The pervasive effect of technology is undeniable, but it is especially so for the new and coming generations. Children nowadays are not old enough to talk, but can easily refuse to take their meals if their favorite YouTube videos are not being played. Pre-schoolers adept at using tabs and touchscreen phones are spending most of their time playing games and watching videos. Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd (GISB) saw great opportunity in that for parents to give their children a head start in their education in an interactive and playful way.
How the idea was born
GISB is a Social Business Information Technology company formed as a joint collaboration between Intel Corporation and Grameen Trust. They work to provide IT solutions for rural entrepreneurs and create software applications that address specific social problems.
By mimicking the experience of learning the alphabet using chalk and slate, GISB wanted to make sure that no matter how far technology took our children from us, at least our roots would be the same.
And that's exactly how the idea of gSlate came into being. The gSlate English and Bangla are a fun way for pre-school children, aged between 3 to 5 years, to learn and write English and Bengali alphabets and numbers. The app is cleverly designed and provides a realistic interface mimicking the familiar chalk and slate with the exact sound effects of a chalk drawn in a board. Following the success of gSlate English and Bangla, Grameen Intel has now introduced gSlate Arabic.
All three versions of the gSlate mimics the traditional chalkboard with the familiar black slate and chalk of multiple colours. The learning tool can be essentially broken down into three sections – the learning section, the writing section and the mini-game section. In the learning section, children can learn to read and pronounce the various alphabets and numbers assisted by audio from the app. In the writing section, children can practice writing the various alphabets and numbers by running their fingers over the touch-screen. The app also hosts four highly interactive mini-games to assist in learning the alphabet.
The app can be an absolute boon to children taking their first steps into learning the alphabet. When asked how this application aims to help children, especially in the rural areas of Bangladesh, Pavel Hoq, Chief Operating Officer, Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd, replied, “By making the idea of learning fun, we want the children to have a better starting point than we did. To be honest, when we were creating this app we were mainly thinking about children in urban areas where the usage of technology is already fairly prevalent. But, the rapid spread of smartphones in rural areas has changed that perception of ours and now we are looking at it from a whole new perspective. gSlate can become a powerful tool in introducing rural children to the wonders of technology.”
The gSlate has been made available on Google Play Store and is absolutely free, that means free of ads as well. However, there has been very little marketing effort made by GISB so far, in order to promote this app. “The application was officially published on November 10, 2013. Up until March 2018, the total downloads for all three versions of gSlate were 17117. We are already supporting three different languages using gSlate and given the logic and infrastructure upon which the app stands, it is quite possible to do so for any other language,” they informed.
Technology has probably taken the field of education forward by a few hundred years. Leaving aside the wonders of the internet and its ability to share information across the globe at the click of a button; new technologies and apps like gSlate have made learning easier than ever. Scope of self-learning has expanded while dependency on traditional educational institutions like schools is slowly declining. Thus, a golden age of learning is on the horizon.
With so many technologies available to enhance online learning, we asked GISB what difference gSlate can make in the field of education. “What sets gSlate apart is the very framework and logic on which the app runs, as it makes gSlate easily adaptable to almost any language without any change in interface or functions. We started with one language and now we have three,” said Pavel Hoq.
When asked what educational institutions in Bangladesh and parents can do to ensure that children use learning apps like gSlate more constructively for their personal development, he went on to say, “Educational institutions can design their curriculum around learning apps like gSlate, especially at the pre-school and elementary levels where children are most easily distracted from their boring textbooks. Parents should encourage their children to spend more time on educational apps and games compared to popular reflex-based games.”
Besides this, GISB has also introduced gDraw, which is a fun drawing app designed for preschoolers and anyone who wants to go back to the basics of drawing and try out some cool art. gDraw lets users draw anything they want and save images to a gallery. The app also lets users download images of different categories of objects and learn to draw these objects through tracing and guided drawing and fun sound effects.