Computer-Aided Learning (CAL)

12 Sep

It used to be the same routine for Adishree, a standard 3 student at Aamchi Shala School in Chembur, Mumbai until she started going to this unique class at the school premises itself. Ask her now and she would have loads of things to talk about what she has been upto. I was amazed to see the way she was flawlessly moving the computer mouse pointing to just the right thing that she wanted. “Basket” she exclaims.  In this game(Basketball), the player reads the given one, two or three-digit number on the screen and then helps the elephant in the circus play basketball by making it throw each numbered ball available into its corresponding basket, which represents the place of digit of that number. As I moved further to other computer systems in this government run Marathi medium school, I found children glued to other games focusing on different aspects such as Khulja Gin-Gin (focusing on addition, subtraction, division, multiplication), Mouse House (identification of different shapes such as triangle, rectangle), Tol Mol(addition/subtraction) , AarPaar( forming words using vowels & consonants) & Jewel Thief(concept of pairing right set of things). The systems have been carefully designed and the look and feel of it including the seating arrangement(kid-friendly Little-TikesTM furniture)resonates with the interest of children.

CAL model works on the principle where the idea is to deliver the subject specific concepts through situations to which the students are familiar with. Cartoon programs on television are something that most of the kids love to watch and when they get to see these cartoons back in the classrooms they tend to focus more.  A  study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA concluded that Math scores of children who participated in the CAL program improved by a 0.47 deviation. Classroom teaching can sometime become monotonous & boring but the variety available with the CAL model breaks this deadlock. A study by Azim Premji foundation on the outcomes of CAL model state “Most student show improvement in visual motor coordination and non verbal reasoning”.

There are ample of organisations working in the area of Computer-aided learning. Pratham Infotech Foundation is working in over 7 states and has reached out to over 1, 25,000 kids till now. The foundation organises training programs for school teachers known as sancharaks in the usage of these game. Private organisations such as Educomp & NIIT have partnered with various state governments to initiative this program. In Tripura, Educomp is working in 45 government schools whereas NIIT has taken up another 28 schools where they are running this CAL program. Department of Education, Gujarat Government has rolled out computer aided learning in rural government elementary schools covering standards 1 to 7 to attract and retain children. Recently, Chhattisgarh government tied up with Educomp solutions in a bid to implement ICT(Information & Communication Technology) solutions to 582 schools in the state in a deal worth Rs. 60.72 crore. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) the flagship program of the government of India whose objective is to achieve universalization of elementary education has also earmarked Rs. 50 lakh per district per year under its functional head of “Innovation”. This amounts to roughly Rs. 320.5 crore( taking all 641 districts) available for the ICT solutions every year.

The conventional classroom teaching still weighs heavily against the CAL program as their is a limitation in terms of the mobility of these set-ups. Books, notes, etc. could be carried by kids anywhere they want to but the same is not valid for these bigger installations. On top of it, the reach of computers is very miniscule in India. For every 1000 people only 16 computers are available & only 2.2% of the total public schools in the country possess computer systems. Implementing CAL program in rural areas of the country also require support systems of that magnitude as systems are bound to get errors/ breakdowns.

IBM has tied up with various state governments/NGOs to implement the IBM Kid Smart Learning program. The school that I visited had 15 systems provided by IBM. IBM Kid Smart Learning program was launched in 1998 and has benefitted more than 10 million children in over 60 countries. Educational software making organisations have seen a steady growth in the last decade. Some of these include Riverdeep(initiative of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Sanchar Infotech & Mind Candy( promoters of moshimonsters.com). Rural Education Action Project(REAP) at Stanford University has undergone trials of the CAL program among the migrant students in schools around Beijing,China. It plans to develop educatioal software programs in lieu of the results of the trials conducted by them.

A 2005 study by IMRB puts the drop-out rate of students in government schools in India to 6.9% which went down to 4.3% in 2009. Computer-Aided Learning makes the education more interesting & joyful and possess the ability to reduce the drop out & repetition rates for school going kids. Computer-Aided Learning model is definitely an effective way to improve the learning levels of school going kids.

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One Response to “Computer-Aided Learning (CAL)”

  1. Ashish September 13, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

    Nice read!

    However I believe that no machine can replace the joy of learning which a real classroom with real teachers and real classmates can give! Also the lessons learn there are for life and develop child into a complete individual who can handle the real world better than those who are educated through a computer!

    Imagine the joy of doing a basket on courts. Can a ‘basket’ on screen ever give even 1/100 th of that joy? And we are not even talking about actually learning to do a basket. That can happen only on the courts!

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