Blog

Say Yes to Scratch

September 12, 2017

The Binary Story is one of our new initiatives and we are proud to introduce our girls to a skill which has immense potential. Understanding basic computer skills and programming leads to better logical and systematic reasoning, clearer communication, more creative thinking and better collaborative working. Through the support of volunteers and a world-class software package – Scratch – the girls also learn mathematical concepts, computer commands and new vocabulary. We believe learning to program – a skill that even many of their peers from more expensive schools do not possess – will offer them tangible benefits as well as the confidence and interest in innovation which will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Scratch is a programming language designed and maintained by the Life Long Kindergarten group at MIT Media Labs. This program is available for free to teach computer coding to children between the age group of 8 to 16 years. We have collaborated with Softklas who have curated a basic curriculum on computer coding for children using Scratch as a platform.

Till now, 10 learning sessions have been conducted on a fortnightly basis for the girls along with practice sessions every alternative day. An assessment session was conducted on the 4th learning session (February 2017). Since all our girls come from Marathi and Hindi medium government schools, English language has been a major obstacle for them. These girls also had zero exposure to computer systems which created a lot of difficulty for them, especially in terms of grasping concepts. The results of the first assessment session helped to map out the exact areas where the girls needed more support. The second assessment session highlighted multiple improvements among the girls. The girls not only have an increased clarity in concepts but there is a remarkable development in their personalities as well. Even though the process of improvement has been slow over the pilot phase, the results have been brilliant. From literally not knowing anything about computers, after a couple of months, the girls have not only learnt the basics of Scratch programming but also can now also replicate coding scripts and videos. There is a sense of ownership among them for what they are doing and level of interests have soared up multiple levels.

They appeared for their final assessment in July 2017 with regular practice sessions and then after further fine tuning, they are going to be taught a relatively advanced version of the basic version of Scratch curriculum. While they prepare to prove their mettle for the next level, each one of them seek your support and involvement!

A Volunteer Speaks

March 15, 2017

Gyanada only works the way we do because of the contribution of volunteers such as Rahul Jain. Rahul helps us teach Scratch to our kids, curates content with our full time staff, and also helps us with writing about our activities.

1. Briefly describe your experience at The Gyanada Foundation.

Being associated with a social cause has been on top of my bucket list since quite some time. It was December 2016 when I successfully checked it off, and how! Creating a difference within the community, and a conscious effort of becoming a red-caped messiah was what drove me towards Gyanada, and in retrospection I would call it one of the best decisions I’ve made for my personal growth and development.

I was closely associated with the coding program, and being passionate about programming I invested a significant portion of my time and effort towards teaching codes to street children (Read: Mini Zuckerbergs), and vetting the course curriculum. Every weekend was special. The girls came with renewed passion to learn a new skill and explore their creative sides, and they weren’t disappointed. To their own disbelief they could brainstorm myriad applications and programs through a set of basic applications and tools taught to them. This display of newly-found self-confidence will be pleasing to any bystander and greatly shapes the crux of my experience at The Gyanada Foundation.

2. Do you think the girls are able to cope up with the curriculum? In what way will Scratch be beneficial to them?

Scratch is an MIT developed program, meant specifically for school children to inculcate the skill of programming at a young age. It aims to make coding both, simple and fun. Girls at Gyanada don’t belong to an affluent background and are primarily street children with no formal education or background in Math or English. Hence, learning how to code is a steep slope. That being said, tremendous efforts have gone in by the kids and the mentors to alter the status quo, and 4 weeks later they’ve become pretty familiar with the idea of coding and the art of developing applications just via a mere input of certain commands and tools.

Scratch is a runway for these young coders to gradually hop on to complex coding languages like Python, Java and C. It will make sure that the foundation on which they start coding is strong, and stable enough for them to track an upward and forward growth trajectory in future, if they ever wish to make a career as a software engineer or programmer.

3. Are you bullish about coding being the intellectual way forward?

Rahul Jain

Meet Rahul, a Gyanada volunteer

The potential is tremendous. Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple, are all outcomes of programming prodigies in the backdrop. Widely regarded as the 8th wonder of the world, coding is definitely the way forward.

4. According to you, what should we do differently to create a significant impact in their lives, professionally?

The girls we cater to represent a fringe group that is under-served and under privileged. They possess the skills and the intellect to take it far, but lack the required self-confidence and motivation to make the most of it. It’s imperative for us to be bullish about their potential and make them believe the same. This will not only propel them to think big, but also help them regain their lost confidence.

5. Anything you would like to highlight in particular (class, student interaction, way ahead, etc.) ?

The potential is huge, kudos to the entire team to think of initiating this noble cause and scaling it big. Needless to say, none of this would’ve been possible without Rinsa and her undying commitment to make things work.

To sum it up, let’s be that superhero in a red cape, someone is banking on you!

Scratch So Far

March 8, 2017

Posted on behalf of Rahul Jain

“In 15 years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing… and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.” – Mark Zuckerberg

From Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, the potential of computer programming has been acknowledged by every leading pioneer and visionary. The idea of creating a masterpiece simply via an input of certain commands, codes and symbols seems nothing short of magic to the average eye.

Gyanada Foundation takes pride in identifying its immense potential and incorporating it early into the lives of young girls who hail from the bottom most strata of our society, and aims to provide them with an invaluable skill set that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Coding and programming at an early age will pave open the way for girls to venture into an alternative career stream full of lucrative opportunities and upward-forward growth trajectories, which unfortunately was never the case earlier. Today, computer programmers and developers net the highest salaries globally, and are demanded across myriad business verticals ranging from investments to big data analysis.

To impart and disseminate coding classes, the program used by us is an open ware developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), called Scratch. The beauty about the software is the attractive user interface which helps children delve deep into the intricacies of coding, without complex commands or programming jargon. The User Interface also makes sure that the child understands the effect of a particular click and the change brought about by it when reversed. The byproduct of these coding lessons is that we also introduce concepts like coordinates, grids, simple math problems, etc. which makes sure that the foundation for bringing about coding depth is strong and steady.

Having successfully completed 3 sessions, we can fairly establish the fact that the children are enjoying this new skill that we’re helping them inculcate. The excitement to come to class, eagerness to learn and intrigued responses, exemplify the same. The Gyanada Team is constantly working hard and thinking of myriad ways to contribute to this endeavor and add on to their learning curve.

We thank Softklas and our venue and corporate partners for their support.

The Power of Stories

November 24, 2016

Story-tellingMore than teaching children the ins and outs of a school textbook, it’s just as important — if not more — to show them how to dream. Dreams are to be found in stories. Over the past year, Gyanada has been facilitating regular storytelling sessions in our centres, especially in Mumbai, Ranchi and Kolkata.

Over the past year, Gyanada has been facilitating regular storytelling sessions in our centres, especially in Mumbai, Ranchi and Kolkata.

The most important component to a successful storytelling session is the storyteller themselves. The storyteller plays a key part in the enjoyment and interaction of children, no matter the story, and helps them question everything from the theme and concept, to punctuation and vocabulary. The storyteller knows where and how to emphasise and with her voice and cadence, guides the tone of the story. This interaction helps children not only discern, but also experience the story on another level. With stories from Pratham Books in English and Hindi, we believe in showing them stories that are relevant to their lives. In turn, a story intrigues, questions and at the same time develops an interest in the child for reading a book by themselves.

With stories from Pratham Books in English and Hindi, we believe in showing them stories that are relevant to their lives. In turn, a story intrigues, questions and at the same time develops an interest in the child for reading a book by themselves.

We are always looking for volunteers to come to story-telling sessions, either as story-tellers or facilitators (additional training may be required for story-tellers). To sign up, fill up the form here and we will be in touch.

Recap of Scratch Class Mumbai

September 13, 2016

Children Enjoy Learning from Rinsa On 27 August 2016, the Gyanada Foundation conducted our first ever coding class, Coding with Scratch, in Mumbai, India. This was the first collaboration with Softklas, a team of enthusiastic teachers working to introduce computer programming through Scratch & Python to children.

We chose to start with Scratch, a free visual programming language developed at MIT specially for children between the ages of 8 to 16, because the children we work with had not been exposed to programming before this class commenced. We hoped that just as Scratch opened doors towards computer literacy for millions of children around the world, an introductory class would also do the same for them.

We selected a group of 12 children in Mumbai — not just Gyanada students, but also other children in their community such as their siblings and friends. As we learned from our previous experience introducing hardware and electronics to Gyanada children, we believe it is important to open up access to such programs to their friends and family as well — as best as we can.

Despite having no prior programming experience, the children learned to develop a game in a fun and accessible way, gaining skills in using the Scratch project editor and completing their tasks ahead of time. Their enthusiasm and interest shone through — this was not simply about teaching children to code as a means to and end (i.e. to eventually have a programming career in the future), but about providing them with the first step towards greater digital literacy which is much needed in their future.

We thank Gyanada and Softklas facilitators staff for their efforts in preparing the materials and curriculum, all volunteers for dedicating their time and effort to the education of our children. Special thanks as well to Dr Pratiksha Oswal for so kindly hosting our Scratch class.

Have a look at some of the pictures of the class in our gallery below.