Meet Team4Tech

Posted by Menaka Raman on March 30, 2017

The idea for Team4Tech was born in 2012, when Julie Clugage and Lila Ibrahim, witnessed the “transformative power of education”: Julie worked in a school in rural Guatemala while Lila worked in an orphanage in Lebanon. After working closely for years at Intel Corporation, to advance education and economic development through technology, they launched the Intel Education Service Corps in 2009. This program was met with incredible support as a large number of Intel employees began volunteering their time and expertise to the improvement of education.

In September 2012, they had another idea: creating a platform accessible to talented professionals from a variety of technological companies, to improve the quality of education around the world. With this in mind, in May 2013, they launched their first project in Kenya with a total of nine volunteers. The plan was to introduce an adaptive learning software solution to increase the education level of the primary school children. Within six months of this implementation, the students had doubled their literacy test scores. Since this project, Team4Tech has engaged in many similar projects, broadening their impact on education standards. One such project was run in November, 2016, in Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh by Dawn Kwan, the project manager for Team4Tech.

VMware and Udaan Mewat teachers.jpg

VMware and Udaan Mewat Teachers

She led a project with CARE India's Udaan Mewat school where a team of VMware employees brought technology to augment the teaching and learning objectives for a residential bridge-building school for girls, who had previously dropped out of school. Udaan Mewat is an innovative 11-month program where a group of 80 girls complete Grades 1 - 5 through innovative teaching methods, and continue their studies in government schools. After 5 weeks of preparation, the VMware volunteers spent a week in Mewat, showing the teachers how to use the technology provided - building long term sustainability of the equipment.

One of the tools used in this program was Pratham Books' StoryWeaver. Dawn taught three of CARE India’s master trainers, who work with government lower and upper primary school teachers (giving them a reach of over 1000 teachers and 50,000 students), how to use StoryWeaver. She reported that they “loved StoryWeaver's wealth of stories, the ability to translate and the ease of creating new stories.”

CARE India trainers learning about Storyweaver.JPG

CARE India trainers learning about StoryWeaver

She also shared Varseena's story with us. A student in the first batch who had graduated from Udaan Mewat, Varseena learned how to use StoryWeaver. “She's extremely bright and created a story, and taught her story to the rest of the Udaan students”. Varseena will play a continuous role in the implementation of StoryWeaver since she was asked to teach the teachers how to use the platform. On the last day, one of the teachers even used a downloaded Pratham Books story in her class.

Team4Tech has clearly made a lot of progress in bettering the education system all over the world through their programs and outreach. The existence of platforms like StoryWeaver and KA Lite (an offline version of Khan Academy - also used by Team4Tech) makes this job easier and more fun for the students. The technological aspect of this is what excites people the most and, in a world where electronic devices have taken over lives, introducing education via technology engages the audience more than anything else. This is why, although few in number, organisations like Team4Tech are successful in completing their goals.

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(Photo credit: Greshma Patel)

Mathangi Subramanian is an award winning author and educator who writes for the young and the young at heart. In 2016, her novel Dear Mrs. Naidu (Young Zubaan) won the 2016 South Asia Book Award and was shortlisted for the Hindu-Good Books prize. She currently lives in Delhi with her husband, her daughter, and many, many picture books.  Her book 'A Butterfly Smile'  is available to read, translate, download and share for free on StoryWeaver.

The thing I remember the most about the two years I lived in Bangalore is the construction. Everything was new, new, new: new flats, new hospitals and new offices. Every street seemed to have at least one cordoned off area where the air was thick with dust and the sidewalk was jagged and broken. People who grew up in Bangalore grumbled that the sleepy town they knew disappearing, brick by brick, block by block, swallowed up by glass walled skyscrapers sprouting from the pavement like steel flowers.

But I saw something different.

I didn’t just see new buildings. I saw new families. Mothers who buttoned men’s shirts over their saris, wrapped towels on their head to help balance buckets of rocks and gravel. Fathers who stopped to retie their dhotis before hoisting steel pans of gravel up to waiting hands cracked from sunlight and labour.

But most of all, I saw children. Babies playing in piles of sand, toddlers learning to walk on newly laid linoleum floors. Girls in faded school uniforms snapping laundry on lines strung between unfinished walls, boys eating roti off of dented metal plates in the shelter of unfinished doorways. Children who grow up shuttling between some of the city’s poshest buildings, and yet, were unsure of where their next meal is coming from.

Research repeatedly shows that in India, one of the primary reasons that parents migrate from villages to cities is for the schools. Some come from areas where education is subpar; others come from areas where there aren’t any schools at all.

Although children don’t have a say in their parents’ choices to migrate or stay, many that I’ve met over the years are thrilled at the chance to learn. But they are also terrified.  

Remember your first day of school? You may have three, four, or five years old. Now imagine that first day as a seven, eight, or nine-year-old, sitting next to children who have already been learning to read and write and add and subtract for years before you even dreamed it was possible.

Kavya, the protagonist in “A Butterfly Smile,” is character I developed based on conversations I’ve had with migrant girls attending Bangalore schools where I once worked as a researcher. Like the girls I’ve met, Kavya is strong and hopeful and brave. But she is also grappling with moving to a city that labels her and her family as backwards, ignorant, and pitiful.

Just because Kavya has never gone to school, though, doesn’t mean she’s ignorant. Kavya, like many children, is observant and curious. She knows about butterflies because when she lived in her village, she paid attention to the world around her. She noticed life’s details.

In the city, we get used to tunneling our vision, to focusing only one what is in front of us so we can get through our day. So even though we see the traffic jam around a new construction that makes us late to work, we don’t see the butterflies hovering around our car windows, or the families building cooking fires in the shelter of a half-finished office building. We shut the bustle out just so we can get through our day.  

For me, “A Butterfly Smile” is a story about migration. But it is also a story about the importance of looking around, and of seeing each other – insect and human, rich and poor, child and adult. Kavya is one of my favorite characters that I’ve created, because despite her uncertain world, she let has the courage to let life in.

After reading this story, I hope you will too.  

You can read 'A Butterfly Smile' by Mathangi Subramanian and illustrated by Lavanya Naidu by clicking on the above image. The story has been translated to Tamil and French and will soon be available to read in Hindi, Marathi and Kannada. 

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Pratham Books is looking for a Product Manager (Technology)

Posted by Menaka Raman on January 18, 2017

This position is now closed. Do keep following us on Social Media for news on other openings on the Pratham Books team.

Pratham Books is a not-for-profit children's book publisher that was set up in 2004 to publish good quality, affordable books in many Indian languages. Our mission is to see ‘a book in every child’s hand’ and we have spread the joy of reading to millions of children in India.

In the last 3 years, we have invested deeply in technology based initiatives to further our mission. We are now looking for an experienced Product Manager that can lead our digital projects as we significantly scale these initiatives.

                                                                                                 

About the Digital Properties

Pratham Books has two digital platforms - StoryWeaver and Donate-a-Book

Storyweaver is a digital platform that hosts stories in languages from India and beyond, so that every child can have an endless stream of stories in her mother tongue to read and enjoy. The stories can be read, translated, versioned or downloaded for free. All stories on the platform are openly licensed and the goal is to open source the code as well. In just one year, StoryWeaver has scaled from 800 stories in 24 languages to 2800 stories in 59 languages by engaging with a community of users. We want every child to have access to quality reading resources in their own language. 

StoryWeaver is being recognized as an emerging innovation that can transform the early literacy reader ecosystem globally. Our vision is for StoryWeaver to be the largest multilingual open library in the world for children by empowering communities to address the scarcity of reading resources in their mother tongue languages and scale the quantity and quality of content being produced.

Donate-a-book from Pratham Books is a unique, crowdfunding platform that helps raise funds for organizations that want to build children's libraries.

Job Description                

We are looking for a passionate individual wanting to make a difference, one who believes that technology can be a powerful enabler in creating equitable access to resources. 

This role requires a seasoned manager and technologist who can work effectively, both independently and collaboratively, in a team environment and deliver the project in a timely manner within allocated resources and budgets. The Product Manager will play a strategic role in defining the product roadmap, translating it into detailed requirements and developing a roadmap for delivery. S/he will work closely with the domain, outreach and content teams to define the user requirements which will guide feature development. All aspects of managing the project including the RFP process, vendor selection, hiring of people, documentation and project delivery will be managed by the Product Manager.  

The position will report to the Head of Digital Projects but also requires working closely with the top management. In a 3 year time-frame the project outcomes are expected to scale by 10x and the Product Manager will play a critical role in ensuring  the smooth functioning of the platform at this scale. Most importantly the person needs to be an out-of-the box thinker and should be a strong believer and propagator of use of open technologies.

Responsibilities

  • Understand the user requirements and define the product roadmap    
  • Generate RFP’s and manage the process of technology vendor selection    

  • Prepare the user stories, documentation and compile the platform requirement and workflow documents

  • Scope and prioritize the product feature sets 

  • Work closely with technology vendors on all aspects

  • Ensure the project is done within the budgeted resources

  • Optimize the user experience 

  • Be an evangelist in the tech community to build awareness around the platform.

Mandatory Requirements

  • BTech/MSc/MCA degree in Computer Science or related disciplines

  • Proven work experience in product management 

  • Strong technical background with hands-on experience in open source web and mobile technologies  

  • Very good written and verbal communication skills

  • 8 -10 years of experience 

Nice to have but not mandatory

  • Experience working with non-profits.     

  • Domain knowledge in publishing industry, Indic language experience     

Location: This role is based out of Bangalore and is full-time. The project is expected to complete within a 3 year time-frame.

Salary: Compensation will be commensurate with experience. 

Interested candidates are requested to send in their resume to storyweaver@prathambooks.org

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