This city, called Vizag for short, is on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, in the northeast corner of Andhra Pradesh. I flew here from Tirupati last Sunday (March 18) at the invitation of Dr. Prasad, Dean of the School of Education at Andhra University.
He’s kept me hopping! He’s pretty much unflappable, sharp as a tack, and really good at adapting quickly to unexpected circumstances. If I were a military man, I’d be very comfortable with Dr. Prasad as my fearless leader! By the time I leave Guntur tomorrow, I’ll have lectured to four groups of faculty and students at four different colleges or universities and visited two local schools, where I’ll have been given the opportunity to check out the state of technology-integrated school curricula.
I will have addressed close to 500 faculty and students.
Right now, I’m on the train with Dr. Prasad, bound for Guntur, about 300 miles south of Visakhapatnam. I’ll be lecturing there tomorrow at a School of Education and visiting a local elementary school where they’re doing good work integrating computers into the classroom.
More and more elementary and secondary schools in India have computers. The model, for the most part, is to put them in a computer lab where the students go to learn how to use the computer. It is rare to find computers in the actual classrooms. Very few teachers have computers; they’re too expensive. So there’s next to no attempt made anywhere to integrate computers into the curriculum.
There are, however, exceptions to every rule. This morning, for example, after climbing to a high point above Vizag to get a view of the bay and the city below, I visited Visakha Valley School, a private high school, with Mrs. Radha Chary. Radha is one of two Pre-Service Program Mentors in Andhra Pradesh, for an ongoing project, funded by Intel Corporation, called Intel Teach to the Future. If you want to check the project out on the Web, you can go to http://www.learninglinks.org. Other interesting and related websites are http:www.educationinindia.net and http://educate.intel.com/in/ProjectDesign/UnitPlanIndex/GradeIndex/.
I met first with the Principal, Dr. Sharada, who just happened to have lived in Pittsburgh for a little more than a year in 1988 when her husband was a consultant with the Bureau of Mines. Our paths may well have crossed during that period of time. It’s a small world anymore. Dr. Sharada was gracious and welcoming. In our introductory conversation, we talked about the challenge of introducing computers for teaching and learning. It was quickly clear to me that she knows what it takes to successfully integrate technology into the curriculum.
Judging by what I saw, albeit all too briefly, her students are using computers across the curriculum to bring learning to life. I attended a session in a classroom where the students demonstrated what they were doing with the computers. Their teacher, Mr. Prasantha Kumar Panda, is one of the Master Trainers in Intel’s Teach to the Future program. I saw two classic science projects where the research the students were required to complete involved social studies, language arts (writing and speech communication), mathematics, art and design, presentation skills, along with a solid core of science.
Very impressive, and it was evident that the students loved using the computers to help them do their academic work. Radha told me that Intel has funded this project in India since 2000. There are offices in every state and I would love to see more of what’s being done. I asked Radha lots of questions and I have many more that have occurred to me since we parted ways at the railway station in Vizag this morning. Fortunately, we’ve exchanged email addresses, so our dialog will be ongoing. I intend to follow this project closely over the years ahead.
I’d like to know if Intel pays for all the hardware and software in the schools where they are training the teachers. If so, how often do they update it? If not, how often is it updated by whichever agency is the source for the money? Does Intel provide the essential technical support? If not, how is technical support handled? What percentage of the students in the Intel schools get to use the computers for the kind of learning across the curriculum that I saw demonstrated this morning? Are there any other non-government organizations as seriously involved as Intel in this effort to help Indian schools?
Radha will be reading this posting and I look forward to hearing from her. She’ll be sending me some of the pix she took during our sessions together and I’ll share them here soon.
It’s nearly 11:00 pm now and I’m settled in my rooms for the night at a Catholic college in Guntur (St. Joseph’s College of Education for Women). It’s a convent, and I spent a couple of hours this evening watching World Cup cricket with one of the nuns. Cool. I’ll be lecturing here in the morning; then, after lunch, I’m off to visit another school where they’re making an effort to integrate technology into the curriculum.
I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, the pix are of the seafront in Vizag taken from the balcony outside my hotel room (the local YMCA). Then there's me and Radha at the Academic Staff College, where I gave one of my presentations, and me and Radha again at Kailasgiri, the hilltop viewing point above the city of Vizag. The rural scenes were taken in the Araku Valley, a spectacular volcanic geological formation that runs for miles north out of the city of Visakhapatnam.
We took a day-long trip through the valley, stopping along the way to visit various locations of interest. Amongst the pictures, you can see Dumbriguda waterfalls. During the rainy season, this whole area is deluged with rain and the waterfalls explode into raging torrents. The women working by the truck are digging up silt and loading it into the truck so it can be used to make concrete. No backhoes here; labor is cheap (these women probably earn little more than a dollar a day doing what they do), and the people of India have all the time in the world.
At a reservoir not far north of Vizag, there's Dr. Prasad (waving), his wife, Esther, and Dr. Rao and Dr. Douglas, during a boat trip to a lake island for a picnic lunch. Dr. Douglas, the gentleman on the right in the boat, is another pretty amazing guy; he has a PhD in Chemistry and he's now pursuing a second PhD in Educational Technology.