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Rote no more as you jump and swipe across new-age syllabus
SHWETA SHARMA  1st Jun 2013

Kaju in a game developed by Nayi Disha Studios

he rote learning technique which largely defines the Indian education is slowly being done away with by schools exploring newer options and hands-on techniques to infuse innovation in the process of teaching and develop cutting edge pedagogy. Such approaches help students learn concepts by 'experiencing' them, and hence absorb them better. A similar initiative, Nayi Disha, intends to help children learn through the medium of educational computer games.

Founded by Kartik Aneja, Kushal Bhagia and Kunal Chawla, Nayi Disha Studios was born out of a solo project (going by the same name) that Aneja did during his internship at Hewlett-Packard Labs, Bangalore.

"Young kids have different learning styles. Some learn by looking, some by listening and many others by moving. Our work helps children hone their respective learning styles, and because there is movement involved, kids are no longer sedentary and teachers find them more involved and focused," says Aneja.

The games, which require kinaesthetic participation from children, primarily focus on pre-school children. Fundamentally based on Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences, it is the 3D experience that holds children's attention, resulting in better understanding. Kaju, the central character in all their games, teaches concepts like counting and addition.

Like, in Number Line Counting, Kaju is shown flying through space in his ship. He's not wearing his seatbelt, is inattentive and hence meets with an accident when his vehicle collides with a huge asteroid. He then crash lands on a Number Line, and has to make his way back to his space ship by hopping through it. Students are expected to physically hop, and make Kaju reach his vehicle. Kaju mimics a child's jump, and keeps jumping until he reaches the final number.

According to Bhagia it is the 'pure physical nature of the games' that make them a better learning tool than most other educational games. "We weave every lesson into a carefully crafted story that emotionally connects a child to what could be a boring and dry concept. Apart from that, our immersive game-based curriculum is thoroughly researched and designed after several rounds of consultations with researchers and educators currently in India and the United States," he says.

He further adds that the biggest problem with educational games is that they are either too educational or are purely fun, lacking the educational bit. "We back up the educational aspect with strong research. At the other end, we also spend a lot of time working on the fun element in our games. Each game's artistic quality is something that has been appreciated by several people including professors at Harvard, and senior executives at Microsoft," he says.

"Nayi Disha Studios is creating something amazing. Our teachers and students are involved with their work since the beginning as part of our innovation incubation programme. We have found that the children's engagement in the learning process results in higher retention of the concepts. Nayi Disha's games solve one of our most challenging problems as educators — to make learning an enjoyable experience," says Ashok Pandey, principal, Ahlcon International School.

Currently, Nayi Disha is launching its first set of games with the Podar group at five of their Podar Jumbo Kids Pre-schools across Mumbai and Jaipur, along with launching it at the Ahlcon International School, Delhi and the Eklavya School, Ahmedabad.

 
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