The Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs in developing countries. In this blog, Heather Levin, an applications engineer at Intel, recaps her team’s first week of experiences in India working with CARE in Hardoi.
As we walked through the gates of the Sarvodaya Ashram on Tuesday morning, it was clear that we had entered a sanctuary. Four groups of 25 girls were seated on the floor, engaged with each other, their teacher, and their studies. Perhaps these girls have known suffering but you would never have known it from their faces. It was clear that the Udaan school – supported by CARE India and designed to help girls catch up from a gap in their schooling – has created a nurturing family where the girls feel safe and are able to focus on their development.
The girl’s faces were shy and curious as they began their first computer class. Within minutes, they were engaged and actively exploring what we had shown them. We had prepared more advanced lesson plans, but we had to adapt and adjust as so many of the fundamental skills that are engrained in us are new to them. In addition, we had created an Excel wedding budget lesson plan, but the girls informed us that weddings come only after their studies.
So we focused on practical skills like navigating the desktop, using a mouse, opening, saving, and formatting but always ended class with an activity that thrilled them. The girls were mesmerized by the use of the classmate PC’s camera, snapping pictures of themselves, their teachers, and us.
The typing and math games we introduced not only reinforced the children’s ability but inspired a teacher, who had previously stated that she only wanted one hour of computer usage per week, to say that she would start using the software as part of her math curriculum. The girls quickly grew more confident and began navigating the computer and practicing addition, subtraction, and multiplication. We tried to plant at least one seed in their imagination, and each day they left class sparkling with delight, waving, and shouting Namaste to us.
On our last day we taught the girls basic robotics by having them build crocodiles, monkeys, and planes from a LEGO Education product called WeDo, which contains not only LEGO pieces but a USB-powered motor with various sensors and a visual programming interface that runs on the classmate PC. Yesterday, none of the girls knew what robots were, but today they built and programmed their own. The click of their minds as new neural networks were manifested, on some level, seemed to shift our future. Set in motion, inspired by the congregation of forces – locals, CARE, Intel, and us – there is no bound to what these girls can do. Each girl that we help helps another, and thus, not only the girls themselves, but our dreams of a better world, take flight.