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Ignite My Future in School Quarterly Catch-up – April to July 2020

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Learn how Ignite My Future in School from Tata Consultancy Services met the needs of students, parents, and educators in the face of the “New Normal.”

In the first few months of 2020, the world changed. Impacted by a global pandemic, schools and educational institutions worldwide shut down – interrupting the education of 1.3 billion students, according to UNESCO estimates.

In North America, this sudden closure of schools and the scramble to provide distance-learning solutions for K-12 students exacerbated many of the inequalities present in the education system; and added additional challenges for teachers to overcome in engaging their students.

Providing access to education is one of the missions of Tata Consultancy Services, and in the face of the global pandemic, we had the opportunity to meet the new needs of educators, students, and parents through our existing STEM development programs like Ignite My Future in School.

Ignite My Future in School:

Created in partnership with Discovery Education, Ignite My Future in School provides free teacher-training and classroom materials to educators that’s accessible worldwide; all designed to weave computational thinking into core curriculum subjects like science, English, and math.

Computational thinking is one of the foundational skills needed to be successful in the digital economy of the 21st century, and one of the goals of Ignite My Future in School is to provide this to students across North America as part of their regular schooling.

Since the programs’ inception, a large driver of it has been in-person teacher training in the form of TECHademy opportunities – in which teachers attend full day professional development sessions led by the Ignite My Future in School team.

The IMFIS team is made up of highly-qualified, former classroom educators and computer science and STEM coordinators – so they’ve traditionally provided a powerful introduction to the free classroom materials offered by TCS: Defining what computational thinking is, what it means in the context of today’s digital economy, and why it’s so important to share these skills with their students.

The team are also deeply passionate about the mission and purpose of IMFIS - which helps them quickly connect and engage teachers and educators in how to use these materials effectively in their classrooms.

However, in-person and face-to-face training was no longer an option in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic – so the Ignite My Future in School program pivoted by leveraging the Best of TCS to continue meeting the needs of – first by identifying the new needs of teachers, parents, and students; and then creating new solutions with which to meet them.

Going Virtual:

When the closure of schools and educational institutions was announced, the Ignite My Future in School team pivoted quickly to meet the needs of educators and students. This was accomplished by leveraging the existing range of Ignite My Future in School teaching materials, plus the creation of new resources, in a format optimized for delivery via distance-learning platforms.

TCS continued to leverage its technological capital to make sure these new materials were available for free to parents and educators across North America, just like IMFIS resources have always been in the past. 20 new offerings related to COVID-19 were provided for download, including modules like “Build a Movement” which examined how and why memes and social media posts go viral, or “Capable Cobot” in which students were challenged to identify and then meet the needs of different people using a ‘cobot’ – which is a robot designed to assist a person.

In addition to including computational thinking as a core element, this distance learning ideas added value by engaging students with subjects and topics that are relevant and important to them – including a topical module entitled “Outbreak.”

Because it’s more difficult to connect with students via distance learning, the importance of having engaging, interesting learning materials has become more important than ever; and Ignite My Future in School provided these to parents and teachers with the click of a mouse.

You can find out more about these materials here: us.digitalpowers.org/covid-19-response/IMFIS

Ignite Innovation Student Challenge:

The Ignite Innovation Student Challenge is a competition which challenges middle and high schoolers to create digital solutions to the world’s problems – focused on three key areas: Health, education, and the planet. Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and the shutdown of schools across North America, the competition still received a deluge of entries – making it difficult to pick a winner!

Ultimately, Camellia S from the Henrico County Public Schools district in Virginia was the winner for her eye medication dispenser that is governed by artificial intelligence – earning Camellia a $10,000 scholarship and an opportunity to work with TCS to transform her CAD model into a working prototype.

Learn more about Camillia’s invention and discover the other winners here:https://www.ignitemyfutureinschool.org/challenge/winner-gallery-2020

Virtual Career Day:

Education is not an end in itself, and one of the core missions of Ignite My Future in School is to provide students with the computational thinking skills that will be invaluable to them when they enter the workforce. Another component of this is engaging students with STEM subjects, so they’ll be more likely to consider studying science, engineering, technology, or math after school; and be prepared to fill the ever-growing number of jobs in technology that are being created each and every day.

During the pandemic, Ignite My Future in School launched the pilot of its Virtual Career Day program – which gave students the chance to meet, engage with, and question career professionals who have jobs in ‘tech’ that challenge many of the preconceptions students have about jobs in STEM.

Three Virtual Career Days were launched in Greenville, SC as the pilot of the program – with students from Beck International Academy initially meeting TCS employees Amy Bergeron, Senior Internal Communications and Social Media Manager, Cecelia Tamsen, PR and Communications Manager for HR, and Rachel Sigley-Cantalupo, Senior Brand Marketing Manager.

During the first session, these three guests shared the personal and professional journeys that had led them to TCS, including what had motivated them to pursue their specific careers. Entitled “Creativity in STEM” the Virtual Field Day demonstrated that jobs in technology didn’t have to be boring, stuffy, or keep you chained to a computer.

Meeting the Needs of Teachers:

When schools and educational institutions initially closed, most people’s first thought was of the students being impacted. However, the rigors of social isolation also impacted those who teach them. In the District of Colombia, for example, many teachers struggled to meet their required quota of Professional Learning Units during the early months of the lock-down, given that so many of their development opportunities had been cancelled.

TCS was once again able to meet the needs of these teachers – by offering a virtual version of their TECHademy Day of Discovery teacher training opportunities. In D.C., over 5,000 educators had the opportunity to get involved; and even using the virtual model, attendance at the TECHademy Day of Discovery counted towards those important PLUs.