“Parikrma does not have an ‘a’ before ‘m’ akka”, Phalitha corrected me. Sitting between seven school children who kept a watchful eye over my notes, I forgot that I was the one who should ask the questions.
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Phalitha G A, Soumya N, Vinod C, Vignesh S, Nikhil G, Manohar J Achar, Sreenivas and Nehminlen Haokip (“he’s from the north-east akka”) – all studying in 8th and 9th standards were a part of eight-member-student team that participated in the recent TEDIndia conference held at Infosys’ Mysore Campus. They also created history by becoming the youngest guests to have participated in such an event.
About TED and Parikrma
For the TED uninitiated, it’s a worldwide forum devoted to ‘Ideas worth spreading’. It began in 1984 as a conference that brought ideas and inspirations of people from three worlds – Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED).
TED Conferences are held across the globe. Some of the earlier TED conferences were held in California and Tanzania. Both the speakers and the audience are truly remarkable people, who attend the forum to showcase their ideas and also act as attentive audience. Some of the famous speakers in the past TED forums have been Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Bill Clinton. This year at TEDIndia, Shashi Tharoor, Hans Rosling and Mallika Sarabhai participated amongst others.
That these school children participated in such an event is not just remarkable but also inspirational considering that Parikrma is far from being a school for elite students.
Parikrma, headquartered in Sahakarnagar, Bangalore, is a non-profit educational institution founded by Shukla Bose with a vision of transforming lives of under-served people in urban India. The school challenges the glass ceiling set for quality education and language of instruction for the urban poor. As Shukla Bose put it, “If children world-over get good education, exposure to technology, they can do just as well as anybody”. Parikrma has four schools in the city – Koramangala, Sahakarnagar, Jayanagar and Nandhini Layout.
About students’ contribution
Sitting on the round plastic stools with these friendly kids, I could see her vision completely achieved in this group. They were very enthusiastic about the making of this video. “It was a CISCO initiative, akka”, explained Phalitha, referring to the global networking giant Cisco Systems, which has a major presence in Bangalore. She was the unofficial spokesperson for the group while others chipped in their bit. “They have this software where many people can login and video conference and also use it as a remote desktop. They wanted to show how they could use it in the field of education.”
As she spoke, I learnt that two other schools that were chosen for this initiative were from Australia (Silverton Primary, Melbourne) and South Korea (International School of Songdo). Cisco provided the team with their Cisco WebEx collaboration technology which has features such as remote desktop sharing. Cisco wanted to present to the world that by using technology students from any part of the world could exchange information.
The Parikrma students were also given a handheld camera – Flip Video, which is as small as a cell phone – to film a video on the environment theme. The children created a script with five characters Mother Earth and her sons – water, a human child, a wood cutter and a nature lover. The video is about the efforts of these characters to solve water pollution. Soumya and Nikhil filmed the video while the others enacted the various characters. A Cisco team helped the students with the software.
At the conference, the children also participated in a brainstorming mechanism, called the Mindmap. It had the environment as the core theme and the three schools put forth ideas, literally on the remote desktop, on how they could help the environment.
While the Parikrma team provided their ideas on effective garbage disposal such as segregation of recyclable waste and transforming wet waste as garden manure, they also learnt that the Korean team had 14 different classifications for garbage segregation!
Responding to a Citizen Matters query about the workshop through email, Toby Burton, Vice President, Cisco Globalisation Center East says that today, students have opportunities to learn from students in other schools, teachers and experts from around the world. "The workshop lasted for 45 minutes, included an interactive question and answer session with the audience where the children also answered audience questions", notes a clearly pleased Burton.
TEDIndia’s venue – the Infosys campus at Mysore – was a first time experience for the children. Huge, full of greenery, eco-friendly, cricket ground, tennis court, floating restaurant – were some words with which they summed up their sense of the venue. To attend such a conference in such a vast campus, one would have been slightly awed and tongue tied.
So how was the experience for the kids? Impressed, excited, fantastic, fantabulous, informative, very interesting were the responses. Awed or stagestruck was certainly on their plate. The children showed confidence and poise.
Click here to see the video on YouTube. ⊕
Updated Dec 1st 2009 with response from Cisco Vice President, Toby Burton.