Business, Guest Posts, Innovations

Pakistan’s first ever ICT Olympiad held at Alma Mater school

Pakistan’s first ever ICT Olympiad prize distribution at alma mater school

Guest Author: Fatima Hasnain

How did you spend your spring break? Relaxing at home and chilling with friends and families? This year, about a 100 students and 30 teachers from all over Lahore, spent 4 days of their spring break at Alma Mater school; learning, innovating and collaborating at an event that was the first of its kind in Pakistan.

The ICTi – I can teach innovatively, was Pakistan’s first ever ICT Olympiad spanning 4 days 24th till 27th March 2016, allowing students to become creators and not just consumers. And my journey, rather began in our director’s office discussing the kinds of ICT events being held globally and how Pakistan has never had one. And so began the first chapter of my ICTi experience: pondering whether to conduct or not, discussions, decisions, logistics and resources etc.  And that’s when we decided to execute the long dreamt idea of our director – Fahad Bin Farooq of organizing an ICT based event.

The event kicked off at 9:00 AM on the 24th March with the first session of teachers’ training workshops. We had a bunch of highly educated teaching staff from some of the most prestigious institutes of Lahore who had joined us to cater their thirst for knowledge. The session began with the basic intro of Edmodo. Followed by an interactive session of QR Code Hunt, a game where you have to hunt and scan the hidden QR codes to answer the questions that appeared. They were taught to create and integrate QR codes in their teaching curriculum. And they loved it!

Pakistan’s first ever ICT Olympiad organizers

After, a little tea break we were all back in the room and set in motion for another interactive session on subject specific ICT integration techniques.  For that we had introduced Popplet to make science easier, Timetoast to kill the wishy-washy stigmas attached to social studies, Storybird for visual storytelling and Kahoot training applicable in every subject. The session ended much later than planned and we honestly couldn’t keep track of the passing time. The excitement and interest was evident by the involvement of the participants as well as the presenters. This first session had set us well motivated for the next training session that we had with pre-school teachers of LGS and Beacon-house School System. By the time this session ended, our participants had already started coming for the Masquerade Carnival – the first and the most anticipated social event of ICTi.

Pakistan’s first ever ICT Olympiad

This day was set to make history! We launched Pakistan’s first virtual reality educational video. Yes, Alma Mater is indeed the first school in Pakistan to not only launch the first VR educational video but also the pioneers in hosting the first ICT Olympiad of Pakistan. The lights lit up, the crowd ablaze with excitement and we just could not wait to unveil the anxiously anticipated surprise of the evening.  It was an electrifying, exhilarating moment, and in standing together with my team including director, curriculum developers, management team, volunteers it felt like a reunion of compatriots. I felt, finally, at compliance. Just as it launched, the children queued up to enter the awesome three-dimensional world of solar system where they could experience moving around the planets which until now could only be imagined was now happening!

The second day was the students’ workshops that began with a welcoming speech by Mrs. Ghazala Farooq (principal of Alma mater) and a comprehensive overview of the event by the director and coordinator of ICTi. The participants were then led to their rooms where our different software experts went in one after the other to commence ICT based training’s for different subjects. During the breaks, students from different schools interacted with one another over lunch or in the entertainment room over a match of FIFA or a game of Ludo.

The next day, we were pleased to have representatives from Plan 9 – Pakistan’s largest technology incubator with us to judge the website and game making competition. Yes you’ve heard it right, the students of grade 6 to O’levels were taught to make their own websites and games. And they managed to develop incredibly cool games and websites, giving Plan 9 people a tough time. They were also very impressed by the holograms and Prezis the students had made, and enjoyed experiencing the VR video and Makey Makey- using computers by touching bananas and apples! Well, you had to be there to understand better.

The last day was the prize distribution ceremony where we had a cohort of educationists and technology advocates to enlighten the crowd with the intellect and knowledge they possess. Amongst them was Nabeel Qadeer; the Program Manager and Entrepreneur of Plan 9 and Plan X PITB, Dr. C J Dubash; the vice rector of FC College, and Waqas an expert in AR and VR development. The ceremony kicked off with an opening speech by me, followed by speeches and distribution of participant and winner certificates. The ceremony ended with a shoutout to stay tuned for ICTi 2017.

For me ICTi began long before the 24th of March, my opportunity to coordinate a sui generis event was approaching quickly. It’s not what we did, though. Sure, we worked very hard on the details, so that everything was perfect for you. We understood that it was a sacrifice of cost, time, and sleep and we also understood the apprehensions of hosting an event like this for the first time. But, once we made it through the doors, that all went away. We knew were going ahead with it, despite any setbacks or problems that came along. We were motivated ‘to do things for the better’, a motivation that gets you! This was way more than a Olympiad. This was not some serious, boring, rigorous conference. This was actually a lot of fun and learning! Yes, it could be overwhelming. God’s power, His pressing, His drawing, were there in such a way that I may have not experienced before. There were testimonies, meetings, conversations, prayer times, that touched me in such a profound way that I won’t be able to forget. But there were equally such fun times at midnight over black coffees and energy drinks with the team, discussions and never-ending disagreements with my director, and meal times that we never had time for.  

That one month of sleepless nights was worth the learning. In the position of the coordinator of ICTi I have learnt to step out of my confined zone and approach people. I have gained the confidence to embrace challenges and embark on new roads, roads that none have taken. Every moment was a learning adventure, from fights over font types to brain storming with the designers and sweet smiles to the marketing directors of companies, not letting go of the tiniest opportunity to get hold of the sponsors.

Four days of meetings have since blurred together, but I came away most importantly having had the visceral experience and sense of being connected to the larger intellectual community, and being a part of something greater than myself.

And from this experience I also saw that, just as technology proponents may be a tiny fraction of the population here but have an out sized imprint, Pakistan itself, because of its uniquely diverse ethnicities, multi-talented, creative and innovative students, also can hold an out sized recognition globally in the shape of creations and inventions to come.

ICTi was certainly an experience of a lifetime, and all those who were even remotely connected to the event have left touched.