A New Education Startup in Reston Brings History’s Stories to Asian Indian Teens

Reston-based Jano is a new, online, history magazine targeted to Asian Indian teens in the United States.

We caught up with Restonian, Shefali Chandan, the founder of Jano to learn about its content and find out what drove her to create the website.


Jano founder Shefali Chandan and Bob Simon at his 100th birthday celebration. (photo courtesy of Shefali Chandon)

Hundreds of Asian Indian families now make Reston their home. The Washington DC area is home to the 4th largest concentration of Asian Indians in the United States, a community that has seen a surge in its numbers since the IT boom of the mid-nineties. Many Indian families now live in Fairfax, Loudon and Howard counties. However, as a micro minority, their stories in America as well as other relevant Indian history is rarely taught in schools. A knowledge of the history of one’s community goes a long way in affirming and shaping the identity of kids, especially during their teen years. This is turn promotes self-confidence and endows teens with a greater sense of agency particularly when growing up in a multicultural and multiethnic society like the United States.

Upon subscribing to Jano, teens will receive every month, an interactive, digital magazine focused on one high-interest topic. Every issue will offer age-appropriate content, archival photos, cartoons, videos, links to additional readings and primary sources. Jano’s focus on history stems from the fact that history is filled with stories that teens would find compelling. Indian teens will recognize that history doesn’t have to be dry and boring. Rather, by exploring the backstory of news events, people and cultural memes, history will come alive for teens.

What was the impetus to launch an educational, interactive magazine focused on history for Asian Indian teens? Why history?

Because history is full of great stories! At Jano, we hope to unearth some of the compelling stories buried in history and bring these to life for Indian teens. Every news event, person and cultural meme has a rich backstory that we would like to put the spotlight on. With this backstory or historical perspective, we believe teens will have a greater appreciation of themselves as well as of current events and popular culture. As David McCullough, the famous American historian and novelist has said, “history is who we are and why we are the way we are!”


What does ‘Jano’ mean?

“Jano” is the Hindi word for “know”.

As our tagline “know history’s stories” implies, we want Indian teens to know their history and offer it in an age-appropriate and digestible way. The word “Jano” also reiterates our pedagogical philosophy which focuses on the following: creating a knowledge base among subscribers through carefully written and curated content (Know); encouraging critical and deep thinking by guiding readers through activities and assignments (Think); and finally, encouraging subscribers to create new knowledge by sharing their thoughts and reflections on Jano‘s blog and discussion forums (Create).


Who creates the interactive e-zines?  

Jano’s digital magazines  are created by a team of professors, teachers, writers, instructional designers, and graphic artists. Our professors are experts in the topics that are selected while our designers have experience in the pedagogies of online learning. We also work closely with libraries across the country to bring forgotten  archival sources and photographs to our subscribers.



How are the topics for the upcoming issues selected?

Since Jano’s target audience is Indian teens, the topics selected are “generative” to them. Generative topics are those that are “interesting” and “fascinating”  to the audience and that “tie into their previous experiences”. For example the topics of a few of our upcoming issues include: Bonds of Fraternity between Black America & Indians: The History of Political and Social connections between Black America & India; Yoga in America: The Impact of Yoga on American Life & Society; Indic Influences on Star Wars, Star Trek and other American Sci-Fi; Mark Twain’s Travels in India; The Mystery genre in Indian Literature; Bollywood vs. Hollywood etc. These are just a few of the interesting and stimulating topics that Jano will cover over the next year.


What skills will teens gain through Jano?

Jano promotes 21st century skills such as critical thinking, visual literacy, global awareness, effective writing, information analysis, deep knowledge and understanding of content and use of web 2.0 technologies. Additionally, students will develop historical study habits such as sourcing and contextualizing documents, close readings, evaluating data, and developing historical narratives.


Can teens and parents get to see an example of one of the online magazines?

Yes, absolutely! We have created a sample issue that parents and teens can read in order to get a good sense of what to expect in every forthcoming issue. The topic of this issue is the story of Indian immigration to the US. Your readers can go to our sample issue by clicking here.

Thanks so much to Shefali for this interview! We wish her much success with this wonderful and thoughtful website.

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