Teachers discover magic of ICT

Last Updated 06 January 2010, 11:54 IST

As she made her first contact with the keyboard, Sumaiya Tarannum’s hands trembled. This was the first time she was working on a computer at the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) in Bangalore.

“Operating the  computer was difficult initially,” confesses Sumaiya, who teaches science and maths at a pre-university college in Doddapete. “I was not sure what to do with the keyboard. However, during the course of the 12-day training programme, I understood the various applications which could add a new dimension to teaching. Computers hold the possibility of making learning more exciting for students,” she says.
Sumaiya is one of several government school teachers invited to DIET, the State Education Department’s training centre, to learn and understand the ways in which technology can be used to change the way they teach.

Having largely taught children in government schools in villages, teachers like Sumaiya have now begun to rely on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to make classroom learning more lively for students.
 Microsoft sponsored the computer training at DIET to empower teachers with ICT skills and make technology accessible to smaller institutes. Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative has taken PCs to 111 countries including India, where the programme has been named Project Shiksha.

Suneet Sethi, programme manager for Project Shiksha, explains: “We have been working with 12 state governments in India to provide ICT training sessions for 2,00,000 teachers through specialised training centres and also through DIETs.”
Animation is a big draw
Gopi Y.R., a teacher from Borakanive in C N Halli, Tumkur district, says: “Earlier, when we took lessons on the solar system, we only had charts to show the students. Now we can use PowerPoint applications and 3D animation, which is a great way to show primary school children stars, planets and satellites. This is very exciting both for the children and for us.”

Net gains
The computer training, according to the teachers, has encouraged them to surf the internet for multimedia material. “It not only adds substance to largely theoretical text, but also enables students to connect with a particular topic,” says Gopi.
According to the teachers who underwent the training at DIET, the introduction of technology in the classroom has made a huge impact on students. With most of them coming from economically weak families, it has been difficult for government schools in  villages to retain students. But  ICT tools have proved to be popular with children who are now hooked on technology and keen to come to school.

Attendance goes up
The Government Higher Secondary School at Hyarada in Bellary district had previously reported poor results and high dropout rates. In 2005, when two teachers from the school who attended the technology training session said they were greatly benefited from it, the headmaster sent all the other teachers for the training programme. The following year’s SSLC examination results came as a pleasant surprise to the school for they had achieved 93 per cent, the highest since its inception. Today, GHS  Hyarada is a model rural school.
“Government schools now have funds to computerise their classrooms,” says Gopi.
“Our school, for instance, has a computer lab. We encourage children to use PCs, but the fact that we can use the ICT tools ourselves has made us more confident as teachers,” he adds.

The way forward
Microsoft’s efforts to partner with state governments in taking ICT training to teachers has set an example for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) communities. In Kerala, the FOSS community has trained 200 master trainers and 5,600 teachers under the IT for Kids programme.
Many argue that if Gnu-Linux allows its source code to be freely accessed by users, teachers and students should be allowed to improvise the applications they work on.
At the same time, members of FOSS groups argue that vendors of proprietary software such as Microsoft are only trying to hook children to their platform by introducing Windows at the schools.
“This is not a commercial programme, but an effort to make technology accessible to schools. We don’t sell software or charge for the training,” Suneet Sethi clarifies. “We welcome any initiative to propagate the use of technology since this ought to be a collective effort,” he adds.

(Published 06 January 2010, 11:54 IST)

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