Hemant, the co-founder of Tamarind tree was clear when he said, “Usma, this year you must take back at least one concrete digital skill with you, which you can apply in your life after one year of experience here”. This was after our discussion about my aspirations and general interests in life, of which I am still unsure.
I was asked if there is any specific digital tool I would like to learn and in return, if I can share that learning with kids in the school. I was quite nervous to answer that, “I want to learn illustration”, a tad bit scared to reveal that I have “Zero-skill” in drawing and was feeling that now they would know that I was sitting idle all my life when I could have acquired such skills on my own. However, their instant response was, “No worries, you will learn”.
In my second week here, while I was still in the process of understanding the nature of the organization and its educational model, I was assigned to facilitate a group of 8 kids (two more are added now) in 4th Grade. Simultaneously, I got swamped with a variety of digital tools to get familiar with, as this is a full-fledged digital school. “Wasn’t it too early to make me responsible for these kids?”, I thought.
A couple of days later, one of the colleagues proposed that I draw a character that was required for a course in My big campus, our virtual learning platform. The plan was to digitize the drawing, if it’s worth it.
But I still have lot to catch up! Why me?
Why 11 drawings, and that too, to be completed in 3 days?
How is that even possible?
How can you guys rely on me?
You know about my ‘Zero skill’.
Of course, there was a backup plan if the drawing turned out to be really miserable.
Much later, after I completed it, considering the fact that it wasn’t decent enough to be put up, the process I went through, was itself an achievement which inspired me to further practice drawing. I had now started calling it, ‘Unexplored Skill’. Do you see how this is one of the core values of Tamarind tree; to stay motivated in independent learning which truly sparks out the knowledge and skills we already inherit. The learning never stops here. It only keeps expanding, which is why most of the times, there is so much to catch up.
The facilitator’s role is to guide kids with content and encourage them to become independent learners, creators and collaborators of knowledge from a young age. To do that, it’s essential to imbibe those values in ourselves first. The organization lives by the philosophy of open education model which promotes to collaboratively learn, produce and share knowledge with the learners around the world for free. It is meant for social good, and digital is the way to go about it because that’s how the world exists, connects and progresses today.
Tamarind Tree is excessively using Open Educational Resources for teaching various subjects. Like the rest of the open digital learning community, we are also advocating digital literacy. While literacy may mean the ability to read and write, digital literacy encompasses a broader range of skills from finding meaningful content online to gauging and consuming it; creating digital content, working with a responsive digital user and sharing the digital information.
Our everyday events and even thoughts are shaped by the way we interact with our digital technology – from our mobile phones to apps, websites, news, social media and other communication. It has become almost impossible to survive without it. Today, most of such content is designed in a way that we become its consumers, not producers. Many of us are simply growing as users of digital content, without even questioning or realizing our opportunity to own and engage with the digital world on our own terms.
There are, of course, many free online learning tools but for how much of it, do we have the right to demand more or modify what’s there. For instance, only a few of us may be aware that all YouTube learning videos are not free to use. You can access the videos to watch for free, but are you allowed to re-use them. One may want to learn Video making, Animation, Illustration or anything else but one doesn’t have the resources, then Open Educational resources is the place to start.
An example of an open resource application is Telegram, an instant messaging app like Whatsapp. The difference is that Telegram is created by volunteers who have released their source code under open source license in which the copyright holder grants users the right to study, change and distribute the software to anyone for any purpose. Hence, Telegram is owned by both the users and the creators. You can call it a shared property.
If you want to learn ways to share valuable resources with the world for free, just like how I am sharing my story on ‘WordPress’, take out two minutes to watch this video, and I hope that from next time, when you are using an app or working on a software, you become more aware of the content that makes you a free user, producer, collaborator or a hacker. It’s your path of discovery.
To empower the digital learning community, the open education communities around the world are collaboratively creating and sharing free knowledge where any learner can have the freedom to own and modify the content on their own terms. Tamarind tree is a part of this movement because of which, it has been successfully able to run a fully functional, affordable, digital classroom for the first generation learners of Warli tribe in Sogve village of Dahanu, Maharashtra.
The open education model in this village is a living example to democratize the knowledge which can be incorporated in any part of rural India at a low cost. I am hopeful that these kids would become responsive digital users, and won’t get blinded or carried away by fabricated information or digital information.
If you want to know more about digital literacy, visit Tamarind tree and ask a 9-year-old student about how a game is designed. He/ she will walk you through the computer programming and create a game in front of you.