Dheeraj Mehrotra is not your regular, blackboard and chalk kind of teacher. He believes that teachers need to be as clued into technology as students if they don’t want to make a ‘fool’ out of themselves in front of their pupils.
He also believes just old lesson plans and books are no longer sufficient, and in order to equip students with all-round knowledge, the teacher must curate it from various sources. A teacher must have their own website, YouTube channel and social media presence, instead of the plain old resume, he advocates. And instead of teaching children ‘a quote a day’ they should also be made to explore a new ‘weblink a day’.
In a system that still relies mostly on rote learning from standardised textbooks, Mehrotra’s thinking seems a little radical to some. But the government school teacher from Lucknow has been convinced about technology’s role to revolutionise education since he started teaching computers to children in his school nearly two decades ago.
The conviction has not only enabled him to change things in the different schools he has worked but also secured him a national award. More recently, the teacher secured a place in the Limca Book of Records for developing the largest number of educational applications in the country.
The idea to make mobile apps came to Mehrotra when he heard PM Modi make a special mention of a teacher from Alwar, Rajasthan who had made 60 mobile applications in one of his speeches. Since then, Mehrotra has been on a roll.
In just over one year, he has made over 150 plus mobile applications in areas ranging from Classroom Management Skills for teachers to Java Programming for School students, Six Sigma In Education to new age teaching skills for teachers of tomorrow.
“Technology can really change things in schools. Today, most teachers fear it. The change from pen and paper to the online world has been so swift that teachers have had little time to understand the new ecosystem. This is also the biggest challenge to overcome. If schools take an active step in reorienting teachers, much can change in a matter of few years in this country,” Mehrotra says.
In fact, Mehrotra strongly believes that teachers should move beyond the offline world into an actively online one to widen their own reach and knowledge. “Certain tools need to be in a teacher’s kitty. I would suggest Twitter, YouTube for video uploads, Slideshare for uploading presentations and Scribd for uploads related to content that children can download. Recording audio and video tutorials should be a skill every teacher should know,” he adds.
The more he experiences its benefits in his own life, the more he is convinced of its usefulness, he says. It is also what humbles him about his own limitations as a teacher. “I remember teaching a lesson to my students, and them coming back to me telling me if I was sure what I had taught was right. They had fact-checked what I had taught with things online, and realised something was not right. In that particular instance, I was actually wrong. The episode was a lesson for me. No teacher can afford to live in his own information bubble now. The kids are much smarter than that.”
Mehrotra however added that he wasn’t looking to create a record. “The mobile phone is the future and I was just wondering how it can be used to make quality interventions in our schools. I started with one app, and then many more happened. And then, before I knew it, a record had been made,” he says.