METRO PLUS

'Kalam Sir' takes a class

Over 2000 Indian school students last week participated in an event, the like of which has never been seen in this country. It was an experience shared by Roshna, Rohini, and 45 other Class 12 students from Bangalore's National Public School. And by Maruti, a student of the rural Morarji Desai Residential School -- and 140 of his schoolmates. And by many more from across the length and breath of Karnataka. They all had a joint computer class. The teacher was A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the President of India.

The Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bangalore was converted into a gigantic interactive classroom, with 600 select students from all over the state -- two to a PC-- and many more watching from the galleries, being guided by the President through a crash one hour session to introduce them to the Internet. "What do you want me to talk about?" Kalam asked the kids as soon as he arrived, straight from inaugurating Bangalore IT.com -- the city's annual computer mela, "About Internet or about Life?" About half the juvenile audience shouted that they preferred to know more about him. "No -- first Internet, then Life", Kalam decided, flashing the opening slide of his powerpoint presentation: 'Welcome, my dear friends, join me to explore the world of the Internet..." In next to no time, Kalam was deep into the concepts -- firing off questions: "What is a browser...what is a portal... what are search engines...?" Not comfortable, lecturing from the podium, Kalam plunged amidst the ranks of the children, and thanks to a wireless microphone, continued teaching as he moved from one student to another, helping each to answer the interactive questions. "Let us learn how to search for information on the Internet... go to google.com and enter "Bangalore Schools" -- see if you can find information about your school. Got it?". Soon the students were exploring websites on Indian technology...biotechnology, space science, defence research. They were guided by the President to use web sites like howstuffworks.com to find out about everyday devices and instruments. By then the kids who had easily lost their shyness, were shooting questions at him: "How does interactive TV work, Kalam Sir", What is nanotechnology? We have a President who is unfazed by questions like that. It was time to wind up the session. Kalam flashed his final message on the huge screen: "Dream, dream, dream...Dreams turn into thoughts and thoughts translate into action." Then he was gone as swiftly as he had come. The Students Internet World continued at the venue for another four days, albeit with other teachers. But for the lucky few who attended the first class, it was an experience they will cherish all their lives. And those of us who were watching from the wings won't forget it either.

A. VISHNU

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