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How Ignite My Future in School is still supporting educators during the COVID-19 pandemic

 
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Ignite My Future in School (IMFIS), offered to educators across North America for free by Tata Consultancy Services, has adapted quickly to the ‘new normal’ of distance learning and the virtual classroom. Here are some of the specific measures undertaken to continue TCS’ mission of making computational thinking an accessible and seamless part of the education system – even during a lockdown!

According to UNESCO, over 1.3 billion students will have their education interrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In North America, this interruption is felt most severely by those students who already struggled for access to essential modern-day education – potentially worsening the skills gap and lack of diversity impacting the North American workforce.

Tata Consultancy Services has been committed to bridging the gap between marginalized students and access to education for over a decade, and that commitment has continued even in the face of the global pandemic. As schools shut down and move to distance learning, TCS has been leveraging what it does best to continue providing their signature education programs to those who need them most.

Ignite My Future in School is one of TCS’ flagship STEM education programs, offered for free to educators – and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strengths of this program have really demonstrated themselves, and TCS has seized the opportunity to provide them to even more educators and their students.

IMFIS was created in partnership with Discovery Education, and is based around new teaching resources which embed the foundational concepts of computational thinking into core curriculum subjects like English, Math, and Social Studies.

These materials provide teachers with a resource not just to teach essential subjects, but also empower their students with the thinking and skills that will set them up for success in the digital workforce of the 21st century. It’s a transformational movement which will help meet the growing need for technology-literate graduates to fill more and more jobs in innovation and technology.

When the global pandemic struck, the IMFIS team worked rapidly to provide education modules optimized for distance learning – through an interactive digital platform created by TCS, and supported by a vibrant community of Learning Leaders who share advice, support, and best practices throughout the year. These modules have been carefully designed so that teachers new to distance learning can immediately put them into action.

Since the pandemic began, the states of Tennessee, New Mexico, Illinois, and Ohio have already begun including IMFIS as valuable, recommended resources in their respective state-driven toolkits for educators.

In the District of Colombia, public schools have come together to leverage our Ignite My Future in School webinars in support of their network of 5,000+ educators. These webinars provide teachers with training, support, and strategies to easily implement IMFIS educational materials into their digital classrooms.

“We appreciated the interactive session, because it not only highlighted the multidisciplinary content of Ignite My Future in School, which we can adopt for our own classrooms,” said Sarah Elwell, an Ignite My Future Learning Leader and the Professional Development Coordinator for Washington Teacher’s Union (WTU), “but also focused on how to most-effectively deliver these learning modules via the approved platform for our district: Microsoft Teams.”

TCS is also supporting educators through the creation of EVA – TCS’ new Edu VirtualAssistant. This is a free hotline available to educators and parents to talk them through many of the most common challenges they face in using and optimizing common distance learning platforms. Given how rapidly teachers and parents have been expected to adopt a distance learning model, this service is proving to be hugely valuable.

The final way in which Ignite My Future in School is assisting schools and teachers during the pandemic is through supporting their professional development. In the District of Columbia Public School system, for example, teachers are expected to log 120 Professional Learning Units every four years in order to renew their teaching license.

In support of implementing Ignite My Future in School, TCS had already been offering professional development to teachers by way of their TECHademy Day of Discovery training events. Now, in the face of COVID-19, teachers are able to leverage an entirely virtual version of this teacher training – which still counts for those vital PLU hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the North American education system almost like a bookend to TCS’ 2020 financial year - serving as a demonstration of the value, adaptability, and purpose-driven innovation which drives the signature education program. In 2020, Ignite My Future in School impacted 3,505 educators across North America, and empowered 197,809 K-12 students with the skills and thinking that will help them succeed after graduation and beyond – and as the world adapt to a very different ‘new normal’ for education, IMFIS will continue to support more and more educators in new, creative, and impactful ways.

“With the abrupt shift to distance learning, educators desperately need sustained support with online tools and virtual pedagogical practices to maximize teaching and learning,” Sarah Elwell explained following the first IMFIS webinar. “Our educators will definitely embrace the content from Ignite My Future in School, what we’re learning in this session, as well as new tools like TCS Edu VirtualAssistant. They’ll help us improve learning outcomes and provide the best online educational experience for our students this school year - and beyond!”

You can find FREE resources from Ignite My Future in School designed specifically for distance learning here: https://tcsempowers.tcsapps.com/us/programs/IgniteMyFuture/