I spent the entire day at Asha today as well – and for the first time, I carried the entire Expeditions kit with me there. That’s 12 Google Cardboard viewers and 12 Nexus 4 mobile phones. I spent one and a half hours during the break between the two batches charging the devices, setting up the application, connecting all devices on the same network/wifi, and performing a dry run. All this I did with the help of Digvijay, Dhiraj, and Satyam. All three of them are current college undergraduate students who had previously studied at Asha while at school. They now work as part-time employees (except Digvijay who’s a full time employee). All three of them were extremely enthusiastic about the VR viewers, and they thoroughly enjoyed helping me set it up. Another student-employee, Santosh, was so passionate about VR, that he told me this in one of our conversations from three days ago. (I had never talked to him or anyone about the VR project when this conversation took place.)
“You have heard of the Google Cardboard na sir? Now Samsung is also making the Gear VR and they’re selling it for 999 rupees. But I love the Cardboard more. Can you help me find resources online where I can build my own one?” [I helped him out a bit here, and we downloaded the open sourced Cardboard kit.] “I’ll definitely work on building my own, so that we can start using this on our own too. I’ve always googled for how-to videos on YouTube to make things, and this will definitely be one of the most fun projects.”
All of them were very comfortable learning how to work with the Expeditions App, and we logged into all the Android devices using the Asha Mumbai email address. A Nexus 9 tablet played the role of the guide, and Rekha Ma’am would use that. Just for today, Rekha Ma’am told me that she planned to use the Expeditions field trips to show the 7 wonders of the world to classes 7 and 6, because the students in both class 7 and 6 had done this in their GK (General Knowledge) class only a day ago. She and I worked on preparing a lesson plan for the rest of the two weeks. I shared a list of all the field trips with her on Whatsapp (this is what she requested me to do), and she worked on selecting/shortlisting a set of field trips that she would use over the course of the week. She had planned to complete a total of two chapters in history/civics for both classes 6 and 7. I will share the chapter names and the field trips in my next few updates.
I did not take any pictures nor manage the class when the session was in progress. All this was done by the Asha volunteers, employees, and teachers.
Here are some notes from the entire exercise today:
- As clear from the video, the children absolutely loved the entire experience. They exclaimed in surprise/amazement every time Rekha Ma’am moved to a new image. Both class 6 and class 7 displayed an equal level of enthusiasm.
- Two of the phones died as we were working with them, and so Rekha Ma’am asked the students next to them to share viewers, and they did it very smoothly. Student X would see the entire image first, then pass it on to her partner, student Y, who would spend 10 seconds on it and then pass it back. There was no conflict that arose anytime, for both the classes.
- The Nexus 4 phones heated up very fast – a couple of students were worried about that, and asked Ma’am if it were okay and safe to go on. One student was also worried that the cardboard would catch fire.
- Dhiraj and Satyam were present in the class to manage any issues and to ensure everything went smoothly. At one instance, a phone slipped out of the viewer, and the student got very startled and embarrassed because the phone hit the floor. Dhiraj stepped in and quickly put it back in. Nothing happened to the phone, since the kids were sitting on the floor.
- Digvijay did mention to me that having Dhiraj and Satyam (i.e. people to support Rekha Ma’am like they did today) all the time would be very difficult, and she’d have to figure out some way to have these ready before the class.
- All the student employees and Rekha Ma’am mentioned to me that they needed more content that was relevant to the Indian Social Science syllabus. “Please Aditya, try to get that done – it will be so so so useful then!”
- One girl (from class 6) complained at the end that her eyes were hurting. She doesn’t have any power, nor does she wear glasses.
- Other students at the center noticed what was happening – and at least 6 of them individually came up to me and asked me if they could use this in their class as well tomorrow.
Rekha Ma’am told me this at the end of the exercise today.
“I loved working with this – especially because of the students’ reactions. Did you see them! I want to use this for 10-15 minutes everyday, especially for the GK work. Yes, I’ll also use this during my teaching and for the lecture, but I especially want to take out 10 minutes at the end of both class 6 and class 7 and use this then too and show them random sites and explain it to them. I really like that they have write-ups for me to read and get some background information about, so that I can explain to the students what they are seeing. I also need to get more comfortable with the application that I work with on the tablet – still not 100% used to it.”
Dexter, one of the student volunteers, was teaching a group of 8th grade students history, and I overheard them talking about the US war for independence. I quickly told Dexter to mention that today was the 4th of July. He exclaimed and told that to the students who were very happy to hear the happy coincidence.
I took a picture of the Asha rules and regulations paper for the teachers. This was pinned up by Rekha Ma’am only three days ago, on the notice board in the computer room.
At the end of the day, Digvijay also chatted with me for a bit.
“Bhaiya, do you know any way in which I can get in touch with some of the Google people you work with? Or the university people? You see, many times I feel like there are many ways in which I can learn more about using technology or working on a project by doing something with them, and I also believe that I can do work that may help the company or the research too simultaneously. You are my source of contact. I want to see if there is any way in which I can help or contribute to their [Google’s or Georgia Tech’s] work and also learn something new on my own too here. I can do anything from data collection, to building or testing something here when you are not here.”
I told him that I would definitely think about this and get back to him.