Monday, November 30, 2009

AIMS - The Journey Begins

Let’s face it – Historically, technology has evolved more out of the needs of the business community than those of the education arena. Whereas it’s a subjective issue of prioritizing in this situation, there’s good news that technology creators are now indeed focusing on the requirements of education.Furthermore, we have borrowed technology from the business community to serve our educational needs. There weren’t many such options available in market specifically designed for educational purposes until a few years back. Kudos to the companies who have been putting in efforts to come up with systems and applications to assist the educators. The key however is to look out for a solution that would further help the teachers to remain organized, resourceful and collaborative, some of the most defining qualities of a 21st century teacher.
Jim Collins starts his book “Good to Great” with an interesting statement - “Good is the Enemy of Great.” One can become and remain good enough following the orthodox working methods like using big chunky files to document lesson plans, course materials, test papers and student’s progress reports. All these may become cumbersome to manage within six months time and demand additional resources from the school administration. There are many such things which can be overcome almost effortlessly and effectively with the use of Information Technology, thereby helping teachers to maximize their efficiency and gain 21st century skills.

Some proactive teachers at AVM were on a lookout for such a system and discovered about the opportunities presented by cloud (internet based) computing, especially for educational purpose. Cloud computing is the use of a 3rd party service to perform computing needs over the Internet. The following are the benefits of cloud computing that the schools are certain to want to take advantage of:

  • More Mobility: Teachers can access information wherever they are, rather than having to remain at their desks.

  • Highly Automated: No longer do the teachers need to worry about misplacing a piece of paper with some important information.  

  • Reduced Cost: Teachers’ and administrators’ time saved is actually money saved for the school. Besides, cloud technology is paid incrementally, further saving the school’s money.
  •  Efficient Archiving: Schools can store more data than on private computer systems and retrieve within seconds when needed. 
These benefits and many more encouraged us to hunt for a cloud computing application which we could customize to suit our needs. Google Apps Education Edition came up as a very promising candidate in our endeavor. Apart from Internet based solutions, we considered Moodle and Plone which are very popular intranet based solutions. Whilst exploring those options, we realized they demanded a certain level of technical mindset of the end-user to be used effectively. Besides, Google Apps offered almost everything and more that a
school environment would need from IT. Furthermore, Google Apps was found relatively easier to customize. The Google Apps Education Edition is a broad IT solution that schools can use to bring communication and collaboration tools to the entire academic community for free. Google manages all the technology details, so we can focus our time, energy and budgets on teaching our students.
In other words, it allows us to focus on our bigger aims. Hence we called our customized version of Google Apps as AIMSAtmiya Vidya Mandir’s Information Management System.

Information sharing is the key to success in today’s world and using Google Apps,our teachers can now collaborate in real-time and access documents, presentations, spreadsheets and sites anytime, from anywhere, on any device. Another fascinating feature of this solution is the instant communication of announcements via free SMS delivery. The Google Apps Calendar tool provides a pretty simple way to communicate instantly thereby saving a lot of time for the teachers. Through AIMS our goal is to achieve excellence in whatever we do here at Atmiya Vidya Mandir. The inherent capabilities of our staff are further enhanced towards excellence which is reflected in our punch line - “Where Technology meets Excellence”.

Hence was born - AIMS - Where Technology meets Excellence. A milestone in our journey towards Excellence.

In AIMS, we have configured the following services for our entire school:

E-mail – Individual email accounts to our faculty with 2 gigabytes of storage per account, search tools to help them find information quickly.
Google Talk - Teachers can call or send instant messages to each other for free -- anytime, anywhere in the world. Imagine the possibilities for people collaborating on projects from different locations.

Google Calendar - Teachers can organize their schedules and share events, meetings and entire calendars with others. We can even publish the school calendar on our website to let parents know about events like back-to-school nights, homecoming and vacation days.
Google Docs - Teachers can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations and collaborate with each other in real-time right inside a web browser.
Google Sites – We have created a domain wide site shared with everyone at AVM. This site is like a virtual common ground for our people to share and access information. Moreover, we have created around 7000 pages with a well thought of structure to manage teaching resources.

AIMS allows us to have fast and seamless communication which I think is the key to success for any institution. It has become very easy for our teachers to organize their subject meets or make announcements through their personal calendar on AIMS. Generally, change comes with a certain level of resistance. Truth be told, some of our teachers and staff who were not tech savvy earlier and were apprehensive about using computers, are now enjoying working on computers as a result of AIMS.

Here are some feedbacks from teachers:

“From the floor I am on a skyscraper, is my honest feeling after the training session.”

“AIMS has reduced the paper work and it saves lots of time and other formalities of communication. I liked the calendar updates, home page, document uploading facility and the greatest benefit is that we can operate our server login from anywhere in the world.Its wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!”

“This fabulous program has converted our huge campus into a small beautiful home, in which we can communicate with everybody at any time.”

Some of our staff proactively asked for more training sessions to really get to the roots of the system and some had very genuine suggestions to make it even more effective for the school. Some believed this system will be very conducive in further strengthening of the team spirit in the entire staff!

With the launch of AIMS, we have joined the ever expanding yet exclusive league within the academic fraternity who have been happily using Google Apps to make the teaching-learning process more effective.

Of course, this is just the beginning, we will have our lessons to be learnt on the way, but we sure are another step closer towards consistently delivering excellence.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaching is Connecting

Back in the corporate world, I’ve experienced many a day when a colleague or the customer was seemed expendable and then, actions to that effect followed. The customer was often simply an “Account” to manage and there was almost always the freedom to point the finger when things didn’t work out. Such an environment gradually leads to half-hearted efforts in achieving the objectives set forth. The once “most important and crucial for survival and growth” customer, in a predictable manner, becomes someone “not worth providing the quality in service to” customer. Of course, there are enlightened beings out there that make sure this derision doesn’t creep in their work environment. However, generally, it may seem ‘affordable’ to take the mediocre approach and not care for the customer. In light of this brief background, I’d like to make my point now: caring is indispensable for a teacher, period.

The above said scene in the corporate environment is mainly due to the implicit knowledge that it isn’t important or necessary to connect with the person on the ‘other end of the line’. The prime importance of financial gains and the lack of human element in day-to-day communications draw a non-existential form of the colleague/customer, someone you could feel free to become irresponsible for and even worse – get away being that! There is little visibility or lack of it, of the impact of one’s actions on a human being. Hence the individual is turned into a “can’t be bothered” slacker.

Enter the Teaching World. There’s a radical change in attitude needed here. You are no longer dealing with just another “good for nothing and always demanding” customer at the other end of the line. You have innocent, unselfish and at times demanding lives to care for and cater to. Every step you take, every move you make, every word you speak is all noted by them and has the potential to change them in either of the two obvious directions – good or bad. So, the Teacher, at whatever level, has to be like those few enlightened beings of the corporate world and more. There is an uncompromising need to connect with the lively minds both in the classroom and outside. The teacher has the potential to make the deepest impact in a child’s life. Till the day I entered a classroom for the first time as a prospective teacher, I held the view that a role within the Investment Banking industry was the most important job in the world. Because it was the most important, the challenges faced and overcome were of the highest concern for the well-being of any world citizen. Little did I know back then, how wrong I was!

As a teacher, I have come to realise that to connect with the students is of the utmost importance. Connecting is the outcome of communicating – both verbally and non-verbally. As listed by John Maxwell, one can’t afford to commit the “Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator”: being unprepared, uncommitted, uninterested, or uncomfortable. He aptly explains further that in order not to commit these sins and to connect requires energy. The teacher is the communicator and has to walk the talk 24x7. This is not an extra responsibility, rather, an absolute fundamental requirement to be a teacher. This makes the job of a teacher The Most Important job in the world. At the same time, the prospect of touching so many lives makes the job of a teacher The Most Honourable job in the world.

I am very fortunate to have company of highly motivated inspirers whose lives are embodiment of this connecting process. Further, I have the privilege of knowing some of the best of the available literature on education. Allow me to narrate an illustration. One fine day on our way to the training institute in Bangalore on the public bus, I was reading “What Great Teachers DO DIFFERENTLY” by Todd Whitaker. The title of the chapter was ‘Make it cool to care’ wherein Todd briefly describes this incident. In (Principal) Todd’s own words...

In Chapter 1, I described my interest in understanding what great teachers do differently. The first time this struck me was during an informal visit in the classroom of my best teacher, Mrs. Heart. I watched as Darin approached her desk – Darin, a rough, tough, tattooed discipline problem who easily intimidated the other students (and many of the teachers, and maybe the principal!). Making no effort to keep the other students from hearing him, Darin said, “Mrs. Heart, I was working on my poetry last night and I had a hard time with some of the words in the third verse, I was wondering if I could get your help on...” My jaw must have hit the floor.

Believe me, Darin was not a fan of poetry. Darin was a fan of Mrs. Heart. She had made it cool to care about whatever was happening in class...Getting along with others, treating everyone with respect, doing your best – that was Mrs. Heart.

This incident was very touching for me and furthermore, enlightening to me. There were a lot of reflections from this small incident Todd narrated. The most obvious one was the connection Mrs. Heart had successfully made with Darin, regardless of his appearances or apparent behaviour with others. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess it that Mrs Heart would have poured her heart in establishing such a platform for effective teaching-learning. The connecting process always requires energy.

There’s however a way to effortlessly radiate this energy. Let me briefly narrate another incident to that effect. A friend of mine had an interview with the Head of the Department at a highly respected, industry leading company in the UK. His technical interview overran for more than an hour (total to almost two hours) and most of his responses were technically wrong. Despite this, he got offered the job! He later revealed to me that after the interview, when his interviewer showed him around the department, he was almost hopping around out of excitement seeing the opportunity to learn and contribute. His energy made all the difference. He didn’t have to put in efforts for radiating that energy, it just happened naturally for him. This was because he had the appreciation of the significance of that job and that industry.

So, connecting with students, after all isn’t necessarily draining, despite its need for energy on the teacher’s part. However, for that, natural enthusiasm has to be bred by the teacher. And this, my fellow inspirers, is possible only if we allow ourselves to gain the right perspective that – Teaching is The Most Important job in the world and that we are THE MOST FORTUNATE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD to have that job.

To quote the gifted Robert Frost,
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Teaching is a life long endeavour of fulfilling promises, a life long connecting process. So, let you and I not settle in for something good enough, instead, embark on the journey of excellence.

Because, it’s worth it...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are we nurturing or killing creativity!

We have a very interesting education system. Our education system gives the memory unit of our brain a lot of exercise. Can anyone guess how does our education system gives a workout to brain? Yes, you all have guessed it right; it’s the retention and recall. Our education system has taught us how to memorize and how to reproduce what is learnt.

Picasso once said, “All the children are born artist; the problem is how to save and nurture the unique artist.” i.e. All the children are born with a unique talent. It is us the teachers who have the responsibility to nurture the artist within each child. But, do you all think that our education system allows us to do so? Do you think that only improving the memory power and testing the memory through various examinations we are nurturing the artist?

Our education system evolved in an era when industrialization was at its peak. To meet the demands of industries, education was designed to impart the knowledge to produce efficient workers. The only area we emphasize on is academics. Don’t do music, don’t do arts’, don’t dance, is all this going to get you a job? Do science, do math, study language that is what will fetch you job. Crash! Amidst all the jostling ofdemand, supply and producing human terminators, education system missed out on certain very critical and crucial point that is to develop the creativity in the child which will help him survive in the future. We have restricted or streamlined the learning curve to meet the current demands thereby strangling the creativity of the child. The kids are not afraid of exploring; they are not afraid of trying new things and experimenting. It is our education system in which mistake is the worst thing a child could do. As a consequence we are suffocating their creativity. We are not saying that being wrong is being creative, no. But what we do know is, “if we are not prepared to be wrong we will not come up with anything original” says Sir Ken Robensen world renowned coach in the field of creativity.

Despite of all the expertise, research and projections we do not know how the world will look like 20-25 years from now. In contrast we do not know how the child would adapt and flourish in this extremely unpredictable environment. So instead of being a Hitler, we should expand our boundaries for the children’s growth. The child should be given his own space to explore, adapt and flourish through learning and experiencing variety of things.

Our only hope for the future is to adopt a new course one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. We have to re-think the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children. Our education system should be aimed at holistic development of a child. Both the scholastic and co-scholastic curriculum should be designed and given equal importance i.e. along with mathematics, science and languages- sports, art, music, drama and dance should be given equal importance to instigate the creative artist within each child. It is important to expose the child to do the right things at the right time to develop his creativity. Lastly creativity is not an inherent skill or only for those with a talent for it; it could be successfully taught to and used by people of any age, walk of life or cultural background.

Dr de Bono said creative thinking needs to be included in curricula as a distinct but parallel subject. "Mankind had tended to associate the term 'creativity' solely with its expression in the arts," he said. "However, creativity was also about recognizing and creating value."

So, my fellow inspirers, it’s up to us, whether we want to foster the creative talents of our children or to manufacture high speed data access human machines.

What will you do? The choice is of course, yours!

Friday, November 20, 2009



कौन समय ? कैसा समय ?

समय एक ऐसा,

करता नहीं इंतज़ार किसी का ,

जल्दी आता, जल्दी जाता ।

गर करें इंतज़ार किसी वार का ,

कभी नहीं वो जल्दी आता ।

न किसी का दोस्त, न किसी का दुश्मन ।

फिर भी वह साथ हमारे , पास हमारे ।

गर हैं हम साथ समय के, तो दुनिया कदमों मे ;

गर दूर समय के, तो अस्तित्व खतरे मे ।

समय का तुम करों उपयोग ।

करों सदुपयोग, बनो महान,

छू लों आसमान, पा लो मान ।

पहुचों बुलंदी पर, बनो महान

अंकित करवाओ अपना नाम,

करो देश को भी महान ।

करो देश को भी महान ।

समय एक एसा, जल्दी आता जल्दी जाता ।

शिक्षक:(मुकेश जोशी)
हिन्दी शिक्षक( आत्मीय विद्यामंदिर )

Friday, November 13, 2009

Top ranking CBSE English paper created by an AVM Inspirer !

C.B.S.E. has started an online forum for teachers. On this forum they allow all the teachers around the world to submit their sample question paper. It is an open site and is intended for the benefit of both the students and teachers. It is a matter of great pride and pleasure for us that our dear Paras Sir had submitted his English sample paper of standard 9th few months ago on this forum. His paper has received a rating of 4 out of 5 and is on the TOP of the list with the highest number of hits 8082 i.e. so far 8082 people have downloaded his paper.

Congratulations Paras Sir for crossing this milestone from the entire AVM (Atmiya Vidya Mandir) team. We wish You Good Luck for all your future endeavors! Paras Sir is a great teacher and a guide, mentor and friend of the students at AVM. We pray to god to help you continue with your excellent work and to keep sharing your experience & expertise with all the teachers.

This is a great achievement for him and hence for the school; so, let us all congratulate him together!

To download Paras Sir's paper please click on the link below:

Those who are interested to submit their respective subject sample paper for the year 2010, please follow this link:

Submitted by: Pranesh Shah

Sunday, November 8, 2009

''सफलता का एक आधार''

''सफलता का एक आधार''

मैं लगातार,मेरा नाम लगातार,
मैं बार-बार और मैं ही हर बार।
मैं नहीं कहता कि,मैं ही हूं.....
पर,मैं कहता हूं कि,मैं भी हूं,
सफलता का एक आधार।।

मैं लगातार,मेरा नाम लगातार,
मैं बार-बार और मैं ही हर बार।
जिसकी इच्छा अभी अधुरी है,
तो वहां मेरा होना ज़रुरी है।
सफलता चाहे वो बुरी हो,
अच्छाईयों से भरी-पूरी हो,
जो सदा मुझे अपनाता है,
सफलता देना मेरी मजबुरी है।।
मुझे निरन्तरता भी कहते है।
निरन्तरता काम है,निरन्तरता सम्मान है।
निरन्तरता विश्राम है,
वास्तव में
निरन्तरता ही आराम है।।
ये तप है,तपस्या है,
जीवन का विकास है।
ये जिस-जिस के पास है,
दुनियां मे वो ही खा़स है।।
निरन्तरता के तपस्वी को
हर मुकाम पर शाबाश है
निरन्तरता के तपस्वी को
हर मुकाम पर शाबाश है।।

Submitted By: Pushpak Joshi

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A prayer of an Atmiya Teacher

आत्मीय शिक्षक की प्रार्थना

शिक्षक वह है जो चाहे तो निर्माण कर दे,
शिक्षक वह है जो चाहे तो निर्वाण भी कर दे।
तार दे हमे जीवन से अपना अमृत बूँद के,
प्रेम- सिंधु बहाकर चाहे तो प्रलय फैला दे।

जीवन में अगर कुछ करना चाहो तो शिक्षक को नत मस्तक हो,
जीवन में अगर कुछ बनना चाहो तो शिक्षक को शीष धर दो।
शिक्षक वह है जो जो निरंतर प्रेम सिंधु बहाता,
कुछ पाने की न आशा मन में बस जीवन पर्यंत देता जाता।

मेरी एक छोटी-सी अभिलाषा, हे स्वामी-मैं एक ऐसा शिक्षक बन पाऊँ,
अधिक नहीं पर कुछ एक जीवन को अपना सबकुछ अर्पण कर जाऊँ।
अपना सबकुछ अर्पण करके मैं संपूर्ण में समा जाऊँ,
संपूर्ण की प्राप्ति करके मैं मोक्ष को गले लगाऊँ।

मेरी इस छोटी-सी प्रार्थना का आप सहर्ष स्वीकार कर लो,
मुझ पर कृपासिंधु बरसाकर एक आत्मीय शिक्षक का उद्धार कर दो।
Submitted By: Niharika Khatri