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.

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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