A Different Monday Morning!

Akshara Foundation organised a LEGO WEDO Workshop along with the LEGO Foundation for an enthusiastic bunch of volunteers from Robert Bosch on 24th and 25th June 2013 at the Government Kannada Higher Primary School, Vivek Nagar, Bangalore. Manoj Kumar Mahalingam of Robert Bosch who shares his experience with us.

On 24/6/2013, unlike every Monday, I had the privilege of sleeping a little longer than usual and so I bravely protested the early sun’s mutiny. Eventually, I woke up to remember my destiny that day was not office but on the contrary, a school. With an unusual rate of adrenaline for a Monday morning, I hurried up and in no time reached the school.

A well-known NGO, Akshara Foundation that works on improvisation and facilitation of education, particularly at the pre-school and primary school level. They started a venture with LEGO Foundation of Denmark where teaching becomes more creative with the colourful LEGO bricks.  As I grasped, my purpose with 8 of my colleagues is to learn and teach the children who yearn for…

We were 9 members from RBEI who volunteered for this event, 4 other volunteers of Akshara Foundation joined us in “LEGO ROBOTICS WORKSHOP”. We were addressed by a motivational speech about Akshara’s work and principles; its idea to facilitate child education in an organized way was indeed inspirational.

 On the second day of the workshop, we were asked to be seated in teams of 2 with a Lego kit and a laptop with the “WEDO” software in it. Casper, from Lego Foundation started the exercise with a simple tower construction with the Lego bricks. It was like time travel, in few minutes, I was revisiting my childhood days. My eagerness and childlike creativity was at its best that day. Eventually we got to use motors, infrared sensor (motion detection) and accelerometer (tilt sensor). Being an Electronics Engineer it was absolute fun for me to use them. When it came to programming, software was designed so as to make it user-friendly for the kids. Simple drag and drop blocks with Lego symbols such as to make the models work.

As the workshop continued, we simulated a football game with a kicker and a keeper. This was not all we also experimented with each model made emphasizing on how kids would understand teaching concepts. We sprung our creative ideas to fly free in several aspects and that too without conscience.  By the end of workshop we had several models like alligator that could snap its mouth open on sensing movement, a roaring lion that could sit on its hind legs and stand, a crane that could lift a person, a monkey that played drums, a bird with flapping wings and an airplane that modified its engine speed upon direction of tilt.

The main idea was to see how children would take it?  Would it be fun? Or would it be difficult to grasp?
As they say, Rome was not built in a day and so everything needs time, but the best way a child could learn is through play. You learn what you like, as you yearn what you want. After a good discussion, I headed back to office, and as I walked away, I looked back at school and children who were eager to take photographs with us.

I was that age and today I am here because I’m lucky to have got what I needed to succeed. This is their chance, why not provide what they need…

Akshara Foundation participates in the Workshop on Innovations in School Education

Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation, was invited to chair two sessions at a Workshop on Innovations in School Education organized jointly by Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Mysore, ANS State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) and Azim Premji University, Bangalore, on the 28th of November, 2012.

This is part of a series of workshops on innovations in governance the three institutions plan to conduct in collaboration, the objective being to examine selected cases of innovative practice that display a potential for enhancing the quality and effectiveness of public services.
The one-day event focused on school education, an area of government involvement from the point of policy making and public service provisioning, an area that can be substantially improved.

As a concept note on the workshop says, “School education is of vital significance for the social progress and economic transformation of Karnataka and the nation.…..In recent years the government has worked in partnership with several organizations to improve school education. Some of these efforts are innovative and they provide examples which could potentially be implemented elsewhere. If such initiatives are generally deemed to be useful and effective and if these innovations are widely adopted and institutionalized within the government system then these could have a significantly positive ground level impact.”

The workshop was a forum for the discussion of some noteworthy innovative initiatives in school education, bringing together government leaders and functionaries, educators, academics and education sector practitioners along with key professionals who have been associated with and/or have closely studied the innovation.

Kanchan Bannerjee chaired two sessions on Innovations in Teaching-Learning Materials and Activity Based Learning.  Three insights were presented in the sessions.

  • One on Teaching Science through Mobile Laboratories, Rural Science Centres and Young Instructors – The Experience of Agastya Foundation
  • another on The Nali-Kali Programme – Innovation and Best Practices in Shorapur; and 
  • the third on Teaching-Learning Materials – best when developed by teachers themselves, The Example of Teacher-Developed Films.

The speakers, as workshop guidelines mandated, presented on: the nature of the innovation; its impact on education and whether that impact can be assessed; the challenges and the process of learning and adaptation as implementation progressed; the support or opposition it encountered from government, school managements, community; and whether the innovation can be more widely replicated.