IT @ School is a project of the Kerala State Government to introduce IT-enabled teaching and learning in the high schools of the state. In April 2000 the government constituted an IT Task Force for developing a vision for the use of IT in education. This vision has been out-lined in the document “IT in Education Vision 2010”. The document envisions a total transformation of the classroom at all levels. Information technology is acting as a powerful vehicle driving this transformation. IT @ School details the first steps towards this vision.
This three-year project aims to integrate information technology into the mainstream curriculum of the high schools of the state in way that enhances the intellectual productivity of teachers, enhances students` learning and improves the management efficiency of school administrators. It is emphasized that information technology is not taught as a separate subject, but used as a tool for routine teaching and learning. It is expected that in this process, all students come out of school as comfortable users of this technology, which is permeating almost all spheres of human society. It is also expected that a large number of students will be enthused to become IT professionals and take up rigorous professional courses at higher academic levels.
IT @ School has four major elements
1. A vision of transformation that is shared by all stakeholders and implemented with full participation from the local community. Teachers, parents and students.
Extensive digital content that meets the demand for information and
resources that are beyond are scope of textbooks
The project will seek to integrate all the four elements in its implementation. At this point of time, there are a number of factors that are favorable for the project as well as many that are unfavorable. The recent modernization of the school curriculum, decentralization of the state planning process, the regular in- service training o teachers and the prospect of support from the large community of non-resident Keralites can all be used for the successful implementation of the project. The poor infrastructure facilities in a large number of schools, unfamiliarity of teachers with the technology, and above all acute shortage of state funding are some of the constraints. The project has an implementation philosophy that uses the favorable factors to overcome the unfavorable. The main components of the implementation philosophy are as follows:
1. Technology offers no magic solutions to academic backwardness in schools. It can only provide a tremendous support to reform efforts
2. Technology implementation has to go hand in hand with school reform. Therefore a Well Conceived School Reform project needs to be implemented along with this project in order that these efforts are not wasted. Since total school reform implies considerable up gradation of the school infrastructure to provide basic amenities, massive inputs need to go into it. It would be more realistic to approach external funding agencies for this.
3. The project should be implemented in phases. The ground should be prepared and tested before launching the full-scale implementation. It should be possible to implement the earlier phases with state and local funding. External agencies can be approached for more massive inputs in the strength of the effective implementation of the earlier phases and the mobilization of local resources that has already taken place. Non-resident Indians and computer corporate foundations can be approached for donations of computers or preferably funding for buying computers.
4. Very little can be achieved without the support and participation of the major stakeholders – children, parents, teachers and community leaders. Therefore enlisting of stakeholder participation would be a major component of the project.
5. The teacher is the key implementer of the project. Therefore all effort will be put to motivate and empower the teachers to use the technology in their lesson preparation, classroom instruction and record keeping.
6. The state will take the major initiatives for building up stakeholder support and for teacher empowerment in the first phase of the project itself.
7. While the state takes the initiative for building awareness among the stake holders, on the potentials of Information Technology to enhance education, the initiative for implementation should come from the teachers and the local community
8. There is no one solutions that suit all the schools. Therefore every school that decides that technology can enrich the teaching learning process, should prepare a “Technology Plan” that takes into account the special needs and facilities of the school.
9. Except in certain special localities where it is very difficult to raise local funding, a major share of funding requirements for hardware acquisition should to be met locally with the help of PTA and local bodies.
10. Rather than depending on “donations”, business models should also be considered for funding the infrastructure and hardware. The business models essentially consider generating revenue from the facilities out of regular school hours. This business can be managed either by Panchayats or private agencies.
11. The introduction of IT will keep pace with the introduction of curriculum reform in high school. The initiative for developing curriculum-based content will be taken by the state. Evaluation of student performance will be based on Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation involving assessments of all facets of learning and not just rote reproduction of textual information. This will step up the demand for technology –enriched teaching and learning.
The three phases of the project are:
Phase 1 – IT for empowerment of teachers during which teachers will be trained in basic computer skills, in the use of educational applications, in making electronic lessons for projecting in the classroom and browse the Internet for information and resources. The regular teacher training programs will be redesigned to make use information technology so that the teacher can perceive the value addition that the technology makes to the teaching learning process. Teacher training centers and Resource centers connected to a State Hub will be established to continuously back up the training with further support and resources. An IT Resource Management network will be established which consists of state, district and school level resource groups. During this phase efforts will be taken to conceive a Total School Reform Project, which can be implemented during the third phase of this project. A major advocacy programme will be launched to share the vision with the stakeholders. This phase is scheduled for the period October 2000 to June 2001 and cost approximately 4 Crores which is to be met from various heads of the General Education Department and SCERT.
Phase 2 – IT as a teaching tool during which IT enabled teaching will be introduced in standard VIII as a teaching tool. Adequate hardware will be established for the projection of multimedia lessons in the class. The teachers will be supported with supplementary information, multimedia resources, lesson plans and ideas for classroom activities and projects relevant to the new curriculum of standard VIII. The major funding for this phase would be met by the local community. It is expected that the teacher training and major advocacy programme launched in the first phase would create sufficient motivation in the local community to rise the funding. This phase is for the academic year 2001-2002. The cost per school is estimated to be 3.3 lakhs. The total cost for the Government schools will be of the order of 24 Crores
And that for the aided schools around 46 Crores. The cost for the Government schools could be met by the local self governments (1.7 crores per district Panchayat) and that for the aided schools by the management and PTAs.
Phase 3 – IT as a tool for teaching and learning this phase need massive funding because it is envisaged that during this phase students get direct access to the computers in a minimum computer: student ratio of 1:4 and that the basic
Infrastructure lacunae in our schools are filled up. Building full-fledged computer classrooms for all the school would cost about 150 Crores (161 crores for Government school and 93 crores for aided school). In addition to this about 100 crores will be needed for upgrading the basic facilities of the schools. Without an integrated approach to total school reform, introduction of IT will make only cosmetic changes. This phase could be supported by contributions from non-resident Keralites as well as funding from international agencies. The enthusiasm and participation built up during the first two phases should form the justification for approaching external agencies for massive funding.
The project will be managed by a Project Management Team, which involves various departments of the government. The project management team will have six action groups, each with a specific agenda of action. The six groups will plan and implement the details of:
Building up stakeholder support
The activities of the action groups will be co0ordinated by a project leader. Advisory Council of technically competent people. Which includes representatives of private industry, will oversee the Project Management Team.
The project is conceived as a dynamic one constantly refined and corrected on the basis of changing perceptions during implementations.