How can literacy be improved in remote areas without books?

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Android-powered Digital Literacy - Not without books but with digital books & more!

Posted by Rohit Prakash on 14 Nov, 2018

When I started my entrepreneurial journey 8 years ago, we created an activity and game-based curriculum to teach science.

A few years down the line, I took it to government schools. It was wonderful. Children loved coming out of their classrooms, playing games and it genuinely helped them in understanding concepts better. When I went deeper to explore, how do we scale this, I found our current approach challenging. To build a massive & a committed human force, which would go to Lakhs of government schools was just not sustainable.

Thankfully, my friend Puneet (my batchmate from the business school) was already building and distributing lab based learning tools to schools. And he had developed some great insights on how technology can solve the problem at scale.

So, we decided to join hands. And while we were studying government schools, we had this most amazing insight. Students even in the most rural parts of our country were very comfortably using smartphones to listen to songs, share pictures and play games like Angry Birds and Temple Run. This familiarity to touch-based devices can be leveraged to also deliver enjoyable learning to our last mile learners. And we set out doing exactly that.

What we found out as a part of our journey is a definite answer to this question. Literacy can actually be improved without having to take physical books to schools in remote areas.

We took an approach to build and deliver student centric digital learning solutions.

The first product we built was around tablets. We converted a regular tablet into an educational tablet. Each device was pre-loaded with multiple categories of interactive content. Multiple categories mean that on a single device animated videos are available, so are activity based lessons, a digital book library having thousands of books, practice content, game based etc. Plus the entire content is in their local language and completely aligned to the curriculum they study.

When a child going to a government school holds such an educational tablet in his/her hand, a few things happen. I write them below:

1. There is a sense of comfort in using the tablets because everything on the tablet is in their local language. In India, even today 60-65 percent of our students learn in their local languages at state board affiliated schools. But availability of quality digital books and learning videos in their local language is still very limited and that too difficult to access and use. This is the most important gap which as a country we need to address and focus on

2. Content is enjoyable, play way, engaging and as I said above, is from multiple categories - children enjoy these many options. It allows them to learn as per their own unique interests

3. Tablet being a personalised device creates a non-judgmental environment to learning. Each child learns at their own pace. They can even explore content from junior classes and there is no one to judge them. The focus shifts to building mastery. The path you take no longer  needs to be structured. Each child is therefore free to create their own unique learning maps

4. It also allows teachers to evolve as Guru or facilitators, wherein their children are engaged better and they can use these tablets as their personal assistant to guide each child personally

5. We also track student wise usage and learning data. This piece of information is shared with the teacher who now gets to know two things about every child in their classroom - their interest and learning levels. A teacher can use such an information to transform learning for each child individually

Over the years, we have been fine-tuning our solution and have evolved TABLAB (yes, that's we call it) into a plug n play learning lab, which is easy to set up, even easier to use & manage, is cost effective and very scalable. Like for example - building a charging cart for storage & simultaneous charging of all tablets. You can read more about it here: www.idreameducation.org/tablab.

I have personally experienced some very inspiring stories from students in the last two years. I am very happy to share some below:

Nikhil, a class VIII student self-taught himself to build a working model of a fan within two weeks of setting up TABLAB in his school.

Vikas was till a few months back a drug addict but is now using TABLAB to cover his previous learning gaps and is transitioning into a formal school.

Tanu, a class IX student from a government school in UP was very weak in Science. In her last exam, however, she scored 66 marks out of 70. She credits a lot of that success to TABLAB.

And please read this fascinating story titled “TABLAB and the Fourth Battle of Panipat”. It is an account on how TABLAB is helping kids who were child labourers get back to enjoy learning and to the school.

So, in a nutshell, a very well crafted student centric digital learning solution which aligns with the psychology of all stakeholders in a government school ecosystem can I believe transform the way rural India learns.

BTW mobile learning as mentioned earlier is already becoming big. With mobile and internet expected to reach every nook and corner of the country, we are really excited on how the device can be used to deliver skill based learning content in local language to the last mile learner. We are also taking the first steps.

Just launched a unique adaptive practice app, which lets students practice, build mastery over topics and improve their scores. It also gives an instant corrective feedback thereby helping rural learners to improve their understanding.

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