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Go nowhere, and be transported anywhere! Experience the world from your classroom

With Augmented Reality, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two. Go nowhere, and be transported anywhere. What a wonderful proposition to work with.

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The world is on a mission to keep up with the pace of development. The human race has always been and will continue to be on the look-out for something bigger and better. One such area that has seen a meteoric rise is technology. Things that we only imagined till about a decade ago are now a reality including Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), but what is it that we mean by these?

VIRTUAL REALITY (VR)

Virtual Reality is the creation of a virtual world in which users can interact with the virtual surroundings in real time. It is designed in such a way that a user cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not. Virtual Reality is usually achieved by wearing a VR helmet or goggles similar to the Oculus Rift.

AUGUMENTED REALITY (AR)

The merging of virtual reality with real life is Augmented Reality. Developers can create a character or an image within an application that will blend in with the real world. In the case of AR, people are able to interact and distinguish between virtual contents and the real world. Augmented Reality devices usually use some sort of geo location, such as GPS data of a user’s device. It super imposes graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real world environment in real time. This helps the user’s immediate surroundings to be seamlessly integrated in the app in a way that makes it more personal.

3 main categories of Augmented Reality Tools:

Augmented Reality 3D Viewers uses life size 3D models in your environment with or without the use of trackers. Trackers are simple devices that can be attached to the 3D models of the AR.

Augmented Reality Browsers uses your camera display with contextual information. For example, you can point your smartphone at a building and it will display the history and its estimated value.

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Augmented Reality Games utilizes the actual surroundings the user is in and creates an immersive gaming experience. The biggest game to-date that uses augmented reality is none other than Pokémon Go. A game where the player needs to move about his surroundings to find a Pokémon.

Augmented Reality devices like the smart phone and tablets act like a magic mirror where the viewer can see holograms and can manipulate 3D models. Hundreds of AR apps are available on iPhone, iPad and Android. PC’s and connected TV Players can also use AR by using a webcam. The contents are then relayed to the screen. Like the PlayStation Move and the Xbox Kinect. Head mounted displays, glasses and lenses are also used to make AR more lifelike by being an active part of the entire user’s field of view. For example we have seen how Ironman interacts with Jarvis, which is uber cool.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Education

Emraan Kureshi Founder & MD ,Active Media Innovations says “The Planet is on the evolution stage, technology is evolving with new trends and user experiences. The education industry is evolving with engaging new trends for students

Black boards -have become interactive white boards 

Work books have become applications.

Benches have transformed to digital desks (touch screens tables) 

Classroom teaching changed to Virtual teaching 

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Since the evolution of digital media in the education systems, we have seen a great trend changing now to AR & VR. When a VR head gear is worn, the immersion happens in the digital world – most importantly it controls the sensory parts of the human body (eyes and ears) that triggers the communication to the mind. The mind is the most receptive when a FOCUSED communication is playing directly one inch away from your eyes. Internationally in European & American countries VR coaching has started, where a student need not come to a classroom if he/she missed class, the class can be directly streamed on a VR app. With the VR gear the immersion directly happens through recorded or streamed content.

A very visual and interactive technology ‘Augmented Reality’ has also emerged, where the content of text books transforms to AR content just by placing a TAB on it. The inbuilt AR marker in the text books make the communication more informative and easy to understand with its 3D effects and animations.

The trend of futuristic education is TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION WITH EDUCATION…soon in India we will see a transformation in the education system where AR will be used and VR will be integrated to make education more interesting, informative and interactive.”

As we know digital interaction has been around for a while now, through the use of computers and the internet. But now the face of this digital interaction is changing. VR and AR are now being implemented into primary and secondary education.

Let’s say for example, for teaching students about the Egyptian temples, these monuments can be recreated in a 3D environment where the students can be surrounded by this environment without having to leave the classroom. How about diving into the ocean and observing the flora and fauna found under the sea or watch a heart beating right in the middle of your classroom? That’s the kind of immersive and interactive education AR and VR can offer in the world of education. This is no more science fiction but can be entirely done with the appropriate devices.

VR, though, initially developed for the gaming industry, today has a huge potential in education and training

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How about diving into the ocean and getting a lesson about the flora and fauna found under the sea or watch a heart beating right in the middle of your classroom?

InMediaStudio has created the Immersive Worlds Project which promotes the method of immersive learning. The teacher activates scenarios on a tablet and through virtual reality glasses a student can immerse themselves in a sea bed environment to learn about marine biology. There are no textbooks used as the learning comes from being taken through the ocean environment. There is no better way than actually being surrounded in the environment you’re learning about. The teacher can also monitor what a student is seeing as it appears on the tablet. This ensures that the student takes away immense learning and the right questions can be asked and mistakes can be corrected.

Meanwhile, Alchemy VR is creating an immersive educational experience in the form of a narrative on various topics where the user will get to see and experience myriad things. One such example is exploring the Great Barrier Reef. What makes Alchemy VR standout in this space is their partnerships which contribute to the high level of content they produce. Alchemy VR has partnered with Samsung, Google Expeditions, Sony, HTC, the Natural History Museum in London, and the Australian Museum in Sydney. They have made several projects for Google Expeditions which will soon release experiences on pyramids and the human body.

Nearpod is an organization that merges VR and AR technology with traditional lessons in a classroom for an immersive technology driven approach to learning. It utilizes 360 degree photos and videos in lesson plans. There are also options where students answer questions by typing into their laptop or tablet. Nearpod VR is giving us an idea of what the future of classrooms will look like.

Curiscope is a start-up company focusing on VR in education , they have developed a Virtual Tee which is already turning heads. It works with one person wearing the t-shirt while another person with a smartphone launching the app and helps in learning about the human body in a remarkable way. This is a unique way to utilize AR in education and it is surely a sign of good things to come from Curiscope.

More and more teachers, researchers and developers are contributing their ideas and inventions to create more interactive learning environments, resulting in some of the most creative, engaging experiences imaginable. Some examples of Augmented Reality used to enhance education are:

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Augmented Reality Development Lab seeks to design projects that entertain as well as educate and are affiliated to companies such as Google, Microsoft and Logitech. Their goal is for classrooms to be able to purchase their user kits that come at different price levels and involves them in creating interactive, three dimensional objects for educational purposes.

New Horizon helps some Japanese students and adults in learning and reviewing English lessons through first generation of augmented reality textbooks, courtesy, the  publisher Tokyo Shoseki, for the New Horizon class. It is an app that uses the camera of the smartphone to present animated character conversations when aligned with certain sections of pages.

Mentira in Albuquerque fuses fact and fiction, fantasy characters and real people to learn Spanish in the first AR language learning game. It intentionally mimics the structure of a historical murder mystery novel which allows for deeper more effective engagement with native speakers than many classroom lessons.

Sky Map and Star Walk is available on mobile devices. It seems deceptively simple but packs a major punch of education via an AR approach. It requires the device to be pointed to the sky and will name the visible stars, planets and constellations and will also pop up additional astronomical information.

HELPING KIDS LEARN DIFFERENTLY

“The future of education needs Greater Level of Engagement – Exploratory discovery, experience-based, fun, awakens curiosity for learning. It helps one to remember longer, decide better and learn faster.” Says Sridhar Sunkad, MD EON Reality Pte Ltd.

Kids are some of the earliest adopters of technology. They are the ones who are into cool gadgets and apps. Developers are now looking to find the best possible ways to combine technology with traditional toys. There are several companies that are presently working on finding the perfect marriage between these two. With kids involved in technology there is a huge market for AR and VR, be it in play or education.

SwapBots is an organization that fuses traditional play with technology. A perfect  example of a union between a traditional toy and AR technology is SwapBots, which are toys that kids can collect, customize, and battle with other swapbots using their smartphones. The other major advantage of this product is that it’s not too heavy on the pockets of parents which is an important factor for companies to consider while targeting kids.

Developers are now looking to find the best possible ways to combine technology with traditional toys.

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Osmo is a projector which gets mounted at the top of an iPad and placed in a base so its standing upright and can see what is in front of it. Once you have this set up there are several things that you can do including  games that involve shapes, basic coding, words, numbers, drawing and more. One such example of these games is called Newton, where balls fall from the top of the screen and the kids have to direct it into targets. It is accomplished by drawing various shapes to direct the balls into the targets. Osmo is a creative way to engage kids in educational play while combining technology.

These are just a few examples. There are numerous other companies which have come out with different apps and games that are dedicated to various fields.

Industries that are embracing AR and VR

Education: Google announced the release of Expeditions, a virtual reality platform built for classrooms.

Healthcare: Snow World, a VR experience helps burn victim’s deal with rehabilitation and wound care by distracting them with an immersive, snowy environment featuring snowball throwing penguins.

Journalism: In late 2015, the New York Times, Outside Magazine and other publications embraced 360- Degree Videos to tell journalistic stories.

Movie Industry: Major motion pictures like Star Wars, Jurassic World, Insurgent, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and others have released VR experiences to generate interest, excitement and a strong brand association.

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Automotive: Ford Motor Co. uses virtual reality to design cars before making an actual physical prototype. In Ford’s Immersion Lab, designers can use an Oculus Rift to walk around the car and even sit inside the vehicle to get an early idea of the customer experience.

Retail: Augmented Reality app MODIFACE offers what it calls a Mirror. Users can look into a tablet and use to change the colour of their eyes and make-up. MODIFACE also has other apps that let you try different hairstyles, hair colour, nail colour or wedding dresses. The app is a dream come true for women who can now make informed choices before buying a product.

A world of career opportunities is opening up as the industry continues to expand. Potential positions for job seekers might include UX/UI Designers, Unity Developers, 3D Modellers, Animators, Project Managers and Videographers. People who are interested in a career in this field need to be up to date on the trends- following social media conversations, attending webinars and conferences and by participating in online communities.

Ford Motor Co. uses virtual reality to design cars before it makes a physical prototype. In Ford’s Immersion Lab, Designers can use an Oculus Rift to walk around the car and even sit inside the vehicle to get an early idea of the customer experience.

Mark Zuckerberg, the man who spent $2 billion of Facebook's money on Luckey's VR Company Oculus, is enamoured. "We're working on VR because I think it's the next major computing and communication platform after phones," he said, "we'll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we'd like."

VR entered the market for consumers in 2013 with the launch of the Oculus Rift Development Kit. The year 2016 brought consumers a new range of VR devices such as HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR. The industry is estimated to sell 500 million VR headsets in less than 10 years and has a very promising future ahead. Going by the VR market and the demand for it, it is expected to grow by the billions by the year 2020 reaching an estimated worth of $30 billion . Combined, both AR and VR have the potential to reap a market revenue of $150 billion.

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Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

Though VR is always going to enclose your eyes and ears with lenses, displays and headphones , AR will be neatly tucked into the sides of your eyewear. AR glasses will cause etiquette problems as they 'disappear' whereas VR will go the other way with us very clearly 'plugging in' to a virtual world for a session. With pass-through cameras there could even be some kind of hybrid wearable that offers both. AR specs are lighter, more comfortable and are more likely to be wireless than the VR headsets.

As for price, it's all a bit of a muddle. Oculus Rift is $599, HTC Vive is $200 or more (but includes controllers), PS VR will be $399, Google Glass was $1,500 the HoloLensdev kit is a whopping $3,000. But you can also pick up mobile VR headsets for less than $10.

Both AR and VR are said to be the future of training medical students as they are poised to replace textbooks. Microsoft has partnered with universities in the US and released a video to show how AR can teach anatomy. And in museums and education. – What is this?

 Samsung is trialling both VR and AR in projects such as First Life at the Natural History Museum and Parthenon sculptures and Bronze Age exhibitions at the British Museum. Samsung sees both AR and VR as emerging technologyies – not competing options but as different tools available for use depending on the subject matter and size of the group.

Apple CEO Tim Cook seems to be a much bigger fan of augmented reality than virtual reality. "My own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far, because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present talking to each other, but also have other things visually for both of us to see," Cook said. "Maybe it's something we're talking about, maybe it's someone else here that is not here, present, but could be made to appear to be present with us. So there's a lot of really cool things there."

The AR usage in industry is offering huge benefits by way of heads up display that keeps hands free and handy information in the users line of sight including NASA engineers and astronauts, construction and factory workers and airline customer service staff.

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We've also recently seen Google Glass pivot with a quiet comeback with plans to distribute the smart specs to companies and enterprises depending on their specific needs. That's key because often wearable’s most useful asset is their ability to be extremely specific to a person, place or situation in terms of design, size, safety and content.

FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY

The AR and VR technology has weaved itself into the education, industrial and even military sectors. There might be differences between the two technologies but both are being embraced with open arms across fields due to the ease with which tasks can be performed or learnt which was not possible a few years before.

Educators have been using VR games not only as a source of fun but also to make a substantial difference in learning. Students need encouragement and inspiration to explore their capabilities. VR will eventually imbibe a desire for exploration more toward intellect and away from play.

“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau, speaking in the 18th century.

Students need encouragement and inspiration to explore their capabilities.

The potential for Virtual and Augmented reality paired with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance learning offers abundant possibilities. Augmented Reality applications can help students to see learning objects in 3D and guide them in understanding difficult concepts. AR visualizations will become integral part of the learning process. In the near future, AR glasses will make this process even more seamless as visualizations will require only a voice command or tap on our eyewear.

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“VR/AR holds immense potential to revamp the education system by means of offering multiple benefits and opportunities to the traditional classroom learning. It would not be hyperbola to say, VR is the next step to democratization of the knowledge. With VR Classroom setting, the rights to avail knowledge by all according to preference rather than force, clearly evidence the same.

With creation of optimum VR contents, competent structuring and greater accessibility of VR hardware devices, the integration of VR in the education field seems to mark a breakthrough in the future. VR/AR promises enhanced engagement, visibility, higher retention, and focus. The application of best-in breed VR technology to the education field would attract even the most unresponsive users, making the traditional education system more alive, immersive and relevant. What emerges out of this analysis is, with VR/AR uniquely positioned, the education goes from abstract to innate in a blink of an eye. VR/AR shaping the future of education in a way, every student would avail the opportunities they had never met in traditional classroom settings.”

Ankush Sharama, is the CEO of Yeppar, a startup focused on augmented and virtual reality solutions. The startup has fittingly restyled the manner in which people interact with print media like, newspapers, magazines, product catalogue etc…

Virtual Reality will make the world’s best museums or marine life at the bottom of the ocean instantly accessible. In addition, the use of hand controllers in VR will help student’s master practical skills through visual and haptic feedback. Virtual Reality and simulation environments will integrate experiential learning across the disciplines.

As the technology improves, students will receive immediate feedback on their performance. Embedding game dynamics in educational experiences will allow students to master skills and progress at their own pace. AI engines and eye-tracking software will transform how students interact with immersive environments.

With a simple scan, students will be able to access augmented models representing anything from a part of the human anatomy to a famous monument to a molecule.  Also, students can access websites directly from the AR app.  For example after scanning a photo linked with a 3D model of the Eiffel tower and viewing the augmented Eiffel tower, students can go directly to a web page with more information on the famous monument.  This experience creates a complete learning cycle and students will be able to retain knowledge for a longer period of time.

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Mark Zuckerberg says “I think people tend to be worried about every new technology that comes along. Critics worry that if we spend time paying attention to that new kind of media or technology instead of talking to each other that is somehow isolating. But humans are fundamentally social. So I think in reality, if a technology doesn’t actually help us socially understand each other better, it isn’t going to catch on and succeed. You could probably go all the way back to the first books. I bet people said ‘why should you read when you could talk to other people?’ The point of reading is that you get to deeply immerse yourself in a person’s perspective. Right? Same thing with newspapers or phones or TVs. Soon it will be VR, I bet.”

As we say time and tide waits for no one, technology is here to stay and will continue to progress in leaps and bounds. AR and VR it allows its users to immerse themselves into environments today.  This  will only improve the understanding of these environments and concepts and will result in better outcomes with fewer mistakes.

Education Technology

All Students are Good Students

To know more about ValidateMe Digital Certificates, visit validateme.online.

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“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid”

We live by this quotation and believe that every child is talented and deserving. When given an appropriate platform, every child can achieve great heights.

Schools are intended to provide the right environment for children for their overall development. However, not every child is perceived as a “good student” at school. Not every child performs to the best of his capability at school and during formative years. The chief difference between good and bad students is that the former take responsibility for their education; the latter is passive in the face of their teachers’ expectations.

Teachers, you have prime responsibility in your students’ learning journey. An emphasis on learning and personal growth, not grades or testing scores, should be the primary goal of every teacher. Every child’s learning journey is distinctive. Hence, the focus must be shifted more to learning than just competition.

The best way to assist a child is to make him responsible for his/her learning journey and equip him with a sense of freedom to choose his/her path. With the teacher’s encouragement, all students should be nudged to take responsibility for their education path. If a student is confident about his abilities and abilities to learn, then they will not fear failure. Knowing what they want from education and being confident that they can master it allows a child or youth to take control of their lives in fundamental ways so that at least a decent standard of living is attainable.

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Learning with Digital Certificates and Badges

Good teachers keep the classroom going and actively promote their students’ learning. One of the easiest ways to bring a sense of ownership and motivation to a child’s learning journey is with  Digital Certificates and Badges to felicitate every student’s milestone. These milestones can be set according to a student’s learning capacity and pace. ValidateMe.Online is a unique platform that allows you to create and issue certificates when your students achieve milestones. ValidateMe.Online also gives your students access to an exclusive digital vault where they receive all the certificates, to enable them to keep track of their learning curve. Read “How schools are using digital credentials to empower students” to know how you can leverage Digital certificates and badges for your students.

At the same time, rewarding and pushing the students to do better isn’t always the best strategy. Teachers should know when to let their students slack off and even help them with their assignments. Learning and curriculum are only one part of development, and a student should know that it is not the end of the world if he/she is lagging.

In the end, we hope that every child carries a mountain of hope and confidence within themselves and that schools reinforce this daily.

To know more about ValidateMe Digital Certificates, visit validateme.online.

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Education Technology

How To Ensure Early-Years Children Aren’t Left Behind As School Reopen For Seniors

It is extremely exhausting to keep young children engaged in remote learning, children don’t look at the screen and tend to exit abruptly. Here are some tips by this Early Childhood Education Expert.

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News of COVID started trickling into our country around January 2020, by February we had a few cases and events were held cancelled. By March, it was clear that we would have to close schools and then we went into a lockdown. People still thought this is temporary and schools will open on schedule in June, but it did not happen and many schools were caught unawares and had to start working on their online modules in a hurry, whereas some were ready for a long haul and had everything planned in March. Questions that many asked, especially parents, were ‘So, what if young children miss a few months of preschool?’ ‘How beneficial is virtual learning to young children?’

Well, we are now in November and in a few months, it will be the end of the academic year! With no sign of any solution to the COVID-situation in sight, it only means perhaps we've to encounter another academic year virtually or of click-brick-click, that means a combination of physical and virtual learning.

Let us first answer the question – So, what if young children miss a few months of preschool?

Well, if 85-90% of the brain develops in the first five years then should we let our young children lose one entire year of stimulation? The answer is NO. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), as defined by UNESCO, is the “holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs in order to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.” We know these experiences shape young learners minds, attitudes and often behaviours.

When looking at brain development, Linda Bakken found that “the years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains.

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Does that mean children can be given the same stimulation virtually?

Young children require play-based, project-based approaches, hands-on learning and that is the very reason why going virtual became such a daunting task for early years educators. Early childhood educators rely heavily on openness to free play within carefully curated environments with open-ended materials that provoke children’s engagements with each other and their surroundings. And this was the biggest challenge in virtual engagements for preschoolers.

Ensure that your virtual learning session is not focussed on testing and drill-based learning, not only is it not developmentally appropriate, it will cause stress and anxiety in children and their parents. All-round development and immersion in the learning of the 5 essential skills are essential to be spread over the week. 

  1.      Physical skills
  2.      Social skills
  3.      Emotional skills
  4.      Language skills
  5.      Thinking/ Cognitive skills

To succeed in virtual learning for young children, ensure that the four pillars of learning quality are visible in your virtual program. They are:

1. Engaging: Children learn best when they are ENGAGED in the teaching-learning process with a specific goal in mind. Thus, what matters is the engaging content planned to hold the child’s attention in order to ensure the learning goal. Use puppets, micro-movements, shadow play, and silent gestures to engage children.

2. Actively Involved: This requires children to be involved both physically and mentally during the Virtual Learning. The content should be new, challenging and age-appropriate to keep them actively involved and stimulated for maximum learning outcomes. Some activities can have more physical involvement as compared to mental and vice versa. Yoga, science experiments, music and movement are some ways to achieve this.

3. Social: Children learn best when learning is SOCIAL. Children need to be given opportunities to have high-quality interactions with friends and adults in their environment. 

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4. Meaningful: Children learn the best when they are exposed to MEANINGFUL experiences and environment that they can relate to. The content and topics that are conducted with children become meaningful when the people on the screen are familiar like their teacher and friends and the content is integrated with a context that is relevant to children’s environment or lives and takes them from known to unknown.

The Early Childhood Association published a wonderful resource on how to conduct virtual learning for the early-years students and it highly recommends dividing the child’s day into three parts:

  • Teacher-child interaction: This can be virtual on a safe platform.
  • Parent-child interaction: This can be sent by the school and can be in the form of games, activities or videos to co-watch.
  • Child independent activities: These can be simple activities of listening, yoga, home chores, etc. that enhance autonomy in children. Both Montessori and Erik Eriksson stress on autonomy or independent learning as the foundation of life and learning.

The early years are brain development years, so remember brain research and integrate it into your program in the following ways:

1. The brain is social: Just because you are ‘virtual,’ don’t let social learning disappear. Ensure that you stress on social activities during the virtual time or parent-child time. Children learn skills of waiting for their turn, listening to others, etc. during social interactions so plan for activities where they can speak, listen to each other, wait for their turn. Discussion starters help children speak during virtual sessions, and because they have to get an item for the discussion, it helps them look forward and plan for the next day.

2.The brain thrives on physical activity and needs it every 10 minutes: Enjoy brain breaks with physical activity like jump, twirl, and dance. This will keep children engaged and active and will break the monotony of staring at a screen! A science activity that they can do along with the teacher also helps.

3. It’s all about song and dance: Because song and dance involve both sides of the brain and when both sides are involved, the child is actively engaged. Try to teach concepts through songs and make math more fun with dance!

4. Between the ages of 2 and 7, children are in the preoperational stage: It is developmentally inappropriate to expect their learning to be entirely screen-based. So include listening activities like Podcasts. Give them podcasts for origami activities, or a 'listen and draw' activity or listen to a story and then draw the story. This helps children develop hearing as a skill. When we use visual skills all the time, children tend to see and learn and focus less on hearing or listening skills, podcasts and other such activities help develop listening and focus on young children.

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5. The brain needs ‘serve and return’ interactions: Don’t be the only one talking! Organize virtual field trips where children can see, talk, discuss and get a great immersive experience, augmented reality can also be of help here.

Share a visual like this, so that parents can be educated about the benefits of all the virtual learning activities to their child’s brain development – 

Young children are dependent on their families for their daily needs. In short, families are your partners and hence, it is important to build virtual relationships with them as well.

1. A good early years program emphasises on children’s voices to be heard. To do that, teachers should not be the only leaders in virtual learning and discussions. You can ask parents to submit photos of how children are playing at home. Compare and contrast how children are playing at home and you can use these photos in your daily interactions with children to add more of a personal touch. A child feels great when you are able to comment on their home play habits and choice of toys or themes.

2. Young brains thrive on routine, it gives them a structure. Help parents understand the need for having a fixed comfortable space for children. Also, distractions should be limited during their learning time. Give parents an idea about how to manage their work timing and their child’s virtual learning.

3. Create ‘virtual classrooms’ for children and parents to relate too.

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4. Take feedbacks regularly from parents. Many parents are overly worried about making their children ‘sit’ for virtual engagements, whereas children like to slouch, bend, walk around during virtual interactions. Help parents understand that there are different kinds of learners – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. The auditory and kinaesthetic learners will not ‘sit’ during a virtual session but are still learning and paying attention.

5. Be flexible with parents, they are working from home and working at home and may sometimes miss out on your deadline of sending their child’s work, etc. You can be firm with repeat offenders though!

Assessment is a must to ensure that you are aware of the impact of the virtual learning sessions:

  • Virtual assessment must meet the challenging demands of validity (accuracy and effectiveness) for young children and an approach grounded in a sound understanding of the appropriate methodology.
  • Assessments should be age-appropriate in both content and the method of data collection.
  • Assessments should be linguistically appropriate, recognizing that, to some extent, all assessments are measures of language.
  • Parents should be a valued source of assessment information, as well as an audience for assessment results.

For more details on how to do virtual assessments of children in early years, you can refer to Early Childhood Association manual 'Child Assessment In Early and Primary Years During Virtual Learning' at www.eca-india.org.

Don’t forget to take care of your teachers!

It is extremely exhausting to keep young children engaged in remote learning, children don’t look at the screen, they exit abruptly, there are sounds from the kitchen of each child’s home, etc. Many teachers were not savvy about technology and had to suddenly learn to navigate tech tools. Many had to make do with their own budgets for stationery, etc.

And let us not forget that teachers are also working from home, working at home and juggling their own child’s virtual learning needs!

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Be kind to them. Listen to their issues. Don’t expect too much and give them a break whenever needed.

In these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, children have been faced with a change in their routine. Suddenly, there is so much chatter and information around them making them anxious, lonely, and confused, hence, hampering their continuous learning process in these formative years. So choose the activities for their virtual learning wisely, don’t add to their confusion, stress and anxiety.

About the author: Dr. Swati Popat Vats

The author is the President of Podar Education Network that is successfully running virtual learning for more than 45,000 children in its 495 centres across India. She is also the President of Early Childhood Association and Association of Primary Education and Research that have been actively working during this pandemic to ensure that educators have the right research and resources to conduct virtual learning and assessment and have worked on creating educational posters and webinars to help parents, educators, school owners navigate the ‘learning’ storm cause by Covid-19. 

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Education Technology

EdBank’s Founder on India’s 1st Community-Powered Platform For Teacher Training

“EdBank’s inception shows that the Indian education sector is open to learning when given a good opportunity. It also proves that our teachers do not and will not step back at any opportune moment.”

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EdBank was launched in July 2020, amidst the global COVID-pandemic…a time when the entire education sector had to go virtual overnight and resort to online learning. That was the right moment for an online platform like EdBank, which is a community-powered platform for educators, to launch and support the warrior-teachers. Today, this online education bank helps exchange knowledge, perform research, serve resources, and share recommendations between teachers and school leaders. Apart from this, it connects people, practices, and pedagogies to empower schools and in turn, inspire the next generation.

CEO & Founder, Mr. Ravi Santlani informs, "EdBank is supported by Common Wealth of Learning which is considered the Mecca of Teacher-Training, a body created by several countries across the world. Having Common Wealth of Learning as our knowledge partner is truly a golden opportunity. Other than this, EdBank is under regular discussion with other government and non-government bodies to partner with."

Read the excerpts from the conversation with Mr. Santlani talking about EdBank’s journey so far and its various courses that are taking the education sector by storm.

What inspired you to start EdBank? Remember its initial days. 

In my career of five years in the education field, heading India’s one of the largest media houses that focuses on K-12 education, I realised that there was no such platform for our educators to come together and exchange their knowledge. Filling this gap soon became my mission and I took up the R&D work. The plan was to create an online space that we, as an educational media house, would want to leave behind as a legacy.

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The team has learnt a lot since the inception of its idea. It was a great experience to have such learned, veteran educators spending their valuable time to record sessions with us. While at it, we also learned using many technical tools that helped us with the recordings, editing, case studies, questionnaires and assessments. The silver lining in this dark cloud of the pandemic is that we managed to launch EdBank on time. 

What are the specific features, according to you, that make EdBank one of the most efficient online learning platforms for educators? 

There are different features under the banner and the brand EdBank. The first thing we launched was the online teacher training. Till date, 9 courses and 68,000 learning hours have been delivered to about 9,000 educators from different parts of the country. Next, we’re planning to launch the second feature called ‘Communities.’ In this, we would give an opportunity to the educators to come together and discuss the various topics that they would like to learn or teach the community. There will be different forums and topics available to interact on, like Early Childhood Education, primary & middle years’ pedagogy, content, curriculum, technology, etc. Apart from this, we’ve got another feature called ‘Resources,’ wherein educators would be able to share their resources like curriculum, lesson plans, tools and training materials with others.

And finally, we plan to launch the ‘Recruitment’ section. This will be an exclusive portal which will make job applying, hiring and the selection process easier for teachers and recruiters. We are also ambitious about giving a 10-second video tool to the educators who would want to put forth their resume in an interesting manner. This will make it easier for hiring sides to filter out the finalists for the said job. In fact, recruitment interviews with video CV option on an end-to-end encrypted platform with full privacy guaranteed will be possible soon. 

Which collaborations/courses would you say stood out the most until now?

Without a doubt, it's ‘Coding in Eary Years’ by Dr. Swati Popat Vats, the President of ECA, APER & Podar Education Network. It is one of the most visited courses on the platform to date. We have been very exclusive about the type and quality of the courses that appear on EdBank, though this slows us down as the processing takes longer than usual. So far, we’ve received interests from over 600 educators who wish to conduct a course on EdBank but we’ve been very careful and particular of our choices. 

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Since each course is unique in its own way, we are leaving no stones unturned and taking steps cautiously. Another thing that comes into play is the educator who’s conducting the course. Their own footing and following in the educational ecosystem is a major part when it comes to attending the courses. Dr. Vats, as I said, is a big influence, especially among early childhood educators and trainers in India. 

In courses like ‘Coding in Early Years,’ the audience aka the registered educators also need hands-on experience apart from the regular theoretical data. How does EdBank or the mentor-in-charge provide this opportunity?

Honestly, there are limitations of virtual learning even though it reaches more people than any physical seminar ever can. In such cases where the students are educators themselves, they already have a basic knowledge of the topic so the entire learning process becomes easier. 

Dr. Vats’ course comparatively is less technical and more learning-oriented, for example. She’s provided the learners with her experienced knowledge which has more to do with ‘coding’ in daily life and activity, not the literal ‘coding.’

Additionally, we sent across a book authored by Dr. Vats named ‘Yash and Yashika Learns Coding’ to those who enrolled for her course, so they could get a hold of the topic right from the basics to teaching it to their students in the future. We also have a live chat section to help clear the doubts of the attendees.

What do EdBank and the instructors you collaborate with have common in their vision?

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The common goal is to leave a legacy behind and not to take the immensity of knowledge repository to the grave. Also, to archive the thoughts and learnings of these amazing educationalists that others can gain from, especially during emergencies like a pandemic. Imagine having a platform where the crème de la crème of the education sector would record and save their life’s learnings for the coming generations to take inspiration from. 

The topic of ‘Humor in Classroom’ is rather new and untraditional in an Indian set-up. Talk about the response you've received on this? Also, what's your takeaway?

While we were doing a conference ‘The Mad Conclave’ a few years ago, we wanted to invite the Ad-guru Prahlad Kakkar for it. Due to time constraints, he could not join us and so, we zeroed in on Pratish Nair, who is the managing director and co-founder of the Prahlad Kakar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship. Mr. Nair came like a storm and the most amazing thing about him was his humour. Since then inviting him to the otherwise dull conferences and giving them a new life became a constant for us.

So, when we reached out to him to ask if he had a topic in mind for EdBank, his immediate response was to record a session on ‘Humor in Classrooms.’ This couldn’t get better. Humour is one of the most significant ways to connect teachers and students emotionally. This course is undoubtedly one of the most phenomenal and memorable ones. The response so far is enormous, even the educators who did not initially support the idea of humour in their classrooms were bound to rethink.

I personally feel that Mr. Nair should consider writing a book on his ideas and philosophies as it can help many educators come out of a formal, orthodox setup and consider some good laughs a healthy part of their teaching style.

Lastly, how do you see EdBank leading in the future and contributing to the education sector?

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We are very confident and hopeful that in the years to come, EdBank will become a go-to learning platform for every teacher. We are also planning on creating courses in different languages to welcome a diverse audience. It doesn’t matter which board they teach for, CBSE, ICSE, or IB, they can easily log in and improve their skills. 

Simultaneously, we’re trying to identify educators who are at the top of their game and can conduct unique courses efficiently. We envision EdBank as a platform that attracts teachers to come and learn rather than spend hours scrolling through Google and other apps.

We are also working towards building a tool that will allow educators to go Live, pick a topic of everyone’s interest and explain it directly to the viewers in real-time. This will send a notification to the possible attendees that a chat room is created and they are welcome to join it. Here, EdBank will act as a virtual staffroom, allowing chatting, making new friends in the education sector, and discussing their ideologies & philosophies.

I strongly believe that EdBank’s successful launch has written history, it shows how the Indian education sector is open to learning when given a good opportunity. It also proves that our teachers do not and will not step back at any opportune moment.

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8 Questions Explaining AIM, Selection Criteria of Atal Tinkering Labs, Grant-in-Aid & More

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, housed at NITI Aayog, with a focus to build an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem across India, with public-private partnerships. 

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The ‘new India’ is about innovation and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) aims to foster this exact spirit in the young minds, who’re responsible for the future of this country. With more than 5,000 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across India, the govt. is encouraging children to come up with unique innovations and ideas in the field of STEM. In fact, the initiative is also inspiring teachers to become master problem-solvers and excellent mentors leading the way as ATL-in-charges, who're boldly challenging traditional teaching methods today.

According to Shri Ramanathan Ramanan, Mission Director, Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog, “With these new schools, NITI Aayog’s AIM envisions strong growth in the collaborative ecosystem created by the ATL initiative, where students, teachers, mentors and industry partners work to facilitate innovation, foster scientific temper and an entrepreneurial spirit in the children of today, who will go on to become successful contributors to nation-building tomorrow."

Let's learn more about the transformational initiative here.

What are AIM and ATL and how are they connected to NITI Aayog?

The National Institution for Transforming India aka NITI Aayog was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy 'Think Tank' of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. 

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The prime responsibilities of the NITI Aayog are: 

  • To evolve a shared vision of national development on priority sectors and develop strategies with the active involvement of states, in light of the nation's objectives
  • To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the grassroots level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government
  • To pay special attention to the sections of our society that need special attention to enable them to join the national economic progress
  • To design strategic and long-term policy and program frameworks
  • To create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.
  • NITI Aayog has also been nominated as the nodal agency by the United Nations to monitor, coordinate and effectively implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals across the country to bring about the desired transformation. 

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, housed at NITI Aayog, with a focus to build an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem across India, with public-private partnerships. 

Former Indian Prime Minister, late Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, believed that the future of this country lies in the hands of youth. Keeping in mind his vision, Atal Innovation Mission was named after his legacy. 

The Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) introduces technology, innovation, problem-solving, Artificial Intelligence to students as young as 12. It provokes creativity, innovation, critical thinking, ethical leadership and cross-cultural collaboration in young minds who’re the leaders of tomorrow.  

What is the mission and vision of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)?

AIM promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in India. AIM, under NITI Aayog, is envisaged as an umbrella innovation organization that would play an instrumental role in the alignment of innovation policies between central, state and sectoral ministries, by incentivizing the promotion of an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship at various levels – higher secondary schools, higher education and research institutions, and SME/MSME industry, corporate, and government ministerial level, by a public-private partnership. 

For example, through the Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL), AIM is fostering innovation at the school level, wherein students get an opportunity to experience design thinking and widen their intellectual horizons in pursuit of solutions to day-to-day problems and showcase their innovations at prestigious platforms. 

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On the other hand, AIM's Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) are creating world-class ecosystems for start-ups to flourish, with the required handholding including access to mentoring and investor networks.

Other programmes include Atal New India Challenges (ANIC), launched by AIM in collaboration with five Ministries of the Government of India, that provided innovators with an opportunity to propose technological solutions in 24 different areas of national importance, and AIM-Atal Research and Innovation in Small Enterprises (ARISE) that encourages the Ministries to invest in research and innovation and thereby accept innovation from small enterprises into the public system, through a comprehensive framework for procurement.

How many Atal Tinkering Labs are there pan India and how does the grant-in-aid work? 

As of September 2020, more than 5,300 ATLs have been set up and 14,916 schools are selected covering 86% of all districts and 98 Aspirational Districts.  These labs, established in both government and private schools with a majority in co-educational and girls’ schools are serving as community hubs of innovation while transforming the way India learns, thinks, ideates, and innovates. As per the ‘Strategy for New India’ published by NITI Aayog, AIM is on its way to establish over 10,000 ATLs in the country.

Under the ATL scheme, grant-in-aid of up to 20 lakh is provided to schools selected for setting up an ATL. The grant must be spent exclusively for the specified purpose within the stipulated time of a maximum period of 5 years, with Rs.10 lakh for the capital expense and remaining Rs.10 lakh for operational and maintenance expenses. 

What is the significance and objectives of Atal Tinkering Lab for India?

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These labs are all about combining the traditional teaching methodologies with today's experiential learning to create a unique blended education system in India. It aims to make an ecosystem that nurtures futuristic skills like complex problem solving, critical thinking, adaptive learning, computational skills in children, with a vision to create 1 million neoteric innovators, with the ATL initiative. 

Its objectives include:

a. To create workspaces where young minds can learn innovation skills, sculpt ideas through hands-on activities, work and learn in a flexible environment.

b. To empower our youth with the 21-century skills of creativity, innovation, critical thinking, design thinking, social and cross-cultural collaboration, ethical leadership and so on.

c. To help build innovative solutions for India's unique problems and thereby support India's efforts to grow as a knowledge economy. 

What is the selection criteria to provide grant-in-aid for ATL? How can schools reach out to apply?

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The selection of schools for ATL comprises of three distinct stages and the entire process takes around 6-8 months to complete.

Stage 1: Inviting applications via the online application portal (3-4 months)

Schools are invited to submit online applications for ATL. The ATL online application portal is a seamless platform developed for schools to submit their ATL applications. The online application broadly consists of four sections including contact information of applicant school and principal, basic information related to the identity of the school, the performance of the school in terms of scores and participation in competitions and other ATL related information such as the existence of basic infrastructure and so on. Applicants are not allowed to make more than one submission each and they must refrain from furnishing false/ inaccurate information in part or in full. Moreover, submission of applications does not, in any way, guarantee selection.

Stage 2: Screening of applications (1-2 months)

The selection process for ATL will be in 2 stages – screening and final evaluation. Received applications would be processed on the basis of eligibility criteria, which includes the availability of built-up space of 1000– 500 sq. ft., minimum enrolment of students, dedicated mathematics and science teachers, basic infrastructure including the availability of computers and internet connectivity, steady electricity connection, science lab, library and playground, and regular attendance of staff and students. 

Stage 3: Final evaluation (1-2 months)

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After the screening, selected applications will be evaluated further for final selection, based on a weighted average, on parameters, but not limited to district coverage, school participation is in science, technology, arts and creative festivals and awards won, existing mentor and alumni engagement. Data for all the aforementioned parameters are captured in the application form, and it helps us to assess how committed is the school to utilize the ATL as a platform to transform their school into a local innovation hub. After the final evaluation, the list fo the selected schools shall be communicated through the AIM website and via email communication to the selected schools. The schools will be required to complete the compliance process, including documentation related compliance and PFMS related compliance. Both of these steps are detailed in the next section.

What sort of difficulties can the ATL in-charge face?

Challenges are usually regarding the introduction of technology in teachers’ life and training them to become self-sufficient in order to inspire children to innovate and create. Take the example of Dr. Dhananjay Pandey from Government Higher Multipurpose Senior Secondary School, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.

His first exposure to innovation was at a training program in Raipur at the J R Dani Government School’s ATL. Someone who has never heard of design thinking and problem solving, being a part of the hands-on training sessions that discussed 3D printing, robotics, etc. was like an adventure for Dr. Dhananjay.

It was quite challenging for him to motivate students to visit the Atal Tinkering Lab initially. Most of the students at the government school were from the poor socio-economic background and did not attend school regularly as they were engaged in part-time contractual jobs to earn a living for their families. Adding to the agony were Dr. Dhananjay’s fellow teachers who advised him to let go of the Atal Tinkering Lab initiative in their school.

This made him determine to prove otherwise, that the government school students, when given an opportunity and coached in the right direction, could also be an outlier. "I live and breathe my tinkering lab. I feel like I belong to this lab, and I am born to mentor students so that they can excel in life,” he says. Today, within a span of 12 months, he has established one of the most promising and outperforming ATLs of the country with the students creating wonderful social innovations and winning prestigious accolades at the national and international stage. 

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Who are the other partners helping ATLs reach the goal?

The community plays an important role in the successful implementation of the ATL as the local hub of innovation. This includes parents, students from the community, non-government organizations (NGOs), volunteers, and government bodies that contribute towards providing support and creating awareness about the ATL innovation activities. 

This includes:

  • Orientation sessions for parents and students outside ATL school.
  • Collaboration with local NGOs, community centres, volunteers to reach out to the extended community
  • Seeking assistance from local government bodies to identify meritorious students with proven innovation potential, who could be involved in ATL activities. A special timetable to accommodate such students and other students from the community could also be designed. 

Apart from this, many corporate houses have supported AIM under NITI Aayog, for example, Intel, IBM, DELL, Learning Links Foundation, FICE, KPIT, Microsoft, Network Capital, SAP, Stratasys, tGELF, AICTE, Workbench projects, Maker's asylum, etc. 

What are the primary responsibilities of partners adopting ATL schools?

  1. Assigning a Resource Person (RP) to manage ATL related activities in school like ensuring successful implementation of the ATL initiative, facilitating teacher training programs, student workshops and boot-camps, conducting community outreach sessions to increase awareness, etc.
  2. Bringing in volunteers who would take mentoring sessions for ATL students and teachers, which will eventually lead to the creation of technology innovations. 
  3. Conducting events/competitions/exhibitions/workshops and encouraging ATL students to participate in various innovation events/competitions, challenges. 
  4. Supporting ATL schools to increase their social media presence.
  5. Planning mentoring programs during which experienced professionals could spend time with the young innovators, helping and advising them on furthering their innovative ideas.
  6. Organizing Teachers Training Program in different ATL schools, to educate the ATL-in-charges on the ATL mission and impart hands-on learning on the different equipment that the lab shall house.

https://niti.gov.in/

https://aim.gov.in/

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Edtech Startup Tinkerly Makes Monotonous Online Coding Fun With STEM Toys

Founded by IIT Delhi and XLRI alumni, Tinkerly brings coding & STEM to young minds with superior pedagogy, blended learning, and play-based curriculum.

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It's about time the myths surrounding coding get shattered. From having to sit in front of the computer for more than 15 hours a day to the notion that coding is only for serious people (read: nerdy kids), all these statements hold untrue in case of this tech-skill. Thankfully, Jaipur-based Edtech startup named Tinkerly is now changing the common perception which most of the parents and educators have regarding coding as a learning option for their young wards.

Interestingly, coding can be learned by anyone who's 6+. The innovation is such that children can shut down their computer while building their robot or AI pet dog and can take inspiration from thousands of other kids within its community of STEM enthusiasts.

About Tinkerly

It's a Jaipur-based ed-tech startup that has come up with a unique initiative of mixing fun and hands-on learning experience for kids who're bored of the monotonous online coding classes. They've incorporated STEM toys as a part of their play-based curriculum which is going viral these days. The company also enables custom learning to each child at his or her learning pace by the usage of a flipped-classroom approach in their online courses. 

Founded by IIT Delhi and XLRI alumni, Tinkerly brings coding & STEM to young minds with superior pedagogy, blended learning, and play-based curriculum. Enabling an innovative journey for Grades 1-12 with their expert educators and focused lessons, Tinkerly has 200+ projects on coding, robotics, AI, and other STEM subjects benefitting 100K+ students with STEM learning content and free mobile app ‘Let's Tinker’.

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Sharad Bansal, Co-founder & CEO, Tinkerly, says, "It’s not essential for each child to learn coding or similar skills, but it’s worth tasting the flavour. Our aim is to create an environment where Coding is Love and not Fear. We created this play-based curriculum to unleash the true potential of each child."

What does their course offer?

Tinkerly's STEM Learning & Coding course covers all the grade-wise concepts of logic, AI, IoT & Coding for Grades 1 to 12. There are 4 basic divisions of Grade levels such as Grade (1-3), Grade (4-6), Grade (7-8), and Grade (8+). Each Grade consists of 2 class packages – Learner & Achiever.  

The Learner is a package for foundational learning which consists of 8 recorded lessons and 3 Live one-on-one sessions with expert educators. 

The Achiever package is special for it starts with foundational learning, followed by simulation-based projects and then real projects on AI, Robotics, and IoT take place. The Achiever package consists of 24 recorded lessons and 9 Live one-on-one sessions with expert educators along with a special offering of 1 STEM kit.

Parents can choose the most suitable package according to their child's potential and can schedule the Demo class (free of cost) to make a decision about the course subscription. In addition to the paid course subscription, Tinkerly users will also get lifetime free access to various projects, community learning, and support on its Lets Tinker App.

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Best Alternative to Monotonous Online Coding Classes

Currently, there are several online coding curriculum providers in the market but sadly, all of them are entirely based on-screen. Hence, there is very little scope of learning at one’s own pace left for kids, especially those with special needs.

So, what makes Tinkerly more user-friendly, practical and effective?

1. It’s Flexible – In the flipped learning approach, there are recorded lessons and weekly Live classes in each course. This has two advantages:

a) Students have the flexibility to learn whenever they want to.

b) The self-paced learning of the student will get promoted in the course. 

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They can watch the recorded lessons anytime later and clear their doubts simultaneously by using the support section of the Let's Tinker App to get in touch with the expert educator. This allows the expert to take a dedicated online one-on-one live session for the child to resolve the doubts and also revise the topic.

2. It’s Fun & Engaging – In Tinkerly, learning is not limited to ordinary online classes but also goes beyond the screen with the help of STEM Toys. This way the students can also limit their screen time and experience the thrill of experiential learning with the help of STEM toys. Those who enrol in Tinkerly's STEM Learning & Coding Course not only just learn the innovative technology like AI, IoT and robotics but also get trained by the expert educators (who are graduates from top tier institutes and have excellent mentoring experience) to build their own NextGen Projects that can solve real-world problems. 

Recognitions and Vision

US' largest STEM accreditation organization STEM.org has accredited Tinkerly for its curriculum and allows Tinkerly's students to achieve certification from it. Recently, NASSCOM featured Tinkerly among the top startups that are leading the AI revolution. In July 2020, Forbes India featured Sharad Bansal, Co-founder & CEO of Tinkerly, in its web-series called Education Evangelists of India.

“There are 250 million kids in India but currently coding courses in the market are priced too high to serve only the top 5% of them. Our aim is to provide equal opportunity to each and every learner irrespective of their socio-economic status. Tinkerly’s vast experience in setting up Tinkering labs in schools has given it this unfair advantage of using its own proprietary kits and curriculum to save a big pie of time and cost for scale.” explains Sharad

India is on its path to becoming a leading manufacturing and electronics hub that means millions of jobs in the hardware and software space are emerging. Tinkerly’s blend of STEM toys with its courses is a thoughtful effort to develop a future-ready skill set that will be essential for kids of today to become innovators of tomorrow.

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To know more, contact:

Sharad Bansal, Co-founder & CEO, Tinkerly, at [email protected] 

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shrdbnsl/ 

Tinkerly Website: https://code.tinker.ly/ 

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5 Blogs to Follow For Exclusive & Authentic Educational App Reviews

Here are some of the websites/blogs you might benefit from while searching for an appropriate app for online teaching

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In this world of unsure times when schools had to shut down and teachers, as well as parents, turned to online learning, finding an effective and reliable online platform has become a basic need. However, equally difficult is the part of actually finding such platforms. It is like a buffet of applications and websites that are claiming attractive benefits either free of cost or at a lesser price. To find the best application that works on both, a desktop and a phone, is a dream come true. The cherry on the top is the ability of the said app to help educators and parents, not to leave out the students, in online learning.

Here is an assortment of blogs that do authentic application reviews which you could rely on. Check them out and choose the tailor-made platforms for you and your students.

App Ed Review

Dr. Todd Cherner and Dr. Corey Lee, former educators, are the brains behind this successful application review website that is seven years old. They review the applications based on:

  1. An original app description
  2. A comprehensive app evaluation
  3. Instructional ideas for using the app

App Ed Review gained the attention of Myrtle Beach’s local news media, television, online, and in the press. They were also featured in a podcast.

https://appedreview.com/

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Teachers With Apps (TWA) 

Co-founded by Jayne Clare, a former educator, TWA along with curating the application reviews to be used by educators, also offer sage advice through blogs and media releases. They extensively field-test every area of the application that is being analysed. They also do research, blogging and works directly with app developers and start-ups, designing state of the art learning games as well as writing curriculum guides and sketching extension activities to accompany digital tools. 

https://www.teacherswithapps.com/

Children's Technology Review

The website service is almost 3 decades old. It is an independent, subscriber-supported review & curation service designed to help parents, teachers, researchers, publishers and librarians find interactive media products. CTR is sold as a subscription service and is delivered both weekly and monthly to subscribers in electronic form, and as an online database called CTREX (Children’s Technology Review Exchange).

https://reviews.childrenstech.com/ctr/home.php

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KinderTown

They offer quality tools and information to build up early learners by creating and organizing the best educational apps and activities for kids ages 3-8. The material is divided age-group wise, their mission is to improve early childhood education by empowering educators and parents with the tools to engage deeply in the child’s learning journey. KinderTowen is powered by Demme Learning, which has been providing innovative learning solutions for homeschoolers, parents and small group learning environments since 1990.

http://www.kindertown.com/blog/category/educational-app-reviews/

Educational App Store

It discovers and reviews online platforms for educational apps. All the apps are certified and reviewed by professionally experienced teachers to help fellow educators in progressing a younger child's education. Educational App Store is co-founder of the Edtech Evidence Group (EEG). The EEG brings together leading UK EdTech companies. The EEG believes that educators need to be able to easily assess the value and impact of EdTech products, services and platforms.

https://www.educationalappstore.com/ 

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10 Myths & Truths About Online Learning You Need to Read Now!

An explanation for the most speculated topics about online learning during COVID-19 outbreak

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The truth is – it is all MYTH!

Yes, it is a myth that online learning is not similar to authentic classroom learning, and it is definitely untrue that students cannot learn effectively via a virtual classroom. Lately, there has been a lot of speculation on the online classes that the schools had to turn to because of the global lockdown. Whether or not these are effective, if children can learn properly, calling the screentime harmful, worrying about those who are technologically-challenged and how parents can track the online learning – there have been countless questions by teachers, parents and even the students that are doing rounds. Let’s decode some of them here.

MYTH 1: Virtual classrooms are a one-way street

It is imagined that in online classes, the teacher switches on the camera and the microphone, gives a lecture, assigns homework and leaves. However, Prof. Dr Sugata Mitra has something else to suggest. According to his Self Organised Learning (SOL) theory, children with computer and internet access can actually learn better and quicker if given a chance and guided properly. More importantly, if they’re asked the right question. Certainly, this activity of asking a question is done by the teacher and finding the right or right adjacent answer is a task of students, so how can it be called a one-way street? This small example shows that not depending solely on the educator, online classes can be way more than just a lecture.

MYTH 2: Students lose interest during e-learning

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To be fair, students can lose interest even while sitting in front of their teacher in the physical classroom or while doing the homework in front of their parents. It has nothing to do with a screen presence but more to do with the kind of material taught to them. Another of Prof. Dr. Sugata Mitra’s experiment, ‘The Granny Cloud,’ comes to our mind. Numerous educators around the world have volunteered to teach children online on the Granny Cloud. Since they can be anywhere in the world, there always is a screen present in between them and the students, they maintain the interest by picking such material that is relevant to the particular set of children and can make them think and create. To presume that since the teacher is on the screen and the students will inevitably lose interest is premature and unjust.

MYTH 3: Screentime is bad for kids

Since we were told watching TV is bad for the eyes, it is assumed that taking online classes must be bad for a child’s health as well. To be honest, the children would have that much screentime anyway if the schools are closed and they are not going out. Please remember that the technology has improved way more in all these years and the screens come with antiglare and zero eye strain effects now. Worrying about screentime is a redundant point because of the guidelines governments all around the world have passed that ban the extension of screentime post a moderate stretch. Rather than worrying about ‘screentime,’ it’s better to worry about the 'screen content.' Plus, to avoid children from playing video games all day or watching nonsensical content, it is better for them to watch something education-related.

MYTH 4: It is easier for the teachers

There are always some guardians who believe that the teacher is taking a holiday and it is they who have to make their ward study. It is untrue! These teachers taught throughout their lives on a black/whiteboard, being physically present in front of their students and looking at their innocent faces to analyse what more needs to be done from the expressions. Now, they had to overnight turn to computer screens, start from scratch, learn how to start Zoom calls, and overwork in order to prepare for the long classes. All this so they could continue to teach their students. It is the time to support the teaching community, not doubt or question them unnecessarily. 

MYTH 5: Online learning only works for theory-based subjects 

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It seems like online teaching and learning is for subjects that are more theoretical and have more reading and writing to do because we imagine online learning to be a one-sided job – where the teacher comes online or records a video and students listen to them ramble away. But what if it is not how the reality works! As Prof. Dr. Sugata Mitra has stated on numerous occasions, remote learners are to be given more credit for; and also the instructor has more powerful leverage when viewed as a facilitator, not just an education provider. As experimented by him in his ‘Hole in The Wall’ study, he proved children grasping a complex subject like Biotechnology efficiently, and this was given the circumstance where the children had difficulty with the English language and had almost no other help apart from a computer. What if these methods are applied in regular e-learning but with an advantage of the right facilitator, who’s aware of the grasping power of his students?

MYTH 6: Personal attention by educator towards their pupil is lost online

Parents worrying about their child’s personal attention time with their teacher is natural. If one notices a kid blankly staring at the screen without comprehending anything or not being able to pay attention to the classes, it’s good to address those issues to the teacher immediately. To solve such matters, educators have begun to hold virtual parent-teacher meetings quite frequently these days. Honestly, these are the times to build trust amongst parents and the school; the teacher has enough experience to analyse even in online class whether the lesson is comprehensible or not. The online curriculum is built on the basis of all the shortcomings and flaws of virtual presence and just transforming the same physical classroom syllabus onto the virtual one.

MYTH 7: Specially-abled children are the most disadvantaged in online learning

The worry is understood and acknowledged, but what parents of kids with special needs are required to remember is that the special-ed teachers are empathetic to the cause and it definitely is not impossible to teach online. Do you remember how a group of special-ed teachers from Punjab recently used creative ways like DIYs, craft activities and dance to teach special students mobility and life skills? Read more about it here.  

MYTH 8: Children in pre-schools do not require dedicated online learning

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Children in this age are highly impressionable and it has been psychologically proven that the development of the brain is rooted deeply in the early years. Dr. Swati Popat Vats of APER has many a time advocated the importance of not overlooking the child’s early year comprehensible development which in term also supports the decision-making capacity when older. There is also a discussion around toddlers finding it difficult to cope up during the school-lockdown as they cannot see their friends and teachers every day. With online learning, seeing a familiar face (of their teacher) even for half an hour can go a long way. Parents who complain of having to sit with the child during these classes should remember they need to sit with the child even if the classes were not happening. Watch ScooNews' webinar #SwaLina to understand more. 

MYTH 9: Technology is tough

Applications and online platforms are difficult to understand and taking an online class is a hassle – well, that’s not always true. It’s 2020 when a majority of apps are user-friendly, even a child can access them. Luckily, schools are adopting platforms that are easiest to handle for both, the sake of their teachers, whom they do not want to overload and students, whom they want to attend every class without a hassle. The key is choosing the right platform, reading about the application beforehand and maybe doing a test run. 

MYTH 10: This is just for the time being 

Online learning or remote learning is here to stay, this is the futuristic way forward in the education sector. Prof. Dr. Sugata Mitra has said on occasion innumerable that looking back on the ways of old times will only keep you from growing. “We are not teaching the children for the past or present, we are teaching them for the future, so naturally the techniques should be futuristic too.” The savant of the education sector with decades of experience has already proved that the old ways should be left in the past for the betterment of future generations. The online ways of teaching and learning need to be adopted for good, do not take this to be an option for the time being. Like he said, “Every black cloud has a silver lining, the turn of education towards technology is the silver lining of these dark times; make the most of it.”

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Image courtesy: Pixabay

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Education Technology

Guide to Implementing Technology in Your Everyday e-Classes

Infusing technological tools to enhance e-learning can become easy if we follow these suggestions.

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While private schools could immediately manage to operate their classes online during the lockdown, it was the rural sector or schools with limited aid that took longer to adjust to the new norm, considering the lack of gadgets and internet services in their regions.

There’s no doubt that technology is helping students stay at par in their studies in the middle of a pandemic. After many expert discussions, some supporting and others against the screen time, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that in order to keep acquiring skills and back up our economy, we need highly technological knowledge-based pedagogy. For now, we can't wait but use technology as a brilliant substitute for physical classrooms. 

However, there are a few aspects that need to be taken care of while implementing technology in everyday teaching methods:

Get the Basics: One must know how to access easy apps like Zoom, Google Hangout, etc. that are proving to be extremely handy in taking everyday classes. From installing them to conducting a conference or classroom, their simple features are considerably easy to grasp. It’s okay if you’re not tech-savvy but the enthusiasm to learn is important in this case.

Teacher’s Training: Don’t hesitate to welcome your staff for training or ask for help if you’re a teacher and don’t understand the know-how of the tech-world. Don't all educators believe that there's no age limit for learning new things? 

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Get Compatible Technology: To begin with, get apps that are user-friendly, something that you can access on both your phone and computer screen. Also, initially, lookup for those that are freely available to both you and your students.

Integrating Technologies or Curriculum Integration: It means infusing the technological tools to enhance learning. Effective integration of technology is when students are able to study, complete assignments, attend classes using apps and the internet. For teachers, integration helps manage database, make planners & programs and speed up assessing and grading. In fact, it becomes comfortable to share this information in real-time across all the systems of the campus even from the comfort of our homes, which is the case at the moment.

Staying Updated on Emerging Technology: Since the COVID-outbreak, many new technologies and apps have been innovated that claim to make e-education easier and more efficient. Of course, it can be hard to simultaneously stay aware of all the new tools and apps, hence, it's suggested to keep an eye on the reviews (via blogs or podcasts) before investing in any.

Explore Virtual Reality (VR): Virtual Reality is a simulated experience and can be used for both entertainment and educational purposes. From interacting with a person in a seemingly real or physical way using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors, or touring museums, underwater life, lands in any part of the world, everything becomes a reality with VR.

Focus on Individual Learning: It may occur that a few students take extra time to grab the online lessons. For them, go back to the 'pen and paper' method and simply record a video solving the problem or explaining the diagram. Then use something as easy as WhatsApp to share these video-messages with them. It’s okay to give that computer screen a break sometimes. 

Making technology a part of our life is not unmanageable or incompetent, it's just a new phase that we need to embrace and get comfortable with. We hope you agree with us.

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Education Technology

IIT Alumni Builds FILO, an App That Provides Professional Support to IIT/JEE/NEET Aspirants

Education minister appreciates the app and the developers in his tweet

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IIT alumni have developed an app called FILO, which caters to the aspiring students to sit for IIT/JEE/NEET entrance exams. The app provides a way to directly learn from the subject expert of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics & Biology via video calls. 

The usage of this app saves 4 times more time than any other platform and also works very well on 2G network.

These experts are a team of undergrads from best institutions like IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur, IIT Dhanbad, IIT Guwahati, DTU, NIT Srinagar, GMC, Nilratan Sircar Medical College, Kolkata and some medical professionals.

Muhammad Athar and Faisal Rafiq from IIT Kharagpur and Huzaib Ul Hassan from IIT Roorkee, who work together to develop and manage the app, have received many praises.

The education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ also tweeted appreciating their effort and encouraging them and the students who could use the app.

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Education Technology

CIET Launches NCERT Audio Books For Primary to High School Classes

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank informed about the audio books via Twitter 

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Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET) has launched NCERT audiobooks on its official website at ciet.nic.in and e-pathshala mobile app. Students from primary sections to class 12th can now access these books online. In fact, special-needs children will be benefited by the same according to a tweet on the Education Ministry’s official page.

 

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Union Minister of Education Ministry, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank,’ also tweeted about the development saying how these are the new times when students do not need to go out looking for books anymore as they are available on their fingertips. 

Find the ebooks here: https://ncert.nic.in/ebooks.php

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To access them via Google Assistance, follow these steps:

  1. Activate Google Assistant and ‘OK Google’ – the voice-modulated Google assistant.
  2. Say ‘Talk to NCERT.’ Google Assistant will ask for your preferences for the books, after which you can access them.

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