In the morning today, I sat in Dr Smita’s class. She had not gone to the clinic today and was instead teaching a class. There were 17 students (8 girls and 9 boys) and they came from classes 6 through 8. Dr Smita was talking to them about water pollution, water recycling and some best practices for saving water at home. This was a very broad and general topic that she chose to teach because all the students were from different classes (because there weren’t any other teachers who came to the center in the morning). Dr Smita then assigned a team project to different groups and the students started to work on that.
When the students were discussing different ways to save water, this point came up, and Dr Smita talked more about it.
“Okay children, so what do we do when we have guests who come over, and we have to offer them water [this is something of a custom that everyone does – to offer water to anyone who comes from outside] – how do we do this? Everyone knows that water is scarce everywhere, so instead of giving a full glass, we can give half a glass of water to a guest. Alternatively, what else can we do?”
A student: “Ma’am, sometimes at home, we give an empty glass and the entire pot of water – and then we ask them to fill and take how much water they want only. This way, we do not waste water by giving them more than they want to drink, and we also give them freedom to take as much as they want. Since they know water is scarce, they will not take much as well.”
“Excellent job! Yes, you can do that as well, or give half a glass, and ask if they would like to have more once they have finished that glass. No one will be offended. Just remember, you must always be polite, and very warm to anyone who visits your home. Now that we discussed a couple of ways to save drinking water at home, let us now start working on the project I had described to you all. Does everyone know Google? [All students nodded or said ‘yes’.] Good. Use it as much as you want – if anyone does not know how to search on Google or use these kinds of internet resources, ask me or any of the bhaiyas here. They will help you out – remember learning to search on the internet is very important, and I want everyone to do some research about their project topic before they start making the model!”
Then, the discussion went on to what the exact difference was between ‘Google’ and ‘Internet’, and Dr Smita spent some time explaining what the Internet really was, what Wi-Fi meant, and what Google was. Later, she also asked me about the Cardboard viewer.
“Aditya, does the Cardboard have any app or field trip that talks of recycling? Like recycling plastic or paper, or saving water? I think something like that would be very useful – since we often hold talks or organize projects on these topics. These are some things that the students may not directly learn at school as a specific chapter, and so we ensure we talk about these topics. Also, as you can see, we often have children from different classes sitting together, and this is when we teach or talk about such topics.”
Afterwards, Santosh told me that he gave lens-making a shot yesterday evening, and he wasn’t entirely successful. He made the lens, but the glue got all over the place and it clouded the water inside.
Either way, the lenses we ordered on Flipkart arrived today, and so we’re going to try to fit them into the cardboard viewers next.
I also chatted with a group of eighth-grade students on what coding/programming really meant. Someone from the group had asked me about programming languages and how one ‘codes’ websites or apps, and I was describing the what it meant to give a computer a series of instructions. I also gave a small teaser on Logo, the programming language with the turtle that you can control, and we worked on the whiteboard together on getting our turtle to draw a square and a triangle. The students struggled with the concept of giving an entity (the turtle) a series of instructions which is executed, but they eventually got the hang of it, and we were able to have some fun with the entire process. In the end, two students also mentioned that they had done this Logo thing in school once too a couple of years ago.
Digvijay told me this today.
“Asha is like our second home. See the gang of children relaxing and chatting here now. We come here so many times when we have nothing to do, and we just sit here and chat about everything from college, to school, to general gossip, to anything. We cook food here too – there are utensils here as well – or we sometimes order food. Shravan told us a trick to get one free pizza from Dominos too – just call them after the food is ordered and say that it’s not tasty, and they’ll apologize and send another! We know it’s not the best thing to do, but sometimes we do it for fun. Shravan also gets us pizza whenever there are leftovers at the restaurant. Anyway, point is that all of us have a lot of fun here. So many people come here to just relax and spend time with friends. Many don’t want to go home – because once they are home, they’re stuck there for the rest of the day, and the situation for many of them isn’t too great at home either.”
Today, all of them were sitting and making another Cardboard device, because the first one (that they made on Saturday) had ‘mysteriously vanished’. No one was too upset though – they were actually excited to work on another one together now.
Also, I think I’ve started some kind of craze among the students to draw/print/cut/paste and make things out of cardboard and other materials. Currently, there are three students who are making very sturdy and durable Cardboard viewers, and they spent all afternoon doing this. They’re even trying to now make a projector out of cardboard, and also this small (yet very cool) hologram hack I showed them today.
A few students from a Bombay Rotaract Club had come over today to organize an awareness workshop with the students on Malala Yousufzai, on the occasion of ‘International Malala Day’. The students taught a few classes, did this art-craft making exercise, and took tons of pictures. As a result of this, I was unable to perform the Cardboard exercise today.
Rekha Ma’am and I had a conversation on her views regarding technology in a classroom environment, as well as how she felt about the tool.
“I am very much for incorporating new technologies – like the app you mentioned that allows me to store and access content from one place, or the virtual reality stuff – but I just want to say that whatever you incorporate should be connected to or along the lines of the syllabus. Because as we move to August now, we will start getting very short of time, and we need to finish the syllabus on time before exams or school tests. Hence, doing both extra content and the syllabus work will get very difficult. I will definitely show and use the app you said, as long as the chapters I teach are included or the content is related to the content. I am very comfortable with using content that is related as well to what we are teaching, or goes slightly on a tangent, but otherwise, I will unfortunately not get too much time to incorporate or teach anything else. Maybe only for very little time, but not giving it more time.”
“This ‘content curation’ tool you have been trying to develop will definitely be very useful for me – if I have this, then I don’t need to search for something – but I can directly go to the content and select it. Otherwise, sometimes I have to select from many different types of links that come up in Google, and I have to do this all the time. This will help solve that issue. There is no problem with searching on google, but since a google search gives several videos/links, here I can get one specific content that I want to use, and that will help me.”
“I want there to be videos, images, and related information on the topic I am teaching. For example, when I teach about the Himalayas and the Northern Plains, I want a video, picture, and map of these things. But I also want some information (in the form of video/image/text) of the lifestyle of the people, the crops and animals from the place, some traditions followed there, and also maybe some history of the people who lived there. If I can store all this kind of content in the app, then such a tool would be extremely useful.”
“I have noticed that as I get new batches of students, the new students are always smarter than the previous batch of students. They seem to ask more intelligent and difficult questions – and so every year, I still have to prepare again for all my classes, because I know that the students are going to ask me even more difficult questions this time.”
“This is how I would ideally like to use technology (any kind of technology) in my classes – at the end of the chapter, or at the end of every period, I take out 5-10 minutes to show the tablet or the VR headset to the children. I do not really like to use these in the middle because sometimes they slow down the flow of the class. Many times, a tablet or device will run out of charge, and I do not like these disturbances at all. It’s not nice to take away a tablet from a child in the middle of the class when everyone else has one. I prefer doing all the tech work at the end of the class.”
“Also, I am not at all tech savvy. Just like most parents – anytime I have a tech issue, I ask my elder daughter to fix it for me. Or my husband does it. I don’t know how to handle or use technology otherwise. So even in class, I let Satyam, Dhiraj, or Santosh handle the tech work, and I just try to teach. This is another reason I prefer using tech only at the end of my class and not in the middle. Every time I bring the tab into the class, though, you should see how alert each child becomes – it is like they have this new enthusiasm in them. I think using the tabs at the end really helps boost interest in the subject.”
“Since the app will be in all the tablets, each student does not have to individually Google something I ask them to, instead they all can directly access the content. You know the one big problem with Googling something? The children, especially the younger kids, cannot spell many English words correctly. So it sometimes is a huge hassle for me to get all of them to type in the correct search phrase. But also on the flip side – sometimes it is good to get them to do that, especially the non-English medium students. Just by Googling for so long, so many of them have picked up a lot of English words, and this activity actually improves their English speaking skill by a lot.”
“One thing I don’t like in the Expeditions app is that all the pictures are static. I want something continuous, like a video in VR – that will be more interesting, and we can also deliver more content. So many times the children ask for a zoom-in feature but even we cannot do that. The static feel is nice, but after some time it gets frustrating. There should also be sound! If we have sounds with the pictures/videos, it can be more interesting and engaging.”
Later, I had a quick (and short) chat with Pooja, a class 6 student.
“I really like using the tablet, it is my most favourite part of the class. I love to search Google. So if you tell me that there is this app that has all the videos, then does that mean I cannot search on Google anymore? I really like to search on Google, it is a lot of fun, and we get so many nice links. I also like that Google is so fast, so I don’t want to use anything else. But I can use this app, but Google is still the best.”
I will be working tomorrow with Dhiraj and co. to design the cardboard projector, and hopefully some other things as well.