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Tablet Education

My friend Shoaona works with Magic Bus here in Bangalore. Magic bus seems to be doing a great job providing after school sports and education development for kids.

A few weeks ago I visited one of their centers and conducted a simple tablet session. It was great to be around such physically active kids. We played hackey sack, some of them learned to ride the unicycle, and they played ‘Where’s my Water’ on my Android tablets.

We’re planning to do something regularly next year, and Shaona asked me to write a short concept note defining what we’re doing and trying to achieve.

At the highest level I am simply exploring how we can use low cost Android tablets to improve children’s language, math, computer and life skills. The Learning X-Prize turned me on to the fact that technology and content are now sufficiently developed to have a huge impact in education. I signed up to compete in the Learning X-Prize competition, but realized that I don’t have enough practical experience to know what applications are needed.

Since I live in rural India I have the chance to introduce kids to tablets and let them use existing applications and content. In this way I hope to develop best practices around how tablet education can be applied in this context, and also to identify features that would support tablet education that are not currently available and that we should develop as Jaaga Study / Code For India projects.

We have had about 10 student interactions so far. Mostly at a local government school, but also just in the central square of a couple nearby villages. I have been pushing puzzle games in general and Where’s My Water specifically because it is easy to learn, and requires critical thinking and perseverance to get through.

I am enamored with Khan Academy. Since it has videos and exercises available at every level, everyone can engage with it regardless of their current math ability. It is well regarded around the world providing an objective metric of student progress. It has great coach resources helping an interested observer track student progress and identify times when help would be useful.

We have tried a couple times getting Khan Academy in front of students. It has been a bit difficult as the level of discipline and motivation it requires of students is much greater than WMW. For this reason I backed off of pushing it until I can establish more regular and structured student interactions.

In addition to Khan Academy I would like to do a variety of sessions which help kids develop their communication skills, and introduce them to a variety of commonly used Android apps. I would like to conduct sessions where kids:
– find music they like on the internet and create playlists
– use sound creation apps to creating electronic looping style music tracks
– use the camera to create photo albums and videos
– use paint and graphics programs to make posters animations.

We have also been doing some research into language apps and want to see how we can take advantage of them to help kids learn to read and write their native language and English.

Another big part of this experiment involves training coaches how to conduct these sessions and generally support child learning with tablets. One part of this is technical / logistics like keeping the tablets charged, or creating accounts for the children. Another part is helping coaches understand how to guide students on their learning path, and also conduct these specialized sessions. My belief is that we could have a need for a great many ‘Tablet Coaches’ and that it could be a great job for young people preparing to work in the technology industry.

So, these are the areas I’m hoping to explore during our student interactions in January – March next year.