Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The use of Technology in Teaching

I was watching a football show the other day and the pundits on the show were debating on the use of technology on the football pitch. The topic caught my attention instantly as there were major debates on the same issue in cricket as well.

One of the gentleman on the show strongly supported the use of technology and criticized the referees who at times make the wrong decisions and grab the headline on tabloids the next day. The other gentleman voted against it by citing the fact that human touch is required on the football pitch as it adds excitement and add uncertainty in the game which is required. He also argued that to many referals for the TV umpire can break the continuity of the game.

That discussion got me thinking on the use of technology in the field of teaching. In last year i along with my colleagues have been on the road for training on teaching. During that we had the privilege of meeting and talking to scholar teachers and trainers in the field of education. And it was evident that there were 2 different views on the use of technology in teaching.

I thought it would be very interesting and important for me to analyze these views as a teacher. One of the views and which is very widely popular all over is to support and encourage the use of technology. Use of videos, presentations, animations as teaching aids while teaching students. I can not help but give my thumps up for this. The reason being i always felt being a student that listening to an audio or watching a video always helps to understand the concept better. I can go on and write whole lot of statements supporting this view, but before i do that let me put across the other view.

The other view which of course does not encourage the use of technology in great extent. This view is mainly from the management perspective. The management of the schools are ready to splash money to bring these technologies to their schools and make their school a better place for students. But at the same time what they don't want is their teachers' lake of preparations for the teaching different topics. They think that playing a video or showing a presentation will make it very easy for the teachers and they won't work harder. One of the other concerns is that teachers become very dependent on technology and which cannot be a good thing.

Again a very valid point from management perspective. Both the views are very strong and have points to be considered like those football pundits on the TV show. But here is what i am thinking.

I think we need to strike a right balance to use the technology very effectively for the benefit of the students. At the end of the day teaching learning process is more about the learners than it is about the teachers. Having said that i would also like to see the use of traditional chalk and talk method being used in the class room. It is very important that students and teachers make that connection during the process and i think chalk and talk method can provide that opportunity to both sets.

Instead of replacing black(white boards) with projectors and LCDs, i would like to use them as a supplement to the black board teaching. The concepts which are difficult should be taught using these technological teaching aids. I think this way we can keep the management happy without affecting the quality of teaching with the technological advancements around.

Coming back to the use of technology in sports, i strongly believe that we should use technology but to empower the umpires or the referees on the field and not to replace them.

What do you guys say?:)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

School Trip to Sardar Sarovar Dam

14th September 2009

An early morning it was than usual. There were news that the 6.82 million cubic metres concrete filled ‘object’ was overflowing! You could make about 3 Eiffel Towers sleep in a row to be as long as this concrete ‘object’! It did come as a refreshing and pleasant surprise after all that hard work the AVM Bhoolkus had put in for their CMTs. Even at such a short notice, Fuvaji and Hareshbhai arranged for the permissions and the transport for the entire school to visit the place. Thus begun the journey to the much talked about, very promising, very educative, third highest concrete dam of India – the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The 8 luxury buses and a supply tempo altogether accommodating 380 students, 20 teachers, the entire hostel staff and cafeteria staff made their first stop at the Gumandev Hanumanji Mandir. After having darshan in the mandir, the entire troupe had their breakfast in the spacious compound of the temple. There was a lot of excitement in the students as they boarded their respective buses for the onwards journey to Kevadia Colony. Parambhai, Fuvaji’s secretary was busy arranging for the school’s visit at the dam taking care of the formal procedures with help from Shri Maheshbhai Thakkar, our Ambrish devotee involved with the project.

Upon arrival at the reception site, students of Classes 1 to 6 were taken to Dam View Point 1 where there was a breath-taking view of the entire 1.2 km dam structure. They were accompanied by teachers, didis and an expert guide to enlighten them about this engineering marvel of India. Due to heavy rains in the Madhya Pradesh area, the accumulated water was overflowing from the dam reservoir. It was truly a unique opportunity to see such an action. The roaring sound of the overflowing water could be heard quite distinctly at the view point which was almost 1 km away from the dam! They were then taken to the Dam View Point 1 which provides a very close view of the dam and the river bed power house. (Visit for the chief places to visit at this project site)

Meanwhile, students of Classes 7, 8, 9 and 10 visited the Model Room and Interpretation Centre which had a model of the dam besides detailed information about the entire project right since its inception. The students keenly studied the model of the entire project, model of the dam, all the pictures and the statistical data about the project. They gained appreciation of the social and environmental implications of dams and got chance to look into the functioning of government projects of such a massive scale. Some inquisitive minds proactively asked questions to gain further understanding of the project and many even took pictures of the exhibition. The seniors then made their way to Dam View Point 1 to witness the grandeur of the dam. They had discussion about the mind-boggling statistics of the dam. (Visit for a few surprises yourself!)

Due to security related restrictions, only Classes 8, 9 and 10 students were able to visit the River Bed Power House generation section. The expert guide revealed some startling facts about the site.
For example,
  • Each of the 6 turbines in the power house weight 690 metric tonnes!
  • The mountain was drilled to make space of 214 m length, 23 m width and 76 m depth to accommodate the turbines!
  • The electricity generated there was transmitted to the switch yard using big thick stainless steel plates!
  • 1200 MW power generated could provide electricity to about 75 lakh (7.5 million) families!

The students took keen interest in learning the facts and understanding how the entire process worked. It turned out to be a highly educative and thought-provoking visit via the long tunnel to this wonder world created inside a mountain!

All the students then visited Dam View Point 3 which gave a very close view of the dam and the power house. The journey to the starting point was equally exciting despite the hot sun and the empty stomachs. The visitors came across beautiful natural landscapes and artificial lakes along the way. Freshly prepared hot lunch awaited the hungry young enthusiasts at the Jalaram Eye Hospital, just a few kilometres away from the Dam Reception Site.

After the lunch, the next stop was at the Rajpipla Palace Resort where the students saw a small exhibition of various items used by the royal family there. After relaxing for some while in the lawns outside the resort, in the evening, the buses headed back to Ankleshwar where an AVM Bhoolku’s parents had arranged for dinner for the entire school.

Undoubtedly, it had been an exciting as well as a tiring day for all. The house masters, didis and the accompanying teachers did a commendable job guiding the students and being with them all the time. Finally, the journey back to our alma mater begun and before late all arrived safe and sound to another marvel of the world – the Atmiya Vidya Mandir.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Teacher’s Day Celebration

12th September 2009

History in a way is the story of a few men and women who made their mark in this world in various ways. The legacy they left behind has attracted a subjective discussion in the course of time, nonetheless, it is a treasure trove for us.

Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan is one such person who made an indelible mark in the world. He was a great philosopher who bridged the gap between Indian and Western spiritual philosophies. He went on to become the second President of India and was known to tactfully use spiritual Sanskrit verses or quotes from the Bible during the heated sessions of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States – Parliament of India), which calmed everyone down and made it look more like a family gathering! His contribution to the field of education in India is very well acknowledged by the celebration of the 5th of September, his birthday, as the Teacher’s Day in India.

Due to the CMTs this memorable day was celebrated on the 12th of September here at Atmiya Vidya Mandir. The morning assembly witnessed the presence of our mentor Rajubhai Dharaiya, our Student Principal for the day Anand V Patel (Standard 10) and the Student Teachers for the day. Rajubhai spoke about the significance of Teacher’s Day and about the qualities of Dr Radhakrishnan. Anand gave the Principal’s speech for the event. It was an inspiring start of the day already and got all the more inspirational by another event. Anand V, the Principal Student for the day, began his day at Yogesh Sir’s office by getting blessings from the Thakorji and the Principal’s Chair in the office.

The Student Teachers ran all the school activities – teaching, sports, library and inspiring “their students”. The toppers of Classes 7, 8, 9 and 10 served the roles of various teaching and non-teaching staff members. Furthermore, an entertainment-packed evening was put up collectively by students of Classes 9 and 10. In the presence of Pujya Fuvaji, Hareshbhai, entire school staff and hostel staff, this evening was managed entirely by the students in the school’s basketball-tennis courts.

After the opening prayers, the elders performed Thakorji’s pujan. The Student Teachers then performed pujan of the entire staff amidst a lot of excitement of all the students present. During the pujan ceremony, one could sense a lot of mutual respect between the staff members and the students, something that has been very much a part of the AVM culture since the beginning. The event anchors - Jay Tailor and Sarveshwar started off the event in style by singing Jane Kyun accompanied by frequent claps of the audience. Atmiya K conveyed the gratitude on behalf of all the students to all the teachers in a very heart touching speech. He also mentioned about the uniqueness of the students at AVM. His poem was especially touching:

Wonderful Teacher

With a special gift for learning

And with a heart that deeply cares,

You add a lot of love

To everything you share,

And even though

You mean a lot,

You’ll never know how much,

For you helped

To change the world

Through every life you touched.

You sparked the creativity

In the students whom you taught,

And helped them strive for goals

That could not be bought,

You are such a special teacher

That no words can truly tell

However much you’re valued

For the work you do so well.

A short comedy skit depicting a classroom situation was performed by Class 9 students followed by another humorous depiction of a real-life situation in a Mumbai local train by Sarthak, Rushy, Siddharth and Samyak. A short candle mimic was then presented by Siddharth. Following that was another comic mimicry of a News Reporter by Bhadra and Siddharth. Finally, the ultimate comedy show was put up by Bhadra and Rushy playing the roles of Munnabhai and Circuit who are on their visit to the USA. All these were very well received by the audience. Sarthak Jariwala and Vivek J Patel were the Executive Organisers of the whole event. They were the key decision makers and co-ordinators in the management of all the items of the function and did a pretty impressive job, especially considering that they only had one day to prepare for all this!

The students then presented every single teaching/non-teaching staff member with greeting cards for the occasion. The students of Class 9 and 10 had prepared these cards themselves using their creativity in art and craft, whilst the card content clearly reflected their spirituality. They had expressed the individual qualities they liked of all the staff members in these cards. It was truly inspirational for the staff. The students then interviewed Renuka Madam and Saumya Madam asking them about their personal achievements and their experience of working at AVM. It was our beloved Paras Sir’s birthday on the 5th of September. Taking the opportunity of this event, the students of Class 10 had collectively prepared a special Happy Birthday card for him with a message from each of them conveying their feelings towards him. The versatility of the senior class was seen in these messages that Paras Sir read out. Some of them were very moving (“You have been like a father to us.”), some very naughty (“You are notorious.”) and some even more adventurous (“You are the James Bond of our School.”)!

Towards the end of the evening, Pujya Fuvaji gave a concluding speech in the manner of a student which was highly appealing to the varied audience from the students of Class 1 to the senior most people present. During the entire evening, Krunal Vakil (Std 10) and Raj G Patel (Std 7) enthusiastically received the phone calls from the students’ parents informing them about the event and requesting them to call back the next day. Arjun Mama and the cafeteria staff had prepared a delicious Punjabi feast for everyone after the dramatic evening.

This event also coincided the time of arrival of Param Pujya Swamiji in Mumbai (8:25 PM, 12th September 2009) from His videsh vicharan. The students rejoiced upon getting the news and were motivated to put behind all the obstacles they had and march onwards towards an even better all-round performance.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Indian Educational Reforms

It all started with the assignment of the HRD portfolio to Mr.Kapil Sibal. In a couple of months of assuming his post he created a national debate on need of educational reforms and his view of the reforms. Based on his vision CBSE is abolishing the Standard 10th board exam from 2011.

Under the new scheme a grading system will be introduced starting this year and then the students who will appear for the 2010 Standard 10th board exam will be graded based on continuous and constant evaluation from the schools. Though nobody knows what is the meaning of continuous and constant evaluation!

If the students wish to leave one school and join another then it will become compulsory for the student to appear for the online/off-line exam to be held more than once a year for the students. The students will also be able to appear for the exam multiple times to improve the grades. Will this turn out to be a boon or a curse for the students, parents and teachers?

In the documentary 2 Million Minutes researchers from USA surveyed students in India, China and USA. They found that the Indian and Chinese students have the advantage over their American counterparts and they applaud the Indian Education for preparing the students for the 21st century especially our 10th board examination pattern which they explain in their article in details. Although we need to understand that there is a lot of pressure on the students due to this board exam pattern and should welcome a change. The entire change should be well balanced and should be based on a logical thought process based on India's position in the 21st century.

Also according to the new law Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2008, there will be a 25% reservation in the private and unaided schools for the children from the weaker sections of the society and economically disadvantaged groups. This has also raised a debate in the country on various fronts about how will these groups of children adjust with the elite group of children in the schools. Also there will be a burden on the school based on the fee structures for these poorer children.

The bottom line is that with the advent of educated ministers managing various portfolios in our country we are looking forward to debates which are required if India needs to maintain its position especially in the area of education in the 21st century. I think even if we make the changes which are not right for us at the moment this revolution will help us as a country towards developing a vision for our children in the future. As Albert Einstein once truly said:
"The only person who never made a mistake never tried anything new".