Educator Manoj Panchal and project associate Tejas Perod explain how the Amazon Future Engineer program integrates technology into everyday learning to enable public school children to gain skills in coding, computer science and robotics.

This article is sponsored by Amazon India.

For Manoj Panchal, one of the highlights of teaching at Zila Parishad Primary School in Baholi, Maharashtra, is watching the faces of his students light up with joy when they learn something new. “It makes me feel like my goal of becoming a teacher has been achieved,” he says.

Manoj tells how his classroom transformed from a textbook-oriented learning environment to one that infused technology with everyday knowledge, and says he credits the Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) program for this.

Under this programme, Amazon has launched the Certificate Course for Coding Fundamentals (C3F) for Government School Teachers in January 2022. This course aims to provide teachers from various rural Pune schools with a platform where they can learn about the basics of computer science. (embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0hrp03lcQI (/embed)

Over the next five months, the teachers spent a total of 40 hours learning coding, various software techniques, and design principles which they would then pass on to the children in their one-on-one classrooms.

In May, Manoj and other teachers stood on the cusp of a new style of teaching. They felt “the future is ready”.

He says that when he returned to teaching his class armed with new coding insights and computer science breakthroughs, the students sat up straight.

Learning is now fun.

21st Century Skills

Children in rural India are excited to learn the concepts of computing and coding
Children in rural India are excited to learn the concepts of computing and coding.

The Amazon program is run jointly with DIET Pune – the district academic body responsible for the professional development of teachers.

It was a “step in the right direction,” says Tejas Peraud of Leadership for Equity – an NGO that works to improve the quality of education – and project assistant for the AFE programme.

Take, for example, Mr. Manoj, who has always been a technically savvy teacher who is well versed in the use of various applications. The AFE course has given his skills a boost and now, along with the knowledge and understanding of coding himself, he can share this knowledge with his students. This circular model achieves Course objective.

In the following months, Tejas says, teachers noticed a distinct difference in their classes.

“Manoj’s classes were a riot—students who used to learn concepts through a textbook were now seen incorporating coding into subjects like math,” he notes. “For example, to draw a square by hand, students follow a series of steps that are essentially an algorithm. But the same square can be drawn much faster and easier using a set of symbols.”

Not only does this simplify the learning process, he adds, it teaches children to apply the skills they learn.

However, when one places this change in teaching units in the context of rural India, there are many variables at play. For example, what about hardware access and technology acceptance?

Students are now learning computer science and practicing the concepts with the help of their teacher
Students are now learning computer science and practicing the concepts with the help of their mentor. Image credits: Stills from Amazon’s “Tools for Tomorrow” video.

“This is where the non-conductive activities come in,” says Tejas. “We keep in mind that although teachers are equipped with knowledge of technology, it may not always be possible for students to obtain the resources to practice it.”

“Technology is something that is no longer in the background.”

“While asking the students about their understanding of the sequence, we conduct a role-playing exercise. One student plays the role of a human and the other plays the role of a robot. This unconnected activity tests their knowledge while making learning fun,” he adds.

In addition, Scratch – the block-based visual programming language – fascinates children with its block-based design. The program aims to teach students the basics of coding and computing. Manoj uses the software to help children create animations, games, and interactive stories.

“While 576 teachers from Pune have enrolled in the course, 3,000 students have been affected in the process. Access is wide,” says Tejas, adding that the AFE program has goals that “go beyond the horizons of the classroom.”

“Yes, it equips kids with the necessary skills that they need to have a career in engineering or robotics, let’s say. But what it also does in the process is arm teachers with 21st century skills. That’s the broader goal.”

Students can also practice the concept of coding through offline activities
Students can also practice coding concepts through offline activities. Image Credits: Still images from Amazon’s “Tools for Tomorrow” video.

Tejas adds that in the coming months, these coding sessions will be officially incorporated into timetables in schools. Right now, it’s up to the teacher’s discretion as to how often they want to take these lectures.

Meanwhile, anyone who walks past Manoj’s chaps will be in for a spectacle.

A projector on the board filled with text and visuals related to science and math topics. Fascination with learning these concepts is reflected on the faces of the students, who scramble to get a closer look at what is going on.

Will classrooms in India soon reverse this shift?

“Computer science is a part of life now. Technology is no longer something in the background, but rather the highlight of our lives,” says Tejas.

“The sooner we equip India’s children with these skills, the better the future will be for them.”


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