choose up to ten options of schools for transfer in the order of preference. Transfer and posting of teachers is done purely based on the priority opted by them and the merit of seniority. Since the computerized activity enable a candidate to learn about the vacancies well in advance, only one order could be issued for every transfer aspirant. Moreover, since transfer and postings are infamous for the corruption involved, a provisional list is made available on the web site to ensure transparency. While the conventional system of transfer of posting required the entire process to be done manually involving teacher, Head Masters and the officials from education department, the online system negates the possibility of any external forces meddling with the procedures and also it reduces the hardships faced by the authorities to process the requests. Our system proves that technologically simple and inexpensive applications can be very effective in combating deep-rooted problems. Transparency in transfer and posting process also reduces the number of applicants approaching the court for re-verification of their application, to a great extend. The Online Transfer and Posting of teachers which was piloted last year facilitated the transparent process for over 40,000 teachers in the state in 2009 and this year also as much as 60,000 teachers are benefited with this process. with in
General Education Department
Moving ahead with time, IT@School has enhanced the educational scenario in the state to a new level by making use of EDUSAT facilities. The Project is the nodal agency for EDUSAT operations in the state. EDUSAT is the dedicated satellite that India has launched exclusively for the purpose of imparting education. With the technical support from ISRO, IT@Project has successfully implemented various activities based on EDUSAT till date. The first phase of the programme was mainly through various interactive classroom sessions, facilitated by Receive Only Terminals, provided to selected schools, which enabled valuable exchange between subject experts and students, and besides such discussions, the students are able to expand their knowledge in academic subjects as well as gain new insights at the social level.
The second phase of EDUSAT initiative was the launch of an educational channel - IT@School VICTERS ( Virtual Classroom Technology on edusat for Rural Schools ) in 2006. Through Receive Only Terminals (ROTs) a large majority of schools in the state are able to access ViCTERS. Over and above this, VICTERS is transmitted through the local cable networks and covers 80 per cent of the households in the state. Currently VICTERS is telecast 17 hours in a day; from 6 a.m to 11p.m. Programmes on the channel provide the right mix of entertainment and knowledge/information to the children, which include various inhouse productions as well as international programmes. Numerous programmes on Science, Technology, Language, Art, Music, Films etc are prepared for the channel. Various programmes and videos prepared by students and teachers are also aired through the channel. VICTERS has tied up with several national and international institutions like NFDC, BBC, Deutsche Welle for providing world class educational contents for the benefit of lakhs of students.
Besides the regular role it plays for dissemination of knowledge and Information Technology, VICTERS strives to provide all physical conveniences to students and teachers to come up with their own productions. IT@School Project has enabled the state to utilize EDUSAT’s services to its optimum, when compared to any other state in the country.
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