To foster the content development processes, IT@School Project has successfully rolled out several programmes which included the development of its own Operating System - IT@School GNU/Linux- which is now being used in all the schools in the state. Apart from this, several educational softwares like Dr. Geo, Rasmol, K-Tech lab, Geogebra, Chemtool, Kalcium etc are being extensively customised by the Project in developing teacher friendly applications for facilitating complete ICT enabled education in the state. The Project has also prepared interactive multimedia CDs, Handbooks & Training modules for ICT, as well as Text books for IT in standard 8, 9 and 10. Every content developed by the Project is strictly as per the new curriculum approach based on the National Curriculum Framework 2005. The Project has also associated with Intel Skool for collaborative content development programmes http://kerala.skoool.in . The Project has also developed contents for Upper Primary classes – for 5-7 classes and the same has been given to all schools. To add with this, the Project had developed E-Text books for Std 8 to 10.
The ICT enabling process which was piloted in the state two years back has become a success; with this year’s 8th Standard IT text book being entirely based on ICT enabled education, with inputs from all subjects. An unique 8GB Resource DVD for teachers was also developed by IT@School Project, which included the latest edition of Edusoft, 50 selected articles from Malayalam Wiki, Malayalam Computing tools, IT@School Linux 3.2 Operating system, New Edition of Ubuntu OS, ICT Training module, Educational contents on Biology & Maths and PDF versions of Textbooks and Handbooks. The ICT training by making use of the Resource DVD is been imparted to over 60,000 teachers in the state. The Project also introduced a customized version of WIKI, namely www.schoolwiki.in which provides a comprehensive knowledge database of all schools in the state. The aim of SchoolWiki is to bring out collaborative data building and to generate more interest among students to learn Malayalam and to generate more contents in various subjects. Schoolwiki also features an ICT Learning Corner, which would include the various contents prepared by schools for all subjects in ICT enabled education. The various contents are packed in DVD and CD ROMs which are supplied free of cost to the schools with the idea of free distribution among the learning and teaching community. This process eventually resulted in the Free Digital Library at Schools wherein the contents included the subjectwise contents, contents which are telecasted through ViCTERS channel, exam oriented programmes etc. With all schools provided with Broadband connectivity, most of these contents were also made available online.
Some of the highlights of content development process initiated by the Project are as follows
• Development of examination software for conduct of IT practical examination for more than 15 lakh students, first ever vast deployment of computer and resourceful manpower for conduct of an examination entirely in free software platform.
• Development of numerous educational software in association with CDAC, CDIT etc.
• Development of educational content for ViCTERS (Virtual classroom technology on EDUSAT for rural schools) channel through EDUSAT network.
• Roll out of own operating system- IT@School GNU/Linux Ubuntu
• Localized content development through distribution of Handycam to schools and training to teachers and students
• Development of e-text books and Content CDs for IT enabled education.
• ICT enabled content generation process is being undertaken jointly by the teaching and learning community.
• SchoolWiki ( www.schoolwiki.in) launched by IT@School Project is becoming a revelation of sorts in collaborative content development process.
Capacity Building or Training has been one of the prime activities of IT@School Project since its inception in 2001. The Project has bought in a new culture of learning wherein the teachers would transform themselves into IT enablers, wherein they are capable of handling their subjects more efficiently using ICT. This new culture would also pave way to a situation wherein in the near future, students would themselves become the IT enabler, with the support of these teachers. As IT education is provided by subject teachers (who need not be experts in IT), there is a need for providing training to impart adequate IT skills to teachers and support them with content and support systems to help them transfer this learning to the students. During the first phase of the Project, it was understood that even though some of the schools had appointed a separate person as IT instructor for their computer labs, it was learnt that a huge gap existed between the so-called instructor and teachers as well as students. It was evident that by posting an IT instructor would in no way help in facilitating ICT education in the schools but indeed would negatively affect the entire learning system. The subject teachers in schools themselves had to assume the role of the IT enabler and this core principle of empowering the existing teachers to use IT as an educational tool was a major strategy adopted by the Project.
So far, the Project has trained over 2 lakh teachers of the state till 2009 and in 2009 a total of 14,546 teachers were given specific training in ICT especially for Physics and Chemistry and this year the same training would be extended to 60,000 teachers covering all subjects. As part of implementing a complete ICT enabled educational system, the Project has imparted ICT training to 10,000 Student School IT Co-ordinators (SSITCs) in the state. The 2 day intensive training programme was carried out at selected schools statewide.
Some of the training programmes provided to teachers are the following
i. ICT training: Training given to familirise the basics of Operating Systems and office packages and other application software.
ii. Hardware Training: 3 day training programme on hardware maintenance and basic support.
iii. Internet Training: This 20 hour training programme was given to all SITCs and interested school teachers. The trained SITC then trained all High School teachers in their school. Government has also issued strict instructions that every student in Std X in the school should get atleast 10 hours of internet exposure per year.
iv. IT Training for the Visually challenged: In association with Insight scheme of Kerala State IT Mission, the Project has successfully imparted IT training using free software for teachers of special schools for visually challenged, by exclusively using free software based screen reading software named ORCA.
v. Camera handling training: Two day training on camera handling was given to the teachers, enabling them to create educational videos which could be beneficial in implementing ICT enabled education.
vi. Training on ICT enabled content: Specific training on ICT enabled content was provided to teachers so as to enable them to use ICT enabled content in all subjects in order to equal teachers in classroom transaction.
The beauty of the project is that it has not engaged separate manpower for looking into IT need of the schools. The existing teachers are empowered in ICT tools and many of them are taken to the Project as resourceful Master Trainers of the Project (the Master Trainers are itself trained teachers from schools). The resources with the Project for field level coordination are as follows.
√ Manpower includes about 160 trained Master Trainers (resource persons), who are further classifed as District Co-ordinators (DC) and Master Trainer Co-ordinators (MTC)
√ About 5600 school IT coordinators to attend to the ICT/IT need of the schools and above 10,000 Student School IT Co-ordinators
√ Fully equipped State Project Office at Thiruvananthapuram with a handful of academic, technical and professional staff.
√ GNU\Linux Resource Center (Regional Resource Center) at Ernakulam.
√ District resource centers at all districts for district level monitoring with well established computer labs. The DRCs are supervised by the respective DCs.
√ Central uplinking station and well furnished studio at Thiruvananthapuram for EDUSAT network
√ 95 Satellite interactive terminals (SITs) all over Kerala with EDUSAT training facility.
√ Receive Only Terminals (ROTs) in all schools for reception of educational Programmes through ViCTERS(Virtual classroom technology on EDUSAT for rural schools) educational channel.
With more than 5 years experience in FOSS in educational sector the Project has seen both economical and technological impact of FOSS that integrates the global user. The Kerala IT Education Department believes that sharing is an important virtue. However, sharing proprietary software would be a violation of the End User. Building collaboration and sharing practices are essential factors for the well being of societies and proprietary software often denies that. Against the odds that Proprietary software are user friendly, the effort of the Project saw educational community in Kerala accepting open source technology.
The initial years of IT@School Project was focused mainly on teacher empowerment programmes. During that time, the training contents were mostly developed on proprietary software in association with Intel. Information Technology was made a compulsory subject in Std 8 in year 2003, as part of the Project’s various initiatives for implementing ICT enabled education, a theory cum practical exam was also conducted in the same year. Subsequently the Project understood the importance of free software in academic field and in the next two years, the practical examination was conducted in free software as well in proprietary software to enable a smooth shift to a complete free software platform. From March 2008 onwards the practical examination is being held completely in free software.
Today the IT@School Project is completely based on free software platform. The Project was successful in developing its own Operating System - IT@School GNU/Linux- which is now being used in all the schools in the state. Apart from this, several educational free softwares like Dr. Geo, Rasmol, K-Tech lab, Geogebra, Chemtool, Kalcium etc are being extensively customised by the Project in developing teacher friendly applications for facilitating complete ICT enabled education in the state. Dr. Geo and Geogebra are being used for teaching Mathematics, whereas Rasmol, Chemtool and Calzium are used for teaching Chemistry. K-tech lab on the other hand is used to teach Physics. The Project has also prepared interactive multimedia CDs, Handbooks & Training modules for ICT, as well as Text books for IT in standard 8, 9 and 10. Every content developed by the Project is strictly as per the new curriculum approach based on the National Curriculum Framework 2005.
The Project has successfully implemented several e-governance programmes in the state, which include the online transfer and posting of over 2 lakh teachers, single window admission process for plus one admissions, noon meal distribution computerization, youth festival software, pre metric scholarship, centralized online textbook intent system, total physical fitness programme etc. All these initiatives are being developed and implemented using free software applications.
The Project has also ensured that all the valuable contents developed are reaching the schools to serve its purpose. The various contents are packed in DVD and CD ROMs which are supplied free of cost to the schools with the idea of free distribution among the learning and teaching community. This process eventually resulted in the Free Digital Library at Schools wherein the contents included the subjectwise contents, contents which are telecasted through ViCTERS channel, exam oriented programmes etc. With all schools provided with Broadband connectivity, most of these contents were also made available online. To add on the list of free software initiatives, for the first time in the country, an unique Resource DVD for teachers was developed by IT@School Project, which included the latest edition of Edusoft, 50 selected articles from Malayalam Wiki, Malayalam Computing tools, IT@School Linux 3.2 Operating system, New Edition of Ubuntu OS, ICT Training module, Educational contents on Biology & Maths and PDF versions of Textbooks and Handbooks.
Some of the free software applications developed or customized by the Project include the following.
• Application softwares like Open office, GIMP, Dr. Geo, Rasmol, KEduca, Klab etc.
• Examination software –to conduct IT practical examination to more than16 lakh students
• Handbook for GNU\Linux – prepared as a user manual for working in IT@School GNU\Linux
• Training modules in GNU\Linux – to train teachers in open source
• Textbook for standard 8th 9th and 10th – Prepared in association with SCERT
Challenges faced while FOSS implementation
Enabling GNU\Linux and FOSS based education in over 8,000 schools brought along its own set of challenges, some of which are as follows;
• Resourceful Manpower to train was the single biggest challenge in the implementation.
• Creating a single curriculum based on GNU/Linux was another issue to counter because there were many distributions of the OS and the schools had already installed different distributions.
• To provide support to the schools where GNU/Linux was being used.
• To train high school teachers in free software
• To develop software for conduct of IT practical examination in free software platform
• To conduct IT practical examination in free software for than 14 lakh students in Kerala
• Customization of all application in free software platform
• To develop educational content in free software platform
How these challenges were overcome
• In the first phase, over 40,000 teachers had to be trained for over 90 hours on GNU\Linux based systems. The Project has started training its resource personnel in free software with help of Free Software Foundation. The Project has trained about over 1.2 lakh teachers in open platform.
• A Resource Centre has been established in Kochi for conducting teacher training in Linux.
• First initiative includes development of a free platform Operating system called IT@School GNU\Linux. The project has now released 3 updated versions of the OS and a IT@School GNU\Linux - Lite version which even works in computers of low configuration.
• Initially the examination for IT practical was developed on proprietary software. Then, it was developed in open source plat form and from March 2008 onwards the practical examination is being held completely in free software.
The Project has supplied thousands of computers and laptops to schools in the state. about 50,000 computers to schools. The proprietary OS and other application software come with a price tag of about Rs. 10,000/- per PC. By deploying Free Software based Operating System and applications instead of Proprietary software , IT@School Project is able to save an amount of Rs.11 Crores each year. Also the Educational content like interactive multimedia CDs are now being developed on free software platform, resulting in a savings of Rs. 75 lakhs. The examination software which was developed using free software has effected in a savings of about Rs. 25 lakhs.
IT@School Project has successfully implemented several E- Governance initiatives in the state. The major e-governance initiatives are the Single Window admission system for Plus One admissions and the Online Transfer and Posting of technical assistants to teachers. The online transfer and posting of teachers gains more advantage as it benefits over 60,000 teachers in the state. Some of the other e-governance initiatives of the Project include the Noon meal distribution computerization, Youth festival software, Pre-metric scholarship online, Centralised Online Text Book Intend system, Implementation of SPARK (Service Payroll Administrative Repository for Kerala) within General Education department, Total Physical Fitness Programme software etc
A snapshot of the e-governance activities
* Single window admission system for Plus One admissions
To facilitate a systematic admission process for Plus One students. The system brought transparency, efficiency and social equity to the whole process.
* Noon Meal computerization
Was setup to implement the management of noon meal distribution program in all schools by using an online system.
* Online Transfer and Posting of teachers
Was setup to enable smooth transfer and posting process of school teachers throughout the state.
* Youth festival software
A complete free software based ERP for the State School Festivals in Kerala.
* Pre-metric scholarship
To enable pre-metric scholarship programme online using a software so as to help the right students benefit through the scheme
* Centralised Online Textbook intend system
To facilitate the timely distribution of all text books even before the opening of schools, through which even the online status of text book printing was made available.
* Implementation of SPARK (Service Payroll Administrative Repository for Kerala) within General Education department.
SPARK is a program of Department of Information Technology (DIT) of Government of Kerala for digitizing the service book details of all employees of the state so that the database could be used for the decision makers and to ensure the welfare of the employees. Through this process implemented by the Project, details of as much as 72,256 service books from 2266 schools were entered in the database. Moreover currently 107 schools use this software to generate the monthly salary bills of teachers and staff on a regular basis.
* Total Physical Fitness Programme software
Completely digitized software on Total Physical Fitness Programme wherein details of 30 lakh students are available for further action.
Online Transfer and Posting of teachers- In detail
The online procedure was intended to facilitate the smooth transfer and posting of over 60,000 teachers in the state as well as Head Masters and Assistant Educational Officers. Every year, the department receives applications from teachers working in government schools requesting to be transferred to a place of their choice. In the manual system, the process of handling these requests was riddled with corruption and nepotism. Through computerized counseling, all the requests are now prioritized according to the reasons indicated in the request. One of the significant reforms is the online submission of application and transparent transfer policy. The system being transparent eliminates bribery and corruption prevalent in the earlier manual system. The entire process of transfer and posting in general category can now be done even within one week.
Vacancy details of Government schools are entered online well in advance, enabling the applicant to view the vacancies even before the application form for transfer and posting is set off. Thus the applicant can request for transfer based on the vacancy. Each candidate can choose up to ten options of schools for transfer in the order of preference. Transfer and posting of teachers is done purely based on the priority opted by them and the merit of seniority. Since the computerized activity enable a candidate to learn about the vacancies well in advance, only one order could be issued for every transfer aspirant. Moreover, since transfer and postings are infamous for the corruption involved, a provisional list is made available on the web site to ensure transparency. While the conventional system of transfer of posting required the entire process to be done manually involving teacher, Head Masters and the officials from education department, the online system negates the possibility of any external forces meddling with the procedures and also it reduces the hardships faced by the authorities to process the requests. Our system proves that technologically simple and inexpensive applications can be very effective in combating deep-rooted problems. Transparency in transfer and posting process also reduces the number of applicants approaching the court for re-verification of their application, to a great extend. The Online Transfer and Posting of teachers which was piloted last year facilitated the transparent process for over 40,000 teachers in the state in 2009 and this year also as much as 60,000 teachers are benefited with this process. with in General Education Department.
Various studies on IT@School Project are being conducted by different institutions. T.A.PAI Management Institute, Manipal & IT for Change, Bangalore had conducted impact studies on IT@School.
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