Smart classrooms, e-learning, digital boards, information and communication technology (ICT) in education—these terms which have become part of the modern day schools were completely unheard terminologies two decades ago. Nowadays, smart classes or the digital intervention in classrooms has transformed the way teachers teach, students learn and the way assessment is done.
But back in 2001, when Chitra Ravi ventured into this e-learning or digital learning space she had to go through a lot of challenges.
“Initially when we would go to explain our ideas in schools, the first thing they would ask is if I hold a B.Ed (Bachelor of Education) degree,” says Chitra Ravi, founder and CEO of EZ Vidya. EZ Vidya conducts workshops for teachers and brings advanced digital learning to the classroom by creating software to help children understand subjects. The organization which caters for students in kindergarten to Class VIII is focused on delivering quality holistic education in Indian schools and aims to address some of the challenges in the education system. “Schools are focused on covering the prescribed syllabus and don’t work on uncovering the education. Children tend to lose their curiosity once they get into the formal education system,” says Ravi, adding students are lacking in practical knowledge.
EZ Vidya through its tool Chrysalis Thinkroom helps children, parents and the teachers with a curriculum that is both innovative as well as interactive. Another tool Buzzle is an assessment tool. Buzzle, added to the curriculum in 2014, is a personalized learning and assessment app through which children can play learning games on hand-held devices, which contain concepts taught in school. It also enables parents to see reports on their child’s ‘conceptual understanding’ and ‘skills’.
EZ Vidya, begun in 2001, has been nominated for the Digital Empowerment Foundation’s mBillionth awards 2016, in the Learning and Education category.
Chitra Ravi who holds a masters in English and an MBA started off her organisation EZ Vidya in 2001, leaving behind a family business in furniture. Later in 2005, she underwent a two-month training programme called Project Zero conducted by the Harvard University exclusively for educators.
The whole idea of founding an innovation organization came from a personal story of Ravi that converted into entrepreneurship. She saw her kids spending almost 80% of their time in schools, with no hands on experience, and in rote learning.
“Initially the thought process was triggered by how pathetic computer education itself was. When we started, computer science was a relatively new field for children. But most of things were communicated to the children only through text books and not through a hands-on experience,” says Ravi. “You would find questions in a computer science book such as, which is the longest key on the keyboard rather than how the computing skills and literacy could be taught,” she adds.
By the time, the ministry of human resource and development launched ICT in schools in December 2004, Chitra Ravi’s EZ Vidya had already tried and tested its digital intervention programme. The ministry subsequently revised ICT in 2010 to provide opportunities to secondary stage students to mainly build their capacity on ICT skills and learn through a computer-aided process.
EZ Vidya which started off with a five-member team has grown into an organization of 130 team members and cater for nearly 800 schools across India. “We have been able to gain huge credibility now. If I had to compare with what we started off more than a decade ago, we have grown in an unimaginable way,” says Chitra. The Chennai-based organization’s corporate partners are Wipro, IBM, American India Foundation, Dell and Nokia among others.
Though EZ Vidya has been able to bridge certain gaps in the system through the digital innovation and intervention, Chitra believes that there is no alternative to the teachers and some of the traditional methodologies and that tablets and gadgets cannot replace books.
Though Chitra feels that technology is definitely needed in education and that it should play a powerful part in terms of standardizing, scaling and in helping teachers, she says that technology should play a leading role from the background.
“Education means a lot of pedagogy, understanding and logic. Technology is something that will only leverage on and it shouldn’t obstruct the learning process,” she adds.
Ravi hopes that the assessment tools in the future will help teachers focus on very specific aspects of a child’s learning, which could be a game changer in education.
Ravi feels that leveraging growth of smart phones has already begun playing a disrupting role in the education space. Also, the organization is looking for the right kind of funding and investors now.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.