From Computers To Tablets With Charging Rack: Evolution Of ICT Lab For Government Schools
Today the school education ecosystem, the government and the entire social sector knows that our country is at a junction where the next level of India’s inclusive, all round growth shall be driven by our rural students and the last mile standing youth. Empowering our millions of government school students to be the growth agents and change makers of their regions, communities and the country is the cornerstone to our progress and digital inclusion plays a very strong role in the same.
Hand holding our rural students on how to use digital in a progressive, guided and learning focussed manner has to happen at our government schools. Although over the past few years, Smart Classes and Computer Labs have been setup at thousands of government schools under the ICT Scheme but the ecosystem has noticed various practical issues in these labs which has led to very limited usage and therefore very less actual impact and digital outcomes on the target students and social beneficiaries.
Progressive steps in ICT for Schools by the Government
Recently, the MHRD did a major revamp of all its school education programs by integrating them into the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, and as a part of that process, the government also reviewed the usage and challenges faced historically by the ICT Scheme under RMSA (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan). It was observed that the usage of computers in government schools was quite low due to various challenges like complex hardware, accessories and hardware maintenance, wiring, windows/software issues and electricity dependence.
Therefore, after evaluating all possibilities, the ICT Scheme has been revised with suggested preferred options of tablets/laptops/chromebooks for ICT Lab as an attempt to solve some of these issues. Also, it has been suggested that instead of setting up furniture and blocking a room, the schools should consider lockable charging racks for the tablets/ laptops that the schools use.
Key Suggestions as per the revised ICT Scheme
- Easy to use & manage Digital Hardware like Tablets - The policy now suggests that instead of only computers, the state governments and Union Territories should consider Tablets/Laptops/Notebooks/PCs along with other supporting hardware for easy to setup and usage.
- Lockable Storage and Charging Racks - Typically where fixed hardware, wiring and charging points were setup for computers, it is suggested that government schools use lockable storage and charging racks, which have inbuilt charging points for all tablets/laptops to easily store, manage and simultaneously charge all the hardware devices.
- Integration to Solar Power Units - It is suggested that where electricity connection and regularity is an issue, the charging racks of tablets/laptops can be integrated with a rooftop solar unit. Since tablets/laptops can run for hours once charged, therefore a solar unit source can make them completely electricity independent propelling regular charging and usage in all situations.
- Movable or Corner fixed Racks for ICT Lab to avoid blocking new Rooms - Since space and infra is a constraint in majority government schools, therefore it is suggested that the charging racks of the tablets/laptops for ICT lab are either movable with wheels and therefore can be kept in the principal room or the existing ICT room, else it can be fixed to a corner in any classroom where maximum usage can happen on rotational basis. This will greatly simplify space requirement and maintenance issues of the ICT Lab.
Effective & Research driven implementation for on ground impact
With the policy shift in place, it is now about implementing the ICT Labs in alignment with the revised scheme, to ensure transformational usage and improvement in student’s adoption of digital learning. The states and union territories hold the key in how well the scheme is actualized and how progressively the changes are accepted and implemented for the desired outcomes.
In the near future, we see the computer labs evolving into TabLabs with easy to use offline learning content on tablets stored in an auto charging and lockable storage racks. If we plan our projects being conscious of the psychology of our government school teachers, students and administrators, and implement the digital solutions to complement and empower them while solving their daily issues, it can indeed break open the usage and impact barriers to bring inclusion and growth in the hands of our growth hungry rural learners.