Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Books, Benchmarks and Beyond

BOOKS, BENCHMARKS AND BEYOND

WM Centre Library Review – Third Term

When one of the Library team members said that we should prepare a write-up on WM Centre Library Review for the Third Term (05 Jan -16 Apr 2011), as we had done for the previous two terms, my first thought was that the Third Term was no different from the other two. This thought was immediately followed by another, “Or was it?”

Books

If we are to write about books distribution in the Third Term, it would be mere statistics. Children’s thirst for books remained unabated and we had to release about 25 more books for distribution to III, IV and V standard students, numbering 54, for taking home to read. Reading of books in the class on Saturdays, assisted by volunteers, continued, where children of II standard and VI standard also
participated with great interest. Out of some 220 books we had, as many as 180 books were in regular use, either in circulation or in class-reading sessions.

During the term, intent on trimming the Library stocks, 26 books were identified to be of much higher standard for WM children and these were handed over to Centre Co-ordinator for exploring possibilities of using them at other Centres.

To cater to the varied interests exhibited by the children, old and new issues of Magic Pot, a fortnightly English magazine (now weekly) specially designed for children – comprising comics to colouring, stories,problem solving tests, quiz, etc. --were bought and donated by two of the team members. Needless to say, these became hot favourites among the children.

Mid-week visits to the school by two of the Library Team members continued throughout the Third Term and as many as 14 such visits were made. These visits helped volunteers to interact with the children more intimately and on one-to-one basis to gauge their interests and overall improvement in language.

There were 4 occasions when a child read out for the other children a story from a book. This exercise boosted children’s self-esteem and motivated other children to emulate them.

Silent reading by some children on their own was tried during this term. However, as monitoring this activity proved to be difficult, this was abandoned after few attempts. With a better volunteer strength, probably, we could have gone on with this experiment and emerged successful, instead of losing out not just in efforts, but also in keeping track of books in the overall extra excitement this trial created. In
the third term, sadly, as many as 22 books have been lost or have gone missing.

Benchmarks

All the targets set at the beginning of the academic year – number of books every kid reads in a year, recalling stories read, overcoming hesitation to speak in English, reading to an audience --were surpassed with ease and children’s interest in seeing, reading, drawing and learning from the lot of books we placed at their disposal kept increasing and we went on creating new benchmarks. However, the number of kids showing considerable improvement in the language front was not up to expectations
and this has to go up to make the library project a total success. This is the goal set for the coming year, and towards this end, the team has already started devising plans and processes, including investing in and inducting as many as 50 new books.

Seeing that the children have started to eagerly look forward to taking home a book on Wednesdays, the teachers decided to make use of this interest more effectively. As a means of punishment, unruly children were forbidden from taking home any book for a week or two. Though this gave way to long faces, the apprehension of another week without book made the children correct their behaviour.

Beyond

Books and benchmarks are part of any Library effort, but alwyas there was something beyond these that was taking place in Deepam WM.

At the beginning of the third term, on January 7, a group of 18 children were taken on a guided tour to Anna Centenary Library, Kotturpuram, to make them understand the concept of a Library and give them a feel of the Library atmosphere and culture. The sense of awe the kids had on seeing the huge building with rooms and rooms of books (not just rows and rows), including some in Braille and digital Braille made us feel: One Library visit = All Deepam sessions of the year.

When announcement about Deepam’s Third Anniversary function was made and the Centre coordinators decided that each Centre would give a brief account of its activities at the function, the Library Team decided to make this intro speech a lively show. An idea as to how to present it was conceived, contents were developed and transferred to paper, resources (8 children) for the part handpicked, rehearsals and practice done, the children made to understand what they were to speak - and they did! Many unscheduled visits to the school were made by the team members, with one goal
in mind and when the speech was delivered at the Anniversary Function held on 19 March, the children outperformed everyone’s expectation. The remarkable capability shown by the children in reading, understanding, committing to memory and reproducing to an audience of 500 plus with hardly a tremor showcased the fruits of our efforts.

When the twice-weekly interactions with the children revealed that some of the IV standard children were dismally poor in basic English and found it difficult even to understand simple words, we identified 10 kids who needed help the most. A book specially designed for such children (simple words in bilingual form) was purchased and given to each of them, along with a notebook. Exercises to learn the language
in a fun way were devised and the children were told to do them during vacation as a pastime.

Ten children who exhibited excellent learning skills, eagerness to learn, improvement in attitude, exemplary behaviour and an enthusiasm to participate in Deepam classes regularly, were chosen to be rewarded. It was unanimously agreed that nothing other than a Book would be a fitting gift to them. Therefore, we bought 10 sticker books that were learning-oriented but with entertainment value and these books were presented to them during Deepam’s Anniversary function. Later, the children could
be seen going through these books with eyes wide with pride.

Reaching out

On the last day of the school, the Library Team members visited the school to give away free Tamil and English books to children for reading during vacation. These came out of the books received by the Centre as donation. The Magic Pot collection was also cleared and the magazines found their right places in the kids’ bags ‘to keep in touch with English’ during vacation.

Few books were collected from members’ own personal stock of books and reached to one of the IV standard boys who was staying home nursing a fractured leg and has been advised a month’s rest by the doctor.

What started as an effort to introduce the children to simple story books in English and to ensure that every child had read at least 10 books at the end of the year, has now become synonymous with a ‘way of Deepam English sessions’ at WM Centre. Nearly eight to ten kids have been able to understand the concept of library record too and had an index of a list of books they had read, which, to them, is a matter of great pride.

Conclusion

Wrapping up last year with a good sense of fulfilment, we hope to strengthen the efforts in the forthcoming year in the Library front to increase its effectiveness and consequently the satisfaction of having a fantastic outcome. With volunteers keenly supporting library team’s efforts through the year, such increase in effectiveness and ensuing joy are only to be expected, naturally.

WM LIBRARY TEAM
5 June 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Microsoft Digital Literacy Certification

Deepika is one of our regular students at uroor kuppam centre. Bubbly and full of energy always. Today, she is nervous and not her usual self. She is about to take a 'practise' assessment test - She scores 80% and yet doesn't clear as assessment test ( the test was deliberately made tough by the test designer, with higher cut-offs ). She breaks down ... All the volunteers talk to her and cheer her up. Kamalesh tells her it was a practise test and she still isn't convinced...

That moment defined what the UK centre has managed to accomplish over the last 3 years. Deepika could have taken the test 'lightly' and with no emotions attached. But there seemed to be a sense of attachment and 'a want' to do well. This surely has come from the months of bonding between the volunteers and the children..

A week later,Saturday the 28th May 2011 4 pm was a proud moment for all of us at Deepam - 6 children from Deepam took the certification test. All of them cleared the exam. Here is the certificate of the 1st kid from Deepam who passed the Microsoft Digital Literacy Certification
This certification tests students knowledge about basic computers , internet and worldwide web , basic skills in productivity programs among others. This is a significant step for Deepam since our computer curriculum is also focussed on making children familiar in the same areas as digital literacy certification curriculum.

Thanks to all the volunteers who have worked with the UK centre children over the last few years. Prasanna , Kamalesh , Shyam , Arti and the logica volunteers had spent last few weeks revising the curriculum , getting the children prepared for this certification.

Someday soon, we will have all children at Deepam - Microsoft Digital Literacy Certified !

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2010 Deepam Fellows

Deepam Fellow is an award to honour the volunteers who have gone an extra mile to support the cause of education at Deepam. Our earlier fellows - 2009 Deepam Fellows , 2008 Deepam Fellows

Deepam aims to honour 2 types of people through this award

  • People involved in direct teaching & mentorship : Teachers are the people who have an immense opportunity to change the future of the world - by positively influencing the people who will inhabit the world in the future. The best among them will be honoured through the Deepam Fellowaward
  • People involved in design & implementation of programs enabling teaching : By designing / implementing a program that enables teachers / children to meet their education goals, people who design / implementation work in tandem with teachers to make an impact on the children. The best among these people will be honoured through the Deepam Fellow award

2010 Deepam Fellow

Rajagopalan Sir - Everytime I talk to him, I come away with a light feeling. I would not have been surprised if he was on the stage at the annual day, shaking the legs with the children. Almost twice my age, he has never 'adviced' me or saye or the other 'kids' :) - he easily connected with all the volunteers and won our respect and admiration, just for this. His flair for writing , wit and energy filled emails / puzzles keeps the Deepam mailing lists alive

He is meticulous in his work, along with Vasanthi mam / Maduravalli Mam, organises a successful library program at the Deepam West Mambalam centre. He visits the centres even during weekdays to run the library program. His enthusiasm to help children read was evident in the way he helped organise the Deepam WM centre trip to the Anna Library. He also prepares 'interesting lesson plans like this ;) .


He connects with the children with ease. They adore RR sir :) - no wonder he was called in as a 'chief guest' for the West Mambalam school's annual day.

We are honoured to have RR Sir with us. He is one of our Deepam Fellow 2010

Meera - One of the earliest volunteers, Meera was active at Deepam, despite a 2 year study break in the US. She actively evangelised Deepam in the US and brought in valuable donation dollars.

When she got back, she was keen to make a difference on the ground. This keeness as evident when she encouraged the children to participate in the Google Doodle contest - I was pushed into taking her to the Uroor Kuppam on a sunday afternoon, where we met the children with the painting kits.

She showed equal enthusiasm in building a strong team at the Uroor Kuppam Centre, who have been doing some great work at the centre.

She also pushed us / kept hope / helped in writing an effective proposal that helped Deepam win the 2HP EdTech award.

She is our other Deepam Fellow 2010

Monday, March 21, 2011

3rd Annual Day - Thanks for making this a memorable event!

Hello Friends,

It was a joy to watch the children enjoy the Deepam Annual Day. Almost all of them seemed like natural performers on the stage. Thanks to all the volunteers for making this a memorable experience for the children.

Leeba - First one to show up at the 'party' . She got us answers to some difficult questions - Right from the start, she took on the job of helping identify venue / chief guests / making other arrangements, besides helping out the VRS team to put up the show.
Basu - Has always been a solid support at Deepam. This time too, he ran the show behind-the-scenes and ensured things happened.
Archana - Wherever she is, she contributes to Deepam. Despite living in Poland, She co-ordinated - designed / ensured the certificates , medals were available for the event, well in advance !
Priya / Radhika / Other KCG College students - Talented bunch from the KCG College. Their consistent efforts at Deepam is really an example for college children. On the annual day, they entertained all of us with their music. Thanks!
Vandhana - New to deepam - yet got into "action mode" along with Archana to get the medals / certificates were ready, much before the event. Thanks!
Our Guests Murali / Illayaraja from Sevalaya - Thanks for sharing your stories and being with us on this day. The children connected with your speech and was motivating for them.
Orderyourchoice.com - Thanks for supporting the event. Gladly offered to sponsor, on hearing about annual day.
Roopa / Swapnil / Sriram / Mahesh - Thanks for supporting the event with your generous contributions. The best part was all it took was an email about the event and they gladly responded on their own :)
Hotbreads - Our 'food partner' - they provided snacks for all of us. They were feasted on by all of us, hungry ones!
Yashwant - Took on the role of MC, this year too. Kept everyone engaged . He also brought in a humourist-friend, who kept us light and laughing with his mimicry
Sriram / Noopuran / Pradyot / Anupama - The photographers for the event. Sure made us all feel 'big' on stage . Thanks for capturing the moments!

The centre teams and Children ( so many to mention here ) - Going by what we saw on the day, it was clear that every centre had put in a lot of effort to put up the show. Many hours had gone into re-hearsing and getting 'ready' for the day. Despite a volunteer effort, it was heartening to see the effort to make the show as professional as possible - the ideas / the 'props' / the execution was just awesome. Thanks a lot friends, you deserve the most special thanks !

Thanks
Deepam Team !

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Deepam 3rd Annual Day - You are Invited !

Dear Friends,

Deepam turns 3 this April and we are getting together to celebrate the best year we had, till date. As always, this event is focussed on the children - they will perform on the stage for us. We will also felicitate the teachers ( Volunteer - Teachers ) who have been mentoring them through this year.

Venue : Bapalal Bhavan , #15 ,1st Seaward Road, Valmiki Nagar ,Thiruvanmiyur
Date : 19th March, Saturday , 2011
Time : 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM

We request your presence for this event, to be with the children and support Deepam.

All are invited.

Thanks
Deepam Team

Friday, March 11, 2011

HP Grant - Delivered

A small dream we had 3 years ago , is now a reality - ALL Deepam centres will have computers and internet from next academic year !

The shipment from HP arrived a few days ago - The HP grant of 20 laptops , a printer / scanner / copier ( all in one ) , 20+ inch monitor was delivered.


The laptops are some of the latest ones in the market - has an i7 processor, rotating screen with touch sensor and importantly, will last close to 9 hours on full charge ( HP has given heavy duty batteries too !! )

Monday, March 7, 2011

Deepam Annual Day - Contribution / Donation

Hello Friends,

Deepam 3rd Anniversary Celebration is on 19th March ( Saturday ). We will have events / performances by the children , followed by certificate / medal distribution to the children.


We are looking for sponsors / Donors for this event - The donation / sponsorship will be used for
  1. Certificates / Medals for children - 15k
  2. Transportation of children from school to event venue / back - 10k
  3. Food / Snacks -5k
  4. Venue cost - 5k
  5. Misc ( audio / projectors etc ) - 5k
The contributions could be any amount. Please mail kk@deepam.in , if you are interested in contributing for this event.

thanks
kk

Monday, January 31, 2011

Microsoft Digital Literacy Certification at Deepam

Some exciting news for Deepam Students -

Deepam is now one of the Microsoft partner NGOs for providing Digital Literacy Certification. What this means is, every one of the Deepam student can now take up an online assessment and get certified by Microsoft. This online assessment will be conducted at the Deepam Centres.

The best part about the certification is that the curriculum for assessment closely matches the current focus at Deepam. Our students can now graduate with a Microsoft certification, on successful assessment.

The Digital Literacy curriculum consists of five courses:

  • Computer Basics
  • The Internet and the World Wide Web
  • Productivity Programmes (Word processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Databases)
  • Computer Security and Privacy
  • Digital Lifestyles
The certification will start soon at the Deepam UK Centre.

Monday, January 10, 2011

UK dashes off to the Chennai Book Fair!

It was a lazy Sunday morning by the beach when UK volunteers had assembled to do a quick head-count before we left for St George's School, Egmore. Sixteen heads, including the volunteers. When Meera had called for a fun and productive way to spend a Sunday the previous day (when UK classes were held), she certainly didn't expect such a large turnout.

We soon marched off to the Besant Nagar bus terminus (the only means to transport such a large contingent) and after an hour long rickety ride through Usman Road which all but broke our backs. A short walk later, the sixteen of us strode into the gargantuan complex after reaching a consensus on disciplinary issues (all kids were to line up and stay with us at all times and were not to visit any shops without our approval). Surprisingly, there were no defaulters- it was more difficult to convince the kids to put books back on the shelves and move on!

We decided on a few stalls to visit- notably the Sura Books stall that the kids loved for the pocket-friendly quiz material and the eponymous Indian Book House (that publishes the Amar Chitra Katha series). A couple of kids made a few purchases after seeking anna's or akka's approval. We were amazed at their enthusiasm and wished we could play Santa, if only we had the resources.

At two, we dispersed for a lunch break and discovered the only hygienic food options available were fresh fruits and corn!. After our 'snack', we decided to head home, anticipating another hour-long journey, deciding to skip window-shopping. This time, we skipped the Panagal Park area altogether and were back in less than an hour, surprisingly.

Back home, binging to break the day-long fast and napping to put sore muscles to rest, I realized that the backpacking experience was one adrenaline-charged day that I will never forget! Not to mention, putting smiles on a dozen young faces!

PS: Next time, a bit more planning will make it more comfortable for everyone. Nonetheless, we're a learning organization and this is yet another learning experience- for volunteers and children alike.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

WM CENTER LIBRARY – AN EVOLVING CONCEPT

The Second Term

How long has it been since any of us wrote, mentioned or even heard the words “mental block” or “alien” while talking about WM Center children’s approach to English? Quite a while, isn’t it? It is now there for everyone to see: the children have shed their inhibition in this respect. Being treated with a blank look when volunteers speak to them in English has become a thing of the past. On the other hand, often we observe the children trying to speak or ask questions in English.

A lot has to be said for this impressive progress. While lessons taught in the curriculum front have contributed to this marked improvement, it is the role that the Library team had played in bringing about this much-cherished change that we wish to record in this document.

In the first Term, the Library Team had laid a solid foundation and the joint creative power exhibited by the volunteers and the children alike through the academic year has brought about the transformation that we see today at the end of the Second Term.

One of the developments in the Second Term that the Library Team saw and could be proud of – one that could well be the greatest reward to the Team for its persistent efforts -- is that, inspired by the other children visibly enjoying taking home books to read, six of the III standard kids showed interest and wished to be enrolled as recipients of books every week. The Team was only too happy to oblige them. It was very gratifying when we were later told that these children narrate the books’ contents to the other children under their English teacher’s supervision.

It will not be out of place to mention here that not a single week had passed without two members of the Library Team visiting the school on Wednesdays (or the day preceding or following it in case of a holiday) for distributing books to the children who have come to look forward to Wednesdays eagerly, with a book in hand and a book in mind. Of the 12 weeks in the Second Term, 11 days’ of book distribution took place except one week when it was not done keeping in mind the terminal exams.

In the Second Term, 36 new books were additionally put in circulation, throwing open to the children the option to choose from as many as 103 books. It is a common sight these days to see some kids picking a book, going through its pages and deciding to discard it and go for another book. And there are children who specifically ‘ask for’ books by name and still some who insist on books with more sentences per page.

After keenly observing children’s likings and keeping in mind their progress in becoming more and more interested in books, 24 new books were purchased in the Second term. With regular weekly visits by volunteers on Wednesdays for distributing books among 54 children, the turn-round of books increased drastically. This also resulted in many books becoming oft-read and well-thumbed, necessitating binding of some of the books to make them sturdy and withstand more handling. This exercise was taken up and 40 books identified as most dog-eared were got bound.

At the end of the Second Term, Library Record Notebooks of the children were collected. These notebooks were evaluated by the Library Team off-site and, based on how effectively they have been utilized by the children, stars were awarded to stimulate more interest in keeping record of books read. Sticker stars were stuck in their notebooks. Of the 24 notebooks reviewed, 5 were found worthy of 3 stars (the highest rating).

The Second Term also saw children taking to reading books in groups with the help of a volunteer in a very eager way. We have had seven good class reading sessions in the Second Term. On days when volunteer presence was less, some kids could be seen to take the lead and form their own groups to read more than one book in the half-hour time allotted for the session. Occasionally, a kid taking a book and sitting all by himself or herself to read it has also become a common sight. During these periods, some children who showed interest in knowing the exact meanings of words learnt were suitably guided in making use of the dictionary.

Besides group reading, children identified as good in reading were given the opportunity to read a book aloud to the class on Saturdays. Mohanraj, Sanjay, Saranya & Vaishali were such privileged ones. This has motivated other children to put in more efforts to be thus recognized.

In December, a day of Library session was converted as Educational Games period. Participated enthusiastically by children as well as volunteers, the session brought to light how learning (or teaching) through games could be more fun and more effective, compared to conventional methods. As one of the volunteers later put it, “Games make children focused…….the hands on activity helps.”

Overall, the results we have achieved so far in Library front have been very good and leave us in no doubt that we can do more for the children.

Computers, Notebooks, Netbooks, iPads and Mobile phones have been changing the way we have been reading, writing, listening and viewing, thus introducing digital in every walk of life. The day we could bring in technology to WM Library, such as children reading an e-story by flipping pages on the netbook using the mouse pad, we would have indeed reached a significant milestone.

________________________

2010 and the Year Ahead at Deepam

Hello Friends,

A very happy new year to all at Deepam.

Looking back at 2010, Deepam stuck to the objective set at the start of the year - Focus more on improving the impact we make . We didn't expand / start new centres. Instead, improved our current programs.

Some significant activities / progress in 2010
  1. A stable team at West Mambalam and VRS centre.
  2. Quantitative evaluation of our teaching at WM / VRS centres
  3. A good implementation of Library program at West Mambalam centre
  4. Internet availability in 5 of our 6 centres
  5. Deepam Fellows
  6. Launch of STARS
  7. Deepam Newsletter - Oli
  8. The 1st Deepam class picnic at VRS centre
  9. Availability of computers at all centres
  10. Structured curriculum at WM / VRS centres
  11. Painting events in partnership with Logica
  12. Fun childrens day and annual day event
  13. Google Doodle submissions by Uroor Kuppam Centre
  14. The origami sessions at all centres
  15. SCRATCH implementation in Pudiador Centre
  16. Ofcourse, the HP EdTech 2010 - Education Innovation Award
And lots more..

Deepam is still in a learning phase and this year has brought out some clear ideas - Importance of consistent efforts / contribution at a centre. West Mambalam and to an extent VRS centres had consistent contribution from the volunteers. Clearly, the 2 centres were able to 'Do More' and execute the ideas. In the other centres, a lot of effort went into ensuring class happened every week.

Looking forward , in 2011, Deepam would again focus on improving the impact / quality of education at our centres. As West Mambalam and VRS showed us last year, improving impact requires consistent contribution. It is this aspect of Deepam, that we will look to improve in 2011.

Lets make 2011 a better year at Deepam.

Thanks
kk