Posts tagged ‘Education’
It is such a delight to see that local companies are actually beginning to develop interesting and engaging content in local languages for kids. We have seen how popular Toffee TV has become since it was first launched and now a new company – Jugnoo Media has launched a fabulous mobile App for the iPhone and iPad. We are told that they are also working on an Android version which will be out soon.
Duddoo Aur Dhobi, as it is called, is based on two popular Urdu nursery rhymes “O Baba duddoo’a” and “Dhobi aaya”. It is an app that provides a highly interactive and immersive environment for children. The app has lyrics and characters based on South Asian themes, heroes, stories and traditions thus providing context.
I first caught sight of it when one of the founders of Jugnoo Media, Zia Imran, sneaked it into the home of our mutual friend Zafar Khan, CEO of Sofizar one evening. Zafar’s young son Zacky was hanging around the living room and Imran took out his iPad and started playing with the app which was still in beta mode. His intention was to get Zacky to test it out for free (Zafar, please note: your son was deprived of a beta testing fee).
The little one took hold of the iPad and start playing very intuitively with the application and was totally engrossed in it the entire evening. He showed it to his mom and his dad and there was no question about how much he loved the app. All of us knew that it would be a hit. I convinced Imran to load it onto my iPad mini the next day and have been playing it myself whenever I get a chance.
Going through Facebook statuses of friends one day, I noticed the following message put up by Sadia Khan who is COO of Autosoft Dynamics:
Raem and Anya’s latest favorite song and app on the ipad – Urdu based nursery rhyme, Duddoo aur Dhobi! Check it out friends and family. Its been made by a Pakistani company and I give it top marks on engaging kids. Both of my kids for the first time in a long while want to play with the same app. I have even caught myself unwittingly humming the duddoo and dhobi song – do check it out and let me know what you all think!! P.s. its free for now so I’d download before they start charging!!!
So it is not only kids but also their parents who are really taken with this app.
Jugnoo Media’s mission is to create wholesome entertainment and educational content for kids of all ages (I guess that means I am included too). This is good news for South Asian parents who think there is a dearth of good localized content available in electronic format.
Jugnoo means ‘Firefly’ in Urdu, Hindi and other regional languages of South Asia. The venture is named Jugnoo Media because the founders were simply enthralled by the vast presence of this small insect while growing up. They say that in the old days, it was the norm for young children to run after these beautiful insects and attempt to catch them. Some would put them in glass bottles to make lanterns. In today’s day and age, this beautiful and fragile insect is under severe threat. As cities become large, paved and cemented with less and less natural habitat, the jugnoo has virtually disappeared from large cities of South Asia.
Local culture, heritage and languages are on the defensive; being squeezed out by the massive global culture which emphasizes cultural homogenity at the expense of cultural diversity. It tends to be more material than spiritual and is devoid of local context. Jugnoo Media wants to change that. Its first project is to build immersive digital toys in local languages that are based on popular nursery rhymes of the region. Good luck guys! We look forward to seeing more apps/games/stories coming out of the Jugnoo Media stable (or should that be ‘garage’)?
Sheryl WuDunn investigates the oppression of women globally in her book “Half the Sky”. Her stories shock. Only when women in developing countries have equal access to education and economic opportunity will we be using all our human resources.
I was thinking (and it is always dangerous when I do that) about what teachers and schools and education were all like when I was much younger. I remember teachers who seemed to be on a mission, a sort of crusade to educate, who wanted kids to open their minds to the possibilities around them. They were our counsellors, our mentors, the ones who guided us and listened to our sometimes extremely ridiculous ideas.
They encouraged us and never told us there was anything we couldn’t do. They earned our respect because of their passion for teaching, for the values they inculcated and for the integrity with which they conducted themselves. Were they a different breed? Aren’t there teachers like that anymore? A few of my friends have dedicated their lives to teaching, to illuminating the lives of children who were or are under their care. But I don’t know if there are many others like them out there. Teaching appears to have turned into just another profession.
Education has become a business – not that ‘business’ is a bad word. It is just that schools and universities have become such commercial enterprises that everything is measured in terms of profits. There is a professor who told me the other day that he used to teach two courses at university and that was tough enough and left just enough time for him to dedicate to some of the research work that really interested him. He also had teaching assistants who helped him with assignments.
Now the same professor teaches 3 courses, has no time for research and the teaching assistants position no longer assists. When he asked the management of the university where he works how he was supposed to teach so many courses and check assignments and projects all on his own, yet maintain the quality of the teaching he imparts, he was told that he could do away with the assignments (as we all know it is the project work that actually brings concepts to life and allows kids to experiment with innovative ideas). His objections to this suggestion were totally ignored.
That is the story that one hears at several universities in the country – that although fee structures are high and universities are very profitable, they do not want to invest in adding on more professors and teaching assistants. Instead they want to retain more and more of the profit. Is it any wonder then that the quality of education is not what it used to be a few years ago? Is there a way out of this situation? Perhaps we need to raise the consciousness of the University management. Perhaps we need to work on improving the teacher-student ratio. Perhaps more project work is what is required. We certainly need to tackle this situation, and we need to do it now- the status quo is just not acceptable.
When I first met Farzal Dojki, I thought to myself “What a serious young man! He hardly ever smiles”. But over time, I have got to know him better and although he is serious about a lot of things (which is a good thing), I have discovered that he also has a great sense of humour as you will see in this episode of “In the Line of Wire”.
After getting his Intermediate degree in Pre-engineering from Adamjee Science College , Farzal opted for a dual Bachelors in Computer Science and Economics from UT Austin (not something we hear much of in this country although it really makes such great sense). He then went on to do his MS in Information Systems from NYU while he was working with Merrill Lynch.
To truly understand what goes on in the mind of this young man, one only has to read what he says on his LinkedIn profile:
Life is too short to be doing boring and ordinary stuff. Let one of the 6 Billion people work on that. I want to use the privilege of having university educated parents (a novelty in Pakistan during the 1980s), excellent schooling, and 7 years spent in Austin and NYC to produce extraordinary stuff!
He says he is passionate about delivery channels – from Branchless Banking and 24×7 direct insurance to mobile multimedia and social networking.
1. amaana: amaana is the payment platform for emerging markets that bridges the gap between the banked and the unbanked population and helps to digitize transactions being conducted at the bottom of the Pyramid.
2. PixSense: A pioneer in mobile media solutions.
3. Trakker Direct Insurance: Employee 001, at the first direct insurance company in Pakistan, along the lines of Geico in US and Direct Line in UK.
Farzal is also Visiting faculty at the Institute of Business Administration in karachi and is teaching IT/MIS/CS related subjects to BBA/MBA students. One of the things that Farzal does very effectively is use the internet to connect with his students. He posts course work, assignmnts, notices, information regarding guest lectures and exam notices and reviews online and maintains an open communication channel with the young people he teaches. I wish more teachers would use the power of the web so effectively. It doesn’t take very much technical expertise to set it up and maintain it.
In this episode of ITLoW, Farzal talks about a host of topics including education, internships, the lack of sufficient innovation in the business sector and the tendency of IT companies to develop technology solutions for the sake of technology and not really as an answer to innovating the way business is done.
We also talk about how mobile solutions can help connect the rural parts of Pakistan to services and benefits that are not available to them at the present time. As you will see throughout the interview, Farzal is a bright young Pakistani who is intent on being a part of the solution to whatever ails this country. We have many such young people here, and with their participation in the overall development of business and of the society, there is every reason to hope that we will continue to progress.