My Journey to Gooru
The India Education Collective (IEC) working closely with State Governments, is transforming education in India to make public or government schools the "first choice" for students, parents and teachers. In addition to shifting greater decision making powers concerning planning and practices to the local level, fundamental changes are taking place in the classrooms. IEC is focused on empowering teachers; promoting capability based learning; and harnessing the potential of technology to advance learning opportunities in its mission to make the public school system more equitable, accountable and qualitative.
Teachers are encouraged to see themselves as facilitators of learning by designing "equal opportunity" creative environments where learning can happen.
The once quiet classrooms where all eyes and ears are on the teacher are being replaced with dynamic learning-labs where students are learning by doing. Competency based learning with hands-on, active engagement is credited with helping them internalize information far better than watching and listening.
Another key change in the education revolution is a focus on assessing each student's current knowledge and dispositions in order to facilitate their individual learning journey. To improve learning outcomes, the IEC turned to Gooru and the Learning Navigator, a free and open app to help accelerate learning outcomes.
Even in rural and often remote areas with limited access to technology and the internet, the Learning Navigator is proving to be an effective tool for teachers and administrators. One teacher with a cell phone can assess a student's knowledge and quickly input the information in the student's profile. Teachers can see in real time how each student is progressing over time and can assignment them additional activities based on their performance or dispositions. It is not uncommon for teachers to have students of different ages and grade levels in the same classroom. The Learning Navigator is helping them by providing access to thousands of free and open resources and assessments. Teachers who create lesson plans for several grade levels each day can search the catalogue of curated content on numerous subjects and grade levels to add specific lessons and assessments to their plans. This not only saves time for the teacher, but also saves resources in learning materials and text books for the schools (see video below).
The IEC is supporting governments to implement the changes across eight states in India. Currently more than 80,000 children are transitioning away from rote learning to building their capabilities and changing their attitude toward learning. More than 1,800 schools across the states are in the process of adopting 'transformative' learning practices, and 3,000 teachers are engaged in redefining classroom processes with the ultimate goal of graduating students who will be leaders in their chosen occupations. Workers and engaged citizens who know how to learn, can apply their knowledge and abilities in creative and novel as well as familiar situations, and who can work well with others. The kinds skills and qualities that are valuable in the work place and in life.
Early on, I realized the impact that leveling the educational playing field could have in solving the problem of social inequity. Born to middle-class parents in India in the 1960s, I was fortunate to receive an excellent education. My parents’ efforts to do what they could to right the pervasive wrongs in our society inspired me to want to contribute as well. As a teen, I tutored some of the slum-dwelling children in our community and high school students around my college. It soon became apparent that my one-on-one efforts could have, at best, a minimal impact on the larger problem.
Throughout my academic and professional journey, I continued to grapple with the challenge of transforming societies through education. While in graduate school at UCLA, I founded the Southern California Chapter of the India Literacy Project (ILP). At Xerox Research, Yahoo, and Google, I introduced a variety of initiatives intended to improve livelihoods. As with my earlier efforts, the impact of these, while positive, did not move the needle.
In 2004, I returned to Bangalore, India with my family to lead Yahoo and later Google’s engineering operations. There, community discontent motivated me to lead a team of 1,500 parent-volunteers in building a K-12 school from the ground up over a period of fifteen months. That school, now with over 1,000 students, had concrete but limited impact. I still had not found the catalyst I sought for societal change.
My professional successes – building Google Maps and News – brought a lot of media attention to the company and pride to my family. To me, they also emphasized the futility of the “trickle down” technology theory – the idea that creating technology for the wealthy (who can pay for it) would eventually lead to its reaching and improving the lives of the masses. Clearly, this was not happening. Reaching the goal would require a radical change in perspective.
While working on a Google project addressing the global teacher shortage, I began to appreciate the extent to which talent, effort, and money directed to education are focused on individual communities. It seemed to me that leveraging and sharing these resources could increase their impact exponentially – resulting in a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. How best to achieve this result? It was clear to me that the web, with its potential for collective impact, would be key. So, as a 20% Project at Google, I built the original version of Gooru and it has since become my life’s work.
At Gooru, we are determined to play a catalytic role in the broad space that is education. Guided by our conviction that education is a human right, we are committed to a non-profit vision of Gooru that provides equal access to outcomes by integrating open educational resources into our AI and research- based technology. Gooru content and communities are open. The technology is open source. We engage experts by collaborating with school districts and charter schools, content providers, app developers, non-profit organizations, funders, learning scientists, and policy makers. The result is an elegant system where teachers and students are innovators, creators, and the true owners of their learning.
Global education is local, in fact, education is hyper-local. We have to leverage the local expert community to support all of their learners with localized content, community support, and translation services because we know that it takes a community of experts and friends to create significant impact. We work hard to help students fall in love with learning by seizing successes and igniting the passion to learn and we measure success in terms of positive learning outcomes not traffic volume or average time spent on Gooru.
Gooru invests deeply in technology and engineering to amaze teachers at how they can expand their practice and we adopt an open source software development approach, where innovation takes place through the collective effort of many programmers and designers.
We are a non-profit. Our mission is ambitious. We will reach a billion students around the world. We believe K-12 education is a human right and hence has to be free. We will generate revenues by licensing our technology platform to edtech companies serving a variety of user segments from K-12, higher-ed, and skills training in order to serve this mission. We will operate with a deep sense of impatience, so we don’t lose another generation of students while we figure out how to address social justice at scale with the right to education.