Online Education

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Online Education

NEIL D’SOUZA: Welcome,
everyone. I think we heard two really
great talks about how the internet is penetrating into
the last mile and the government is taking initiatives
to do it. What I want to tell you is my
story about my discovery of how online education and the
power and the potential it has to truly transform and change
education at the last mile. So we all know today there’s
amazing content coming online. You’ve heard of Khan Academy. There’s CK-12. Every day, teachers are putting
up lessons on YouTube. That’s one side of it. The second part is the amount of
devices and how cheap they are becoming. We have Google with Nexus. We have the iPads. And we have our very own Archos
tablet, which took me two years to finally
get hold off. But they’re pretty good. So while all of this is an
exciting time for education, my question and challenge was
how is this affecting the people at the base of the
pyramid, the ones that truly need it right now? Because if we wait for five to
10 years for infrastructure to get set up, what’s going to
happen is you’re creating a bigger divide. The ones that have
access right now are going to flourish. The ones who don’t are going
to keep falling behind. And we have 220 million
kids in school. So five years means close to 20
million kids without access to something like this. So the question I asked myself
two years ago when I was in Silicon Valley was, how can
we create the 21st century learning environment anywhere
in the world? You see up here a typical public
school right in the middle of Bombay. And this is an epitome of
everything that can go wrong in terms of infrastructure
to bring online education in there. So the challenge was how
do we transform this? And as we started experimenting
with different ways of bringing internet into
the school, what I realized is to get online education
right, we need to get the experience correct. Now, education is an
experiential activity. But somehow when we think about
online education, we tend to forget it. We think about just delivering
as a service. We think of delivering
content. But really what matters and what
Google has shown us over the last 15 years is that if you
get the experience right, you get your users and you
get people to spend more time on it. So what does experience
really mean? Experience for us
meant access. Access is unrestricted bandwidth
in a classroom. Now, how are we going to do this
when there is no internet connectivity? The second thing was pedagogy. We cannot take online learning
as it is and put it in a traditional Victorian education
system and hope to transform education. That is the biggest fault we
have done in the last 10 years of trying to show videos on
a smart class solution. Because you know what? Children don’t interact
with it. It’s just a teacher-aiding
tool. So how do we design different
pedagogy models to allow and to enable children to learn
in the online environment? And the last and the most
important piece was data. We don’t have data. At the last mile, there has
been no data about how children are learning, what
they’re consuming, what content they like. And without that, you cannot
improve the first two. You cannot improve access. You cannot improve the
pedagogy models. So it was important to get all
of these three bits right to truly get an online
environment. So the first problem. Well, there’s no internet
in most of these places. So we can’t take these
classrooms into the cloud. So what we developed at Zaya
was, let’s bring the cloud into the classroom. So we developed this really
ultramobile, lightweight, battery-operated micro-Wi-Fi
service. Now, what does this do? So basically, you can
take this box. It’s like a Wi-Fi device. It’s cloud enabled so you can
put a SIM card in there, and it’s always connected through a
limited data connectivity to the mobile network. Now, on this box, you have a
learning platform, which draws all the content from all over
the world relevant to that community or that classroom, and
gives the user a very good experience in interacting
with that content. You can now access this content
over any device that has a browser. So if you have desktop computers
which have been lying there for the last 10
years, we can get them online and start learning. Now, the cool thing about this
is it runs on a battery pack. So if you know and if you have
ever been to a school in rural India where there is no
electricity, every 10 minutes there’s about a power outage,
and the learning experience for the child just goes down. So we figured if we need to
really get online education right through this box that we
have developed, we need to take into account each and
every aspect of things. So like Sam today mentioned
early in the morning, that when we do have this broadband
infrastructure, these microclouds that we have
developed actually fit amazingly well into
the ecosystem. Because what it does is it gives
unrestricted bandwidth to all these children who are
learning through any device in the classroom. Google has done this very well
with distributed cache. And if you’ve ever wondered
why YouTube– your experience while browsing
YouTube is so good, it is because they take the content
that is used most and put it closer to the user. So why don’t we do that
for education? Why can’t we create
these intelligent caches closer to them? So this is how we plan that a
box is going to fit into the larger ecosystem even if every
classroom gets connected. Now, the second bit of it, well,
there’s power outage every five minutes. We did a pilot somewhere two
hours from here in UP. We had a microcloud, and every
time the children sat on the computer, there would
be a power outage. And the teacher went out
running, turned the generator on, and then you have
this huge noise. And just imagine how can a child
focus on education when he has all these things
distracting him? So we figured that if we need to
get this experience right, we need to package everything
together. So we worked with some schools
in Stanford and San Francisco State to design what we think is
the minimal things you need to set up a learning lab, a
21st century learning lab. You can see different
aspects of it. The tablets there that we are
putting in are the Archos tablets because they’re
really low cost. The second most important thing
is, again, the pedagogy. There’s a really cool
line that a friend of mine wrote about. Tablets are good. Content is great. But the best investment
is actually teachers. Without teachers and without
the human element, online learning for primary
education and early secondary is going to fail. As we grow older, we know what
we want to look for. We know what we want to learn. So it’s easy for people to
go on and search online. But for younger kids,
we need a new model. We need a new teaching model. We need to sort of reinvent
the classroom. And there are multiple ways
people have tried– the flip classroom. What we do at Zaya is blended
learning where we mix traditional learning, which
is one is to many, an instructional way, and then
every child picks up a device and learns at his own pace. That allows them to
make mistakes. They get enforcement. They get positive enforcement
right on the spot so you don’t have to wait for three months
for an exam to happen before you feel good about it. Now, why do I know this works? The girl you see up here,
her name is Zaya. She was an orphan in Mongolia. She was one of our first
students in our learning labs. And why Zaya is amazing, her
story is amazing, is while she was learning through Khan
Academy, she not only learned and became a good math student,
she converted 250 lessons of Khan Academy
into Mongolian. And what that enabled is
everyone in her orphanage and multiple orphanages there
to start learning right at the same time. Her story was really inspiring
for us, and we said we’ve got to do this. We rebranded the organization
to Zaya. And our underlying belief now
with Zaya is that any place, anywhere in the world can become
a learning hub if you put the right ingredients, the
right teaching methodology, and the right content there. This is the same classroom you
saw earlier in Mumbai, which didn’t have the infrastructure,
didn’t have benches, but today is one
of our showcase labs. There’s a really good story
behind that picture. How many of you saw Felix
Baumgartner jump from space? How many of your kids saw him
do that in classrooms? So this is that same group of
children at the slum in Mumbai watching Felix Baumgartner
jump from space. My colleague, while watching
it live on YouTube, said, Neil, we’ve got to show
this to all our kids through our hotspots. So we downloaded it, violated
every copyright law that existed, and synced it to the
20 hotspots that we had. And the next morning, these
kids were just amazed. I mean, they have never
seen a plane. They have never sat
in a train. Just imagine the questions they
had when they saw this guy jump from space. They had the best physics,
science, geography lesson they could have in that two hours. And this is truly the potential
of online learning. There are millions and millions
of Zayas out there. And we want to find and empower
each one of them through online learning. We are building right now a
network of learning labs starting in Bombay, and these
labs can be run in your home, in a community center,
in a classroom. Wherever you want to set up a
learning hub, you can pick up that kit that we saw, go into
that space, and start a blended learning lab. I’m very positive about
the future. I mean, I’ve seen what internet
can do for the people that have it. But I also have seen what it can
do right now to the people that don’t. And it’s important that we take
steps, not waiting 10 years from now. We have the solutions
right now. Let’s go and make it happen. So this is what Zaya does. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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