“Breaking Barriers – One line of code at a time”
Computer science and technology is a vast and ever-growing field, and it continues to govern the direction in which we are developing and progressing in the 21st century. However, this technology is accessible to a very small section of society: the so called privileged. This stunted spread of computer literacy makes the accessibility to code literacy even lesser.
Coding, a fundamental facet of computer science, is our future, and it is imperative that everyone gets access to it. This age is the Information Age, the Age of Technology, and it is our responsibility to ensure that wherever and whenever possible, we try to blur the line drawn between the privileged and the underprivileged, where everyone gets the opportunity to understand computers and code; and can manipulate the two, as both of these are the driving forces of our ever-changing society.
It is with this thought process that I decided to venture into initiating the children of government schools, especially the ones who are denied access to technology, into coding. I started working on this project in May 2017 and over the course of the past 7 months I have gotten the opportunity to initiate the children of the Nallagandla Primary School and Kokapet Upper Primary school into coding. This journey for me has been the most fulfilling.
A brief account of my first session with the children says it all –
“The day finally arrived! I went to the Nallagandla Primary School for my very first session with the children. Today, I would be teaching the 4th and 5th graders. I had everything prepared, was excited, and ready to get started!
As soon as I got into the classroom, I knew exactly what to do. I had reached half an hour early in order to make sure that all systems were up and running, and in a few minutes, everything was under control. As time passed, I began noticing steady rises in the number of voices I heard outside the room, and with each new voice my excitement rose to a whole new level! Once I got all the systems ready, I decided it was time to call the children inside. I was assisted by Mr. Vasu, the school teacher, and Mrs. Lalitha.
The children were all extremely enthusiastic and sat on the dusty floor, waiting for me to start. I smiled and began. It was an amazing experience. I would speak in English, and then I would glance over at my Telugu excerpts and begin saying the instructions in Telugu to the children. I began in a very conversational and interactive manner by asking the children questions of whether they had ever used the computers and what they learnt using them. I switched on the projector, and began explaining the platform that we would be using, moving on to the concept of blocks and characters, and most importantly, code.
I was all smiles when I saw the children scrambling off to the computers as soon as I told them to start, but nothing made me prouder than watching the children as they explored the games while I told them the instructions and introduced the characters. The gleam in their eyes as they dragged and added blocks, and their shouts of glee when they completed a level, made me feel very accomplished indeed! But more than anything, I was moved by their drive and modesty. They would not hesitate to ask me questions, calling out not my name, but saying ‘brother’. If they felt that a matter of discussion was very urgent, they would tug at my shirt to get my attention and that was just heartwarming!
They did not bother that I was not conversant in Telugu, asking questions in a mix of Telugu and broken English and I in turn would try to gauge what they were asking by looking at the screen and give a response in English and some Telugu. It was, humorously, the perfect combination! Because most of the conversation was about blocks, the language barrier did not stop the session from going smoothly, and that was really very comforting!
In all honesty, the children, and not just the teaching made the experience most enjoyable. They were the purpose, the reason and the motivation. The session was a huge success because they wanted to learn, and that meant the world to me.
The children could complete two games in the nick of time. The children completed the assessment with a lot of zeal and that lifted my spirits. Before we parted, however, I decided to give each child a token of appreciation and love for learning with me, a chocolate. Each and every chocolate, though may seem a very small gift, was really bursting with the flavor of love and gratefulness, to serve as a reminder to the children that they should never let go of their dreams, that they must keep learning and exploring, most importantly, into unventured fields. A simple chocolate sparked a fiery smile on their radiant faces and twinkling eyes.
It was extremely bitter-sweet to watch the children leave as they said their last goodbyes. As I sat in my car watching the last few children depart on a cycle, I experienced that feeling of accomplishment and a sense of pride. Pride for the fact that children were able to complete the two games and really wanted to learn more; and accomplishment because not only was I able to teach them successfully but, in turn I realized that they taught me so much! In that short session, I realized that in the end we are all the same, all of us want to learn, all of us have the ability to learn and achieve all that we want to achieve, it is just that some of us are fortunate to get these opportunities easily while others are not.
The fact that the children so smilingly hauled their burdens over their shoulders made me think of how I was so fortunate to experience this magic.
Unarguably, I went a teacher and came back a learner…”