How I’m Using Our Obsession With Technology To Enhance Learning In Rural India

Posted by Prateeksha Tiwari in Education
June 6, 2017

We live in a digital age – one defined by internet, computers, and mobile devices. While our parents would have read this article in a magazine or newspaper; you are probably reading it on a smartphone or laptop. Our parents used to browse libraries and encyclopaedias to look up something new; we have Wikipedia and Google search at our fingertips. Many of our parents could only dream of an education abroad; while we have professors from MIT and Harvard delivering courses through EdX and Coursera. Chances are, most of us are from cities or large towns.

But can the same be said about the young learners in rural India?

‘Digital India’ has been one of PM Modi’s most popular catchphrases. The vision of Digital India is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. But as we all know, rural India has largely been left behind when it comes to reaping the fruits of our nation’s development so far. So that rural India also participates in the dream of Digital India, we need to bring solutions and technologies which work in rural conditions, instead of blindly copying urban models.

This is what I set out to do as an SBI Youth For India Fellow working with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme-India in rural Gujarat. I joined the 2016-2017 batch of the fellowship after teaching Chinese in Delhi University colleges. My mother is an educator who began teaching children of poor migrants from Bihar and UP, especially girls. Education is thus very close to my heart and my area of interest. I chose to work on introducing technology and computer-based learning in rural government schools as my Fellowship intervention.

As part of the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, I visited around twenty schools in the Wankaner taluka, Gujarat. There was one common observation throughout – largely defunct computer labs. In the few schools where some computers were in working condition, the student-to-computer ratio was very high. Most students never got an opportunity to use a computer, let alone study on one.

The great digital drought. Even though computers exist in schools, they are too few and non-functional.

This is when I decided to introduce Microsoft Mouse Mischief, a low-cost technology-based teaching model that requires minimum additional hardware and is used to engage every student in the class in the classroom sessions digitally. The teachers combine their regular classroom lecture with video materials. These videos are shown using a single computer. After the lesson is completed, each student is given a mouse with which they participate in a computer-based quiz.

Multiple mice in action

Teaching Science with multimedia has made explaining complex and abstract concepts much simpler for me. For example, it was difficult to explain the atomic model, human anatomy like digestive system, the solar system etc. using the standard ‘chalk and talk’ method. With videos, it is not only easy for me to teach but also easier for students to learn,” said Jaya Solanki, a science teacher at Palasdi government school.

Teacher Jaya Solanki teaching reflection in curved mirrors – a topic difficult to explain through just lectures.

While implementing this, I first had to convince and motivate the teachers to participate in the computer-based learning model. The school authorities had to be persuaded to invest in the technology. Once the teachers were convinced of the benefits, they took extra effort to learn about using the technology from me.

It is now easy for us to explain things to kids. Some concepts of history and geography are explained in a far more interesting way using an animated video than simple lecturing. I can now instantly evaluate understanding levels of the class. We now know where to find videos, how to prepare a presentation and then analyse the kids’ performance,” said Jigar Solanki, a social studies teacher in Juna Vaghasiya government school. CRC coordinator Alpesh Deshani adds, “This technique is very helpful as each and every student now actively participates in the class. They are not passive recipients of information anymore.”

Teacher Jigar Solanki conducting a multiple mice-based quiz on the freshly studied chapter.

Not just teachers, students also find the multimedia lessons more interesting and engaging than the regular classes, which results in better classroom attendance and understanding of subject matter. “The students look forward to the day when Prateeksha ben comes to our school because they all want to do their lessons on the computer and with mice. Something which attracts students to studies and school is already a winner in our books,” commented Naresh Jagodana, the school principal at Juna Vaghasiya school.

Teaching basics of titration made possible – even in the absence of a science lab.

Speaking about how her grades increased in social studies because of the interactive sessions, standard eight student Rajeshwari Vaghela said, “Previously when our sir taught us, we could not remember things for a long period of time. Because of the videos and quiz, we could grasp everything easily. Kids in my class are always waiting for Prateeksha didi to come. We concentrate when watching the videos because we want to answer correctly.”

Apart from regular curriculum, students also learn about inspirational personalities, states and cultures of India, and current affairs. In these sessions, students themselves lead the quiz sessions for their classmates. This boosts their self-confidence and improves their public presentation skills.

Raising ‘student champions’ – the educators of tomorrow

Technology-assisted learning in three villages of Gujarat may not make a big impact when it comes to the entire nation but is surely improving education for the teachers and students in these villages.

You can learn more about my work by following my blog at onemouseperchild.wordpress.com
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Images provided by author.

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