Dolly & Ravi coming back from a school visit.
I’m really happy with our school outreach program. Dolly and Ravi have been doing tablet sessions with 6 different schools and after-school programs each week here in Rakkar, Dharamshala. All the locations are unicycle distance away and it really looks like a vision from the future to watch them wheel up to a school with a backpack full of tablets.

Up here in Dharamshala we’ve branched out to include tablet based art sessions with the kids in addition to math. Sessions are typically 90 minutes or so. Initially I was pushing music and art. We found many apps that kids could play with to make something pretty, but Dolly wanted to focus on teaching the kids something. So they settled on a ‘Learn To Draw’ app that shows kids step-by-step how to draw cute or common objects. The kids actually draw using pencil on paper.

For me this was an interesting lesson in understanding what types of apps are appropriate for this type of interaction. Since we have a significant amount of time with the kids and Dolly and Ravi are there to keep them focused we need apps that have a deep learning path. The music apps and many of the art apps we found were more like instruments – fun to play with for a few minutes to see what sounds or images they make, but without an objective kids quickly get bored.

Going Forward:

I would like to expand this further and find more music / art apps that give students objectives to achieve and hints to get there. Maybe this is where ‘gamification‘ comes in. Set a goal, learn some skills, work hard, achieve and set a new goal. An aspect of our routine I’d like to develop is how we find and share these apps. This is a place where we can benefit from community input and our findings will be valuable to a large community of parents, kids and educators beyond the people we are able to engage directly.

It would be great to put together a curriculum of these types of activities which could augment a child’s education in a variety of ways. Many several have asked for help teaching English and there’s more we can do with Art, Music, Math, and Social Studies as well. Rather than competing with the regular education system, we could do this in a supplemental way like the scouts. Like the scouts we should also develop a system of merit badges and ‘ranks’ to give kids something to strive for and events to recognize their achievements.

Right now most of our interactions are with younger children 7 – 11 ish. At first I was skeptical that we had anything to offer this age group as I generally feel young kids should be outside playing in the dirt, but so far I am happy with our experience and feel the kids are benefiting from their interactions with us, and this is the target of the learning x-prize. It has also been easier to get schools and groups to let us interact with these kids than older kids who start getting more serious and worrying about exams and admissions.

That said, I’d like to figure out how to engage the 13 – 17 age group. As they get older kids get more focused on specific things they know they need like learning English and IT. This age group also tends to be very excited about the electric unicycles. Ideally we could help these kids develop technical and communication skills they need to be successful in the technology industry and once they turn 18 some may choose to join Jaaga Study and learn programming more seriously. This will probably need to be done outside the academic setting, either as a computer club at a pre-university, or with evening / weekend sessions we do with other kids. Many decades ago when I was in school in California we had the distinction between ‘Cub Scouts‘ for kids < 13 and 'Boy Scouts‘ for kids between 13 & 18. There’s a lot of institutional wisdom in the Scouts we should study as we put this program together.

In summary in the next year we can:
– grow the number of communities we connect with regularly
– develop a wider range of apps & activities
– create ‘badges’ kids can earn
– bring on more ‘coaches’
– host recognition event in communities
– pilot activities for older kids.
– set up web presence to share app activities & solicit input from community