This write up was actually a part of an email that we had written on the eve of the closure of the latest application round of Atal Tinkering Labs. (ATL) on 31st August 2017. Our objective was to bring forth the anomaly of sole hardware promotion with little or no emphasis on its training.
Undoubtedly hardware is a key resource in IT, imagine learning all the software engineering theory with little or no practical use of the computer! Conversely just having to say computers with no training on how to use them, would sooner or later make the same redundant, dysfunctional or frustrate the whole process.
So in our email, we started with bringing forth a very basic observation. The extension of dates in ATL application either showed the present Government’s commitment towards STEM / EdTech in schools or the lack of interest of schools about the same! We really did not know whose side to take, but were always for effective & better utilization of technology in the interest of students. Our students are our future and to build a strong future we are certainly passionate about STEM / EdTech.
ATL as we always maintain is a great initiative on part of the Government of India. But as mentioned before, lacks the training component and many schools we personally believe would have to do the capacity building on their own. That continuous capacity building in all the 4 packages being offered by ATL, may cost a school quite a lot. It’s difficult to put a number as there are a few imponderables like no. of teachers required, consumables etc. Given our experience with schools who are requiring the approved vendors to do all the investment (even non allocated ones) for setting up the lab, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen midway in this project!
For convenience sake, it’s a wide spread trend in almost all Indian schools, to get outside vendors, teachers, equipment etc to say for example, teach robotics, aero modeling etc to the students. It’s quite ironical that why teachers on a school’s pay role, can’t learn these activities, to teach their own students and in the process further up skill them? Why there is so much emphasis on mostly following the set curriculum and little digression gives jitters to people? Change by far in the times of the 4th Industrial Revolution has emerged to be quite constant for all. Parents of outwardly students (or vice versa), end up paying separately for say robotics or aero modeling lessons, schools get a fee sharing and it’s a temporary win win for all.
Temporary, because there is no capacity building happening for the school, each year the vendor comes & goes, knowledge remains with the vendors per se and overall there is little value added to the school’s knowledge base. Purely from a marketing perspective, banners & boards are put up outside schools, showing to the world that this school has such & such activities. Seldom prospective customers enquire that are these activities being run by a school’s faculty? In the present times, child safety has become increasingly more important, especially with the recent Gurgaon school student’s murder incident. Imagine a bunch of children being taught by a non verified trainer, whose not a part of the school’s faculty, each week a new person comes in lieu of the former! Few parents must be aware of this and are sending their child for an after school activity or summer camp to a trust worthy school.
Coming back to our point, we at I Print My Things advocate 3D printing training to the teachers, aligning the training to the curriculum and delivering the total content to the school. This adds to the existing knowledge base of the school and a few teachers end up training hundreds of students. For example Pathways Schools, Indian School Muscat, Shalom & DPSi (shortly) got their teachers trained from us so that:
- They can train / teach their own students their own way.
- They decide the pace of teaching.
- Their knowledge base increases and remains with them for a longer time span.
So in the eyes of schools, we end up being a faster and an expensive training medium, but in the long run our customers experience greater satisfaction, learning and longevity of the knowledge. We also do not offer free 3D printers or compel our clients to install the same. For us teaching design is the key and the 3D printers or 3D printing can always be outsourced. We always mention that the developed world possesses the knowledge and say the designs, which they get very conveniently executed through the developing world (India & China).
So in a nutshell schools getting an ATL lab. is equally important as having it and being trained in using the same. In the process schools get a higher value add. Also the word ‘tinkering’ from ATL is a verb (an action) and so is training. Had the title been ‘Atal Technology Labs.’, where in the word ‘technology’ is a noun, we wouldn’t have stressed so much!
Avikshit Saras – Chief Ideator – I Print My Things: 3D Prototyping
(The author is an international trainer in 3D printing – STEM education)