Wake up and rush to a tuition centre at 6 a.m., get back for a hurried breakfast, off to school to cover portions, tests and exams, back home for a quick snack and off to another tuition class. Manage to squeeze in some screen and game time with your friends in between. Does this routine sound familiar? But surely, come coronavirus lockdown, life has changed. In many cases, students have online tutoring sessions for their curricular learning.
A Dell Technologies report claims that 85% of jobs in 2030 have not been invented yet. We did not know that we would be under such a strict lockdown, two months back. As life around us is changing, it is important for students to use this time to focus on computational thinking methods, work on better ways to explore their innate creativity and articulate their ideas better.
Can you imagine a situation where you can spend time playing games on the computer and convince your parents you are actually learning artificial intelligence (AI), neural networks and writing algorithms? You are in luck. Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), a flagship initiative of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), Government of India, has released #Tinkerfromhome learning modules on AI and gaming.
AI is a new buzzword in the higher education sector. It is not just for the software engineers but is a must-have skill for all. We can see AI applications in agriculture, medicine and automotive sector. The #TinkerfromHome module, suitable for students from class VI to XII, teaches concepts of AI in byte-sized units. These are good primers to learn AI, dabble in programming and create gaming modules. The modules have been prepared in collaboration with NASSCOM and are available on the AIM website under the Atal Tinkering Lab curriculum. Besides, video tutorials and live YouTube sessions are available on the AIM’s YouTube channel.
The do-and-learn approach using tutorials and activities are captivating. The weblinks that give an opportunity to experience AI in action are fun. Simple explanations of complicated terms like neural networks, binary programming and algebra are the winning features of the module.
The self-paced modules can be done by students on their own. Students can start their baby steps in programming with Scratch and Python. Scratch is a visual programming software that helps students to create their own animations and visual stories. Assignments are an opportunity to demonstrate creativity. Practise sessions are often games you can play online with friends. The module gives the students just enough background in algebra, probability and statistics to understand machine learning. It is also wrapped up with a note on the ethics of using AI with a few real-life scenarios.
The modules were released to NITI Aayog’s Atal Tinkering Lab students initially but are available to all students and schools from the AIM website. Schools like Kaligi Ranganathan Montford Matriculation School, Chennai, have introduced these modules through their class WhatsApp groups. Sai Praseedha, a class VIII student, has completed the module in record time. Her assignment in which she has imagined an AI pen was featured on the ATL Facebook page.
The COVID lockdown, though has been tough on the economy and life in general, has ensured more focus on online education. A focus on recognising creativity and new ideas will for sure develop new age students that we are all looking for .
The writer is a Mentor of Change with Atal Innovation Mission.