NRI family working to connect classrooms globally

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 1 (PTI) Harnessing the potential ofinternet, an Indian American family has embarked on anambitious project of connecting classrooms across the world tobring in virtual real time interaction among school students.

The aim of the Washington-based international initiativeis to help students learn not only about culture of othercountries, but also find solutions to complex math equationsand science problems.

A brainchild of mother-daughter duo of Sonia Boveja andNaina, co-founders of Coalition for International Initiatives(CII), the pilot project launched recently connects eightAmerican schools in the Pennsylvania area with three Indianschools in Gwalior, Ahmadabad and Ludhiana.

"We want to promote cultural awareness, globalcitizenship and academic excellence. So we want the studentsto share with each other academic things, their sports, andtheir history. We are hoping that we can also have math andscience to be part of it," Naina said.

"Collaborative learning has become our first project. Wewant to bridge the achievement gap with new methodologies andcutting edge technology," she said. Bovejas were recently inIndia touring the country as part of their efforts to identifyschools for this ambitious project.

"The idea is that classrooms from India and classroomsfrom the US will be connected with each other through theportal," said Naina, who along with Sonia founded the CII lastyear with the goal of working in the spheres of education, artand environment.

After graduation from University of Maryland, with anacademic citation from the CIVICUS living and learningprogram, Naina studied at Christie''s Education in New YorkCity. She has received a certificate in Modern Art,Connoisseurship, and the History of the Art Market.

Sonia, also a graduate from the University of Maryland,believes that given the opportunity, a child from anywhere candevelop a love for learning and a deep-rooted curiosity thatis important to succeed in the 21st century.

"The inspiration for the Coalition came after seeing theabundant contrast of wealth and poverty in India; it becameclear that we needed to do something to help. We decidededucation would be the best place to start, because educationleads to a better life," Naina said.

To start with once a week, Naina said the teacher wouldlog on to the secure portal where the students can upload thereal pictures, hard facts and documents to the site and thenthe partner schools in India can check the website and seewhat the students have done in America.

"The idea is that classrooms from India and classroomsfrom the US will be connected with each other through theportal," she said..

As the pilot project moves to the next round, Naina said, CII would be expanding this to other schools. "Our goalis to connect classrooms all over the world," she said.

Noting that CII was created to implement socialinitiatives with specific outcomes in mind, she said throughvarious partnerships across the world, they would be able toreach a larger area.

"Through our education project, classrooms in one partof the world are connected, via a web portal, to classrooms inanother part of the world. Peers will teach peers usingcutting edge technology. All of the lessons are standardsaligned, and will be implemented in the classrooms once aweek," she said.

For this purpose they have established a website foreducating kids with international possibilities.

As students connect with each other through this uniqueproject, she said, students will be motivated to learn, willbe exposed to another side of the world creating awarenessand, understanding. It is also hoped that the students will beexposed to global opportunities and teachers will be able toshare best methodologies available.

Eventually, teachers will be linked to parents forshared responsibility, administrators will be able to see howtheir schools are performing, and parents will haveinformation needed to help their children.

"We will connect classrooms all over the world," shesaid, adding that a majority of their efforts are educationinitiatives.

"Our mission of working with artists has evolved intoquarterly events, and our clean water initiative is beingaddressed with an environmental solutions company," Nainasaid.

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