Published: 09th June 2021
Right to code: This Hyderabad start-up has developed kits that will teach you coding sans computers
They have over nine such kits seamlessly integrated with the NCERT syllabus so that children can learn how to code and grasp this very essential 21st-century skill early on. This is how they roll
Teaching coding with just books was a task that Next Skills 360 was ready to take up. Under the brand name iAdore Transtech, merged with Next Skills in 2020, they were already teaching students life skills with the help of 12 books catering to students from classes VI to X. They were successfully training about 250 to 500 students every year, even in government schools. When they decided to start teaching coding, their network was already established, so was the know-how and the trainers were there too — all they needed was some regrouping.
They collaborated with principals, parents, 2D and 3D artists, content writers, story writers and took a year to develop these kits
But why the sudden need to shift the focus to coding? Founder of the start-up Suraj Meiyur, who co-authored iAdore's books, tells it like it is. "Our mission with iAdore was story-based teaching on life skills which seemed absent from classrooms, like good touch-bad touch, gender equality and so on. In fact, even the Government of Telangana seemed mighty pleased with our content. But we were also witness to the growing digital divide between public and private schools. Coding was essential, but providing computers to everyone wasn't the solution. That's when we started Next Skills 360 in 2018," explains the 45-year-old.
Founder Suraj Meiyur and Co-founder Sowjanya Suraj
Now, imagine a game board. One of the pieces on the board is a cat on its pre-designated block. There are various other pieces that you have at your disposal that are actually instructions: move back, move ahead, take right, take left and so on. What the child does is pick up the command he wants the cat to follow and place it on its pre-designated block. Now, what they will notice is some space between the cat and the instruction. That's where the child needs to write the number of steps they want the cat to take. That's a code right there! As an extension of this and if they have access to a smartphone, they can scan the board with the Next Skills 360 app which will immediately recognise the command with the help of AI.
Individual students can order these books on a subscription basis as well. Along with the kit, a small gift is included like a knitting kit for boys and so on
There are three dozen such scenarios with three dozen characters and all of these are aligned with the NCERT syllabus of Math, Science and Social. So if a class V student learns about squares in class V, their coding assignment could have questions like, 'Make the cat walk in a square'. "Basically, it's computer syntax printed on cardboard boxes. Children don't even need to memorise any particular syntax to execute something, but theyq will come to understand it in a way that it will just register," explains Suraj. Impressive indeed!
Next Skills 360 offers three levels of such kits and teachers could ideally use one for every month. One level usually takes about 15 classes to get through. Also, these kits come with question banks that require teachers to invest zero prep time before the class. "Currently, we want to work with CSR teams and NGOs who will take these kits further," explains the founder. They had already finished their pilot with about 30 schools with the help of the Government of Telangana in February and March 2020 and are hoping to resume this collaboration again. "In fact, Telangana IT Association was of great help too and we worked with T-Hub as well. The Principal Secretary of I&C and IT Jayesh Ranjan was very keenly following our progress," shares Suraj who quit his corporate job in 2014 to launch his own start-up. They hope that once schools are functional, they are able to get back on track again. For now, they are occupied with retailing the kits directly to customers.
Peek inside the kits
For more on them check out nextskills360.in