Learning with Mozilla: I Volunteered for “Hello Web”!

In the last week, I had the opportunity to be involved with a very unique enterprise being conducted by students in our city. Here’s my account of my experiences with Mozilla’s “Hello Web” campaign and its initiative to spread Web Literacy in India.

  • What, exactly, is Mozilla’s deal?

Well, Mozilla, through its on-campus network among students in India, is attempting to bring the Web and all its myriad uses to those in India not fortunate or privileged enough to have regular access to their own computers and net connectivity. To this end, Mozilla Club volunteers have been travelling all across India to charity-run schools that support underprivileged children, and other institutions, teaching residents about the basics of computers and the internet and providing net connectivity to them.

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  • How was C’est la vie involved?

I had the opportunity to attend two of these sessions held in Kolkata: one at the Hope Foundation Kolkata on the 18th of June, and the other at the Nabadisha Project on the 22nd of June. Both were immensely enjoyable interactions with individuals eager to learn.

  • The session at the Hope Foundation Kolkata

Look, it was us two volunteers (Meghna and I) struggling to recall what we’d learnt about Microsoft Word in Class 2 and then apply that to Google Docs, so you can imagine how we thought it would go down.

To our vast astonishment, no disasters happened: we could teach our “students” (fellow learners, to be more accurate) about emails, Webmaker, Google apps, blogs and  more without having to resort to cheat sheets; our learners could follow what we said in a mixture of Hindi, English and Bengali that would make the most accomplished of polyglots shudder; and we taught each other a great deal about how to communicate, co-operate and learn together!

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Learning at the Hope Foundation Kolkata

The inimitable Anirban da stepped in to teach us all the basics of HTML on Thimble by Mozilla (which Meghna and I vaguely recalled having learnt somewhat in class 8 or so) about which our learners knew way more than we did. The session ended with all of us chomping on Mio Amore cakes, which that old institution of Kolkata continued to provide throughout the campaign, bless their factory-ied hearts.

  • The session at the Nabadisha Project

This one was much more about Youtube than it was about the Important Professional Uses of the Web, because our young learners was more interested in Salman Khan than in Google Sheets– and honestly, who can blame them.

Due to technical difficulties (read: all but one volunteer forgot to bring their laptops), much of this was conducted via my fellow volunteer Upasya‘s phone: ah, the inexorable march of technology. We learnt a little bit about how Paint, Presentations and Documents worked, then we watched a lot of trailers including the one for the upcoming Mohenjo Daro. ‘Twas pretty chill and a lot of fun, guys.

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Young learners at the Nabadisha Project

The curiosity and desire to obtain knowledge tangible in the participants were the qualities that regularly struck me, throughout both sessions. In our privileged, ‘educated’ circles, there is often a cultivated, fashionable indifference to what we learn. The attitude is so pervasive that I think we become unaware of it and let it take hold of us automatically, day by day. There was no such artifice here.

  • How can you guys help?

The is the second “Hello Web” campaign. The previous campaign, conducted last December, involved five cities and more than 2000 school students.  This time around, the enterprise is a little different: to make sure that these new users of the web get long-term help and education, Mozilla is setting up new Mozilla Clubs that will mentor these institutions, providing technical assistance and volunteers to help run the campaign.

This time, “Hello Web” will be conducted from 17th June to 30th June 2016, which means there is still time for you to get involved.

Have some time off from school/ college/ your busy workplace lives? Come and help a great campaign to take off in our city. Mozilla needs your help, and the incredible sense of fulfillment one gets from getting to know these children is something that cannot be replicated or conveyed through a blog post.

A long time ago, during my first ever art assignments for school, I’d made a poster.

It showed a young girl getting down from a car to go to school next to a girl of the same age, begging on the streets for her living. I’d captioned the poster, “There are two Kolkatas.”

And, like in that poster, it is my personal request to you, you who are reading this post right now: “Help Us Bridge the Gap”.

That is exactly what Mozilla Cafe’s “Hello Web” campaign is doing: bridging the gap between the two Kolkatas and two Indias that exist side by side, every day, often never looking at each other, trying to pretend the other doesn’t exist.

But a schizophrenic country is a nowhere country.

If you want the citizens of India to progress, unitedly, stepping into one of the 21st century’s greatest innovations together: go ahead.

Volunteer for Hello Web, and help our citizens to become members of the global Web Literacy community.


 

Thanks to Kolkata Bloggers and Mozilla for this amazing opportunity. Also for including us indomitable ladies (Meghna, Upasya, Rupsha, Reya and I) in their campaign.

Those who want to volunteer or contribute, please contact Arkodyuti Saha at arkodyutisaha10@gmail.com, via facebook (@arkodyuti) or via twitter (@arkodyutisaha).

Thanks to Hope Foundation Kolkata for allowing us to conduct sessions there. You can find them at http://www.hopefoundation.in/.

Thanks to Mozilla Clubs, Sourcekart and Mio Amore, along with Kolkata Bloggers and the Hope Foundation Kolkata, for partnering this project.

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