AHMEDABAD: Sunita is 14-year-old and has hardly operated any computer on her own. She had indeed seen the 'screen like a television' at her school as none in her lower income group neighbourhood uses the machine. At her Vikas Gruh school based in Paldi, she along with a group of sprightly girls of her age is going through a new experience. "I saw my area in a picture taken by satellite!" she exclaims. Within half-an-hour, she went through the photographs of the Indian scientists she had heard about only from her textbook.
Sunita and the other girls are part of 'School in the Cloud' project initiated at Vikas Gruh by Asha Jadeja, a US-based technology investor. She intends to kick-start a similar project in a school based in Bangalore by the next month.
A tech venture out of IIT-Gandhinagar, Grid Ants, provides technical support to the project. Sarthak Jain, co-founder of the venture, said that they are using cached version of the world wide web (www). "The challenge was to provide a cheaper and effective solution to poor connectivity issue. Most of the schools in remote areas don't have the necessary fast internet connection. We thus devised technology where we can cache a part of the internet, ie Wikipedia, and preload it to provide the experience of actual net browsing to the students," he said.
What is School in the Cloud
School in the Cloud is an idea propagated by a UK-based educator of Indian origin, Sugata Mitra. Mitra won 2013's TED prize of 1 million US dollars for the project. His interest in the concept started with Hole in the Wall experiment at Delhi slums that also garnered international interest for its applicability and results. Mitra, as part of an experiment, left a computer connected to internet with a mouse to manipulate it just by powering it up at a Delhi slum. He was sure that the computer would be disintegrated and gone by the time he would be back but to his astonishment, he saw the kids browsing the internet in English, the language they did not understand.
The results motivated him to believe in children's insatiable curiosity and their ability to learn things on themselves with non-invasive guidance. With gradually larger experiments, he was convinced about Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) and took the idea of wired schools for education in poorer environments to the world through his TED talk. After winning the prize, he had wished to set up such schools where kids can learn things on their own in informal environment. He along with his associates is already running experiments at six places in India.