The mission of the DE program is to advance the use of technology to engage, enrich and empower India’s under-served children. DE seeks to bridge the digital and educational divide in India by providing computers, software, Internet access and training to children and teachers in underprivileged schools across India. Students who would normally not have access to such technology become proficient at using it in their regular curriculum and thus develop skills that are necessary to be competitive in the 21st century workforce. The program blends information technology literacy training (learning how to use computers) and computer-aided learning (learning to use computers to learn other subjects) so that students learn to use computers, not as an end in itself, but as a means to furthering their education. The DE centers provide training for teachers that couples pedagogical methods with using technology in the classroom. Students, in turn, are trained to use digital technology and the Internet in their education.
DE centers are established in middle and high schools and cater to students between the ages of 10 and 15. The centers consist of computers, Internet connections, software and digital curricula. Each center is supported by a facilitator (one per school) and a coordinator (one per cluster of 5 to 10 schools). AIF supports each school for a period of three years and assists schools in developing other funding sources for self-sustaining the program.
To meet the program’s objectives, trained teachers reshape their pedagogical programs, actively engaging students with interactive and collaborative learning that integrates technology and the Internet into the curriculum. DE is designed around the above three key components: Technology infrastructure, Tools (software) and Training. The program provides participating classrooms with teacher guides and student resources centered on the three aforementioned components units.
The program’s key components include:
- Technology infrastructure
A typical DE center contains 8-10 multimedia computers (or a minimum student to computer ratio of 40:1) loaded with Windows/Linux Operating System, power, broadband networking, Internet connectivity and other peripheral digital technologies (including printers, digital cameras, projection system, digital telescopes, etc.). The computing technology is typically procured at discounted rated through PC OEM partners in India (HCL, HP etc).
- Software and learning tools
All DE centers come equipped with a comprehensive software package that includes Open Office, regional language fonts and browser capabilities in addition to grade-appropriate curriculum software and project-based learning resources that emphasize sound pedagogical techniques.
- Extensive training
A fundamental USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of the DE program is the emphasis on self-sufficiency and capacity-building within the school system via in-depth training. The DE program includes an extensive 3-year training component intended for the different stakeholders within the school system: Students, Teachers and School Administration. The comprehensive training component includes computer basics, use of popular Office tools (MS Office – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Open Office etc), effective use of the Internet as a tool for research, project based learning techniques, use of email and use of various digital technologies to help create rich multimedia content.
Over the last 2 years, as the DE program has evolved, two distinct program delivery models have emerged:
- Full service demonstration model: AIF pays for and implements the DE school in its entirety as a way to demonstrate effectiveness to the local government and community. Typically costs ~ $20K per DE center.
- Large-scale Partnership model: Once the government, community, or other interested donors (corporate or foundation) is impressed by the DE program, they agree to provide the start up and most of the recurring costs in combinations of product donation, human and intellectual capital and cash resulting in a significant (approximately 90%) decrease in the cost.
AIF and the governments of Punjab, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have signed MOUs for large-scale implementation. The Full-Service Program has been operational in Delhi since 2009. A total of 2,077 schools are already in operation. There are plans of expanding the Large Scale program in Delhi and Haryana in the coming months.