Remy Mansfield and Piya Kashyap are the co-founders of The Modern Story, a program that seeks to make more powerful use of education technology investments in classrooms in India and around the world by supporting student-centered learning opportunities. One of the key roles in the program are the TMS Fellows: educators who have the opportunity to lead TMS programs in India for six months at a time. Fellowship applications for this great program are due on March 2, and so I invited Remy and Piya to share a little about their program here:
Empower Youth Through Storytelling and Technology
How do we empower youth to believe that they can change the world? As educators, this question is at the core of our work. Perhaps because our education became truly valuable for us when we found a way through digital storytelling to explore our own identities, our relationship to our communities and our beliefs about the world. We knew that in order for our students to amplify their voices and exercise their agency, they needed to learn to read the story of the world around them, and to actively envision and produce the next chapter.
This quest to empower students and educators through technology and storytelling began seven years ago when we launched the educational organization, The Modern Story, in Hyderabad, India. We observed low income government schools that were recipients of major grants that equipped schools with computer labs, but minimal support by way of teacher training and curriculum. Most of the labs were manned by one computer graduate alone, who was not a teacher by training and focused on teaching students about the parts of the computer and how to make colorful PowerPoints. The digital divide was being addressed but what new skills and educational methodologies did the students have access to?
We knew that for true transformation to take place for any student, and particularly for students in the so-called “third world,” their education had to facilitate a process of observing, questioning, analyzing and affecting the world around them so they can fully participate in an increasingly globalized world. As Katherine Boo illuminates in her Pulitzer Prize winning piece of nonfiction Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Life Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, when the financial crisis hit Wall Street, the price of rubber plummeted worldwide and youth in Mumbai’s Annawadi slum lost their livelihood as recyclers of waste. If youth cannot investigate, understand and problem solve in responding to how society functions, then how can they truly wield their own destiny?
So we developed a model that capitalizes on the hardware that schools were receiving to introduce a curriculum in which students use technology as a tool to learn about and interact with the world and their position in it. To emphasize the global nature of a 21st century curriculum, we launched a Fellowship program. Our TMS Fellows are young professionals who are experienced with youth media production. They work for six month semesters with local teachers to implement a project-based curriculum through which students produce films that explore issues of personal, social, and environmental importance. Storytelling is the gateway for developing crucial 21st century skills including critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and digital media production
Since 2008, The Modern Story has worked with more than 800 students to create over 180 short films about topics ranging from “Being a Girl in India,” to “Ultimate Superheroes: Fighting Pollution.” Through The Modern Story Teaching Fellowship, 8 cohorts of Fellows have worked in 16 schools in India and the US.
Our students in India and in the U.S. ask crucial questions: Why do fewer girls go to school? What causes food shortages? How can I inspire my community to change? Who am I, and what do I believe?
At The Modern Story, our story is one of every child and her vision for transforming herself, her community, her world.
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