Reflecting on India

20151120-110650199As I reflect on my time in India, I have an overwhelming sense that my empathy bucket has runneth over.    It is not that I don’t care, I do deeply.  It is that after a 10 days being immersed in the culture, I no longer am able to fully categorize and process what I saw in the days leading up to my departure.   Blogging stopped from all delegates, including me — we simply were tired and overwhelmed with all that we had taken in.

The last few days were spent at private schools where more resources were available.  Students wore neatly pressed,  brightly colored uniforms and had tech from robotics to PCs to Raspberry Pies (single chip computer).20151119-162205156

I’m feeling fortunate to have had this experience and opportunity to learn about India’s educational system from the public schools to private schools.

I also feel honored to have been able to address 200+ educators on the digital divide at a conference.   A key take away for me is that the digital divide, although far greater in India than America, is the same for any individual child caught it in.   It does not matter if you are in India, America, or someplace else in the world — if you don’t have access to the internet then you are at an educational disadvantage leading to many not fully participating in the digital/online economy.   This has profound implications for any nation that has a portion of its population not engage in the economy.

20151115-083629198I’ll leave this blog by saying, with all the challenges we saw in India, the students are resilient, engaged, and want to learn.    Plan B for when tech failed was always on the educators minds, not using it as an excuse but for a way to be creative when internet or power dropped.   The human spirit and soul are alive, strong, and will take India’s next generation into the future with new skills and techniques.   It may take a couple generations but India is on the way to having a mostly educated society like much of the developed world.

Here’s to India and the strides they have made to educate their people.

Andrew

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Similar and Different

Over the last two days our delegation visited three different schools to understand how technology is being used to further the educational experience.    Some facts for context are helpful:

  • 400 million students – larger than America’s total population
  • 1% of all schools have internet – 99% do not
  • 1.1 m public schools; 3m private schools
  • 40,000 new schools are need today to meet educational demand

The first school we visited was the Ramjas SchoIMG_4871.JPGol in New Delhi which serves a more affluent population.  They have an HP partnership and are piloting a 1:1 initiative.   The conversation was rich and like many similar discussions I’ve had with my Ed Tech team in Colorado.   Training for teachers, common processes to follow, and students ahead of teachers all sounded familiar. Great experience with the administrators making us feel welcome.

OIMG_4924.JPGur second school, Government Senior Secondary School in Haryana, was serving primarily first generation learners.  It was in a relatively poor section of India.   But I did not feel that was a hinderance and the students spoke to us in Hindi with
their passion coming through strongly.  I could not have felt more welcome to learn from thIMG_4905em.  They also have internet all
owing  coding in HTML and Scratch to be taught.They moved from Microsoft products to Google for collaboration on team projects.  Very powerful and emotional.   Their tech team is showing other schools in the area how to make the digital leap.

Our last meeting on Monday was with a private non-profit foundation called Learning Links Foundation.  They explained the challenges of the 99% without internet and shared the statistics above.  Tools like the Smart suite are used heavily which makes sense if you don’t have internet.   The digital divide is obviously much greater in India, but for any one student not connected to the vast educational resources the internet provides, be it in America or India, it is a hinderance to their learning and being productive in the 21st century economy.

This morning we visited Rabea Girls Public School which is an all girls Muslin school in Old Delhi.  The 2000 student school serves middle class families.   It was enlightening to learn from these ladies how online safety, values, and technology including Java and C++ were all part of there curriculum.  I felt welcomed by the principal, teachers and students and I’m appreciative of the opportunity to go into a Muslim area of India and learn how the education of women has evolved.  The journey to get there is a story in itself but for now, I’ll only share it through a picture. 20151117_101219

I am beyond humbled by my experience in the schools so far.

Andrew

 

 

 

Taj Mahal – Incredible

IMG_4509We embarked on the short drive to the Taj Mahal this morning.   Leaving our nearly new hotel the first thing I noticed was the rubble across the street highlighting the dichotomy of what I was about to see with want was staring at me.  We were back on the narrow roads until the bus could no longer get through.  Onto rickshaws, 3-4 in each was an adventure in itself.   Monkeys, camels and dogs lined the roads.  Security was tight but not overbearing as we made our way to gates.  Once getting into the complex my first thought IMG_4605 (1)was it’s sheer size and beauty made it look like a painting set on a canvas outlined by the morning haze in the air.   Stunning for sure.   To think this is a marble mausoleum built in the 17th century, without the help of modern day construction, makes the impact that much more impressive.   I will never forget this day as I carry forward what the human spirit can achieve when one’s will overcomes hurdles, no matter how large.

As we transition from the physical beauties of India to visiting schools on Monday, I am excited to start my learning about the education system in this fascinating country.

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Andrew

PS.  I was asked about the pictures in my last blog.   All of the pictures I am sharing on this site are taken with a Canon 70D/18-135mm lens.

Eyes Wide Open on Day 1

Day 1 in India exceIMG_4349eded my expectations in many ways as we made our way by bus form New Delhi to Agra to visit Fatehpur Sikri.   The ride took us through many miles of farmland where cows, goats, and camels captured our view intermixed with traffic, honking horns, and vibrantly colored sarees draped on the women riding on the back of countless motorcycles. The smog was thick making the the sunrise and sunset both glow and beautiful reminding me of a Denver inversion, only 100 times more intense.

The people are beyond friendly and those that work tourists for Rupees are cunning and IMG_4139
friendly.   My empathy for those on the streets working to make a dime arose to levels I’ve not felt before.  I knew giving any money to one would only invite more, but I gave all my American coin to 3-4 boys creating a larger group looking for more.   Another worked a colleague until she was comfortable getting 4 bracelets for less than a 1/4 of the initial price.

Fatehpur Sikri was stunning as a 16th century Imperial complex.  The city was sprawling giving us a glimpse into a time past with stray dogs, parakeets, and locals sharing ouIMG_4196r space.  This one picture does not  come close to expressing this wonderful glimpse to the past.

My eyes were wide open as I experienced the day –  a day like no other I’ve lived.  I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to day 2 at the Taj Mahal.

Expanding my Boundaries by Visiting India

I’m blogging on my traditional site but will cross post here for this trip.

In two weeks I will be boarding a plane (or two) to visit a country that is 11.5 hours ahead of my timezone. Typical reactions I receive when I tell people I’m going to India—a place far from Boulder, Colorado—range from “that is not for me” to “I wish I could go”.

I also get many comments like, “That is so cool!: “ What will you learn?” or my favorite, “I’ve been there and you will love it. Let me tell you about…”

I’ve asked myself why I’m willing to leave the comforts of home to explore something so different, and the answer is simple: I have a strong desire to push my own boundaries to explore, learn, and hopefully return with a new way of perceiving and interacting with my world. A trip like this could change the way I view and solve problems, including those I face in my role at Boulder Valley School District.

IndiaCitiesMap.jpgThis personally funded trip is led by CoSN (Consortium of School Networking), an organization I belong to that supports K-12 technology professionals through advocacy, tools, and support. CoSN visits a country each year to learn about how the educational system functions and how technology is used.
We will visit three diverse cities—Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai—each with different cultures, food, and even religious followings. We will spend time at schools with students and administrators, and we will visit historical and cultural sites, including the Taj Mahal. This trip promises to be anything but routine.
After months of preparation and many vaccinations, I am ready to leave on November 12. I hope you will follow me on my 12-day journey through these social media tools:
Please chime in here with your thoughts. What country you have visited that has changed the way you view the world.
Andrew