It was a sunny day when we first visited few schools in Mulshi Taluka in Pune district of Maharashtra state, such as Maan, Hinjewadi, Sutarwadi in 2014. The teachers were also computer challenged and thus were dependent on old methods of teaching. This further, kept the students away from the school.
However, steadfast, we first introduced our Global Classroom and e-learning concepts to the villagers, teachers and related staff. Re-building a school, is a mammoth task like building a village. Convincing the Sarpanch and other panchyat members was a difficult task. Inspite of a few kilometers away from Pune, this village that boasts of Information Technology Park, was miles away from using technology for teaching.
The aims were high but when the practical feasibility was taken into consideration, the task was ardent and required lot of aspects to be dealt with. Explaining them the benefits of ‘Global Classrooms’ How the schools would emerge as a boon for them and their children. What developments would follow once the global classrooms were in place.This was to be followed by working on a pilot project where a school was selected for Global Classroom Project and the infrastructural operations and feasibility of the project had to be figured out.
Initial study showed that the Teachers did not have sufficient knowledge about computers. Secondly, they were also not aware of websites and e-learning programs available for teaching. Thirdly, they used limited number of teaching aids and practical experiments. They were apprehensive about the use of new technology and activity based methods for teaching.
Like teachers, even the students got few opportunities to handle computers as there were a few computers at the school. Lack of technical expertise led to technical problems and computers were in need of minor repairs or maintenance.
Pratibha Ukkalkar, a standard 7th student was so happy that she said, “initially we did not understand the concept of Global Classroom, but when we actually talked with students from other schools and education officers, it was a wonderful experience. Truly, it was a global experience.
Principals and Teachers opined that for a teacher it is necessary to stay upgraded. While facing the challenges of 21st century, a teacher has to be digitally literate, then only s/he could build a foundation for 21st century citizens.
After approval from the village authorities government support too was obtained. Arrangement of Laptops and PCs having advanced configuration and setup including Webcams were done. Dedicated e-Lab was developed for audio visual interaction. Technologies being an important tool, the challenges were many. Having a Global Classroom in place required good internet connection. Internet service providers were contacted and the feasibility was checked for the shortlisted school.
Once the set up was done, the teachers were provided with counseling sessions, besides training to handle the technology. Once Digital schools were launched the program was tested. Teachers needed to be empowered on the teaching models. Students underwent a sea development. The program is keeping them continuously engaged.
Today, it has been a success story. The impact was such that the enrolment was increased by 500 numbers. A few changes were observed in the school after implementation of GLOBAL CLASSROOM:
- All teachers have acquired basic knowledge of computers.
- Teachers prefer to use computers for maintaining records of marks, attendance, information about students and necessary contacts. They surf the net whenever they have time and note down useful sites.
- Teachers have developed a positive attitude towards use of technology and are experimenting new methods at teaching core subjects.
- Implementation of complementary syllabus has helped to create interest among the students in core subjects.
- Concepts are better understood through interactive activities and teaching aids, resulting in an overall improvement of performance in all subjects.
- The computer teachers in all the schools are given basic training in repairs and troubleshooting. They take care that all the computers are in good working condition by regular maintenance of machines.
- Students spend more time in the computer laboratories willingly. Students have developed confidence and interact freely with students and teachers in other schools in the cluster. Besides that students also interact confidently with experts in core subjects; who teach them online. Projects and assignments keep the students engaged in constructive activity throughout the course.