Monday, December 1, 2014

Excellence in teaching learning design

Excellence in teaching learning design using technology

Orientation programme (November 7, 2014 at BITM)

Subha Das Mollick, Fr. Gaston Roberge, E. Islam(L to R)

“New technology is common, new thinking is rare”
-Sir Peter Blake.

Today technology has become an inescapable part of our existence – an intelligent limb or a palm sized electronic alter ego. It has cast a spell on all aspects of our life – including the teaching learning environment. Technology is empowering as well as disabling.
On one hand, all the information of the world is on our fingertips. On the other hand, we have to struggle hard in the classroom to grab the attention of our students addicted to Face Book and WhatsApp. Using technology appropriately and tapping the right resources from the Internet, we can take the classroom experience of our students to a new level. At the same time, it is a challenge to us to kindle original thinking and analytical ability in a generation that is networked 24X7.

“Learning with Moving Images” is a collaborative effort of Bichitra Pathshala and Birla Industrial &; Technological Museum to help teachers achieve excellence in teaching learning design using technology. Through this initiative we aspire to indentify and reward some of the exemplary teaching learning designs created with appropriate use of technology and also inspire teachers to improve the learning curves of their students through creative use of technology.
The orientation programme for Learning with Moving Images took place on the 7th of November  at the Birla Industrial & Technological Museum. Almost a 100 teachers from 22 schools and 3 teachers’ training colleges participated enthusiastically in the programme that stretched from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. 

In his welcome address to the creators of the future citizens of nation, Mr. E Islam, Director of BITM said that the next best thing to learning by doing is learning by virtual doing – and the creative teacher can initiate that in the classroom for topics ranging from skywatch to change of seasons to language lab to building construction.

Fr. Gaston Roberge, President of Bichitra Pathshala and widely recognized as the father of Film and Media Studies in India, welcomed the gathering with a bouquet of virtual flowers. He recited a poem “The New Media Flower” from his book The Media Dancer and said that it is wrong to say “Technology is changing the world”. Actually we are changing the world through use of technology. 
After the brief welcome addresses, the keynote address was given by Dr. Chhanda Ray, Director of SCERT. Dr. Ray, a PhD in Computer Science & Engineering, joined SCERT as the Director two years back and has started taking initiatives in integrating pedagogy with technology in the school education system in West Bengal. Prior to joining SCERT she was in active teaching and research in Computer Science & Engineering and she has more than 30 publications in national and international journals to her credit. Dr. Ray has now turned her attention to educational technology research and we can soon expect from her an insightful paper on the same.

Dr. Ray outlined some of the steps taken by the West Bengal Govt. to promote technology enabled learning in the schools of West Bengal. 

Technical session 1: BITM’s initiatives towards technology enabled learning

In the first technical session of the day, BITM Education Officer Tushar Sengupta spoke about the workshops they had conducted with Govt. school teachers to initiate them into use of computers of designing lesson plans. Many of the teachers in the workshops had never touched a ‘mouse’ before and it was a challenge to help them overcome their fear of technology. However, the rewards were rich and varied. Teachers designed lesson plans on chosen topics and they freely navigated beyond the text books in sourcing material from the internet. Care was taken to restrict all activities to MS Office so that the teachers would not face difficulty in implementing the methods in their respective schools.
After Mr. Tushar Sengupta’s talk, a group of teachers from Konnagar Hindu Girls’ High School, who had participated in the BITM workshop, demonstrated lesson plans in Physics, Chemistry, History and Bengali using PPT. Their lesson plans, created in Bengali for students of class VI to VIII, were scintillated with animated cartoon figures, ‘do in yourself’ quiz and clippings of videos.

The teachers shared how the students eagerly look forward to these classes where the specially designed TLM are used. The school AV room has to be booked for conducting these classes. The teachers confided that the enthusiastic response from the students was a reward for the trouble taken for designing the TLM.

Roshni Ghosh, Debashish Mandal and Partha Bandhopadhyay (L to R)
Technical session 2: Teaching the Holocaust using an interactive website
Vaijayanthi Bose
The next technical session was conducted by Mrs. Vaijayanti Bose, a History teacher from G.D Birla Centre for Education. She demonstrated how a BBC website could be accessed in class to enrich a lesson on the Holocaust for the students of Class XII. The interactive website shows how a neutral space gets gradually converted into a concentration camp and a zone for torture and denial of human rights. More importantly, the website shows the German corporates exploiting the labour of these Jews in manufacturing products, thus putting the German economy on firmer foundation at the cost of Jewish labour

Technical session 3:

Making lesson plans relevant to grassroots

Rathnadeep De
The last technical session before lunch was taken by Rathnadeep De, Director of Ahead Initiatives.  Ahead Initiatives conducts educational programmes with rural children of North Bengal. They focus on activities outside the school curriculum, but directly linked to the everyday life experience of the children. Bichitra Pathshala had designed a module for Ahead Initiatives on good eating habits. Rathnadeep De played this module called Bhalo Khao Bhalo Thako to show how a copyright free American material available on the internet can be appropriated for local use and made relevant in the local context.

Rathnadeep De also demonstrated how they had made a documentary film on the education initiatives of Rabindranath Tagore by stringing together available material from the internet. Finally he offered all the audio visual material curated by his organization over the years to the teachers for developing their lesson plans.

Technical session 4 and 5:
Diverse resources on the internet & Cinema in the classroom

The first session after lunch was conducted by Subha Das Mollick. This was a dual session where she first gave a glimpse of the diverse material available on the Net and how these can be used to enrich the classroom experience of the students. For example, sound of a rain forest can be played in the class to speak of bio diversity or to do visualization exercises with the students. Similarly a time lapse video on germination of two seeds can be used in botany classes or process writing classes or even poetry writing classes. Data from the website of the Census Board of India is something that we rarely use. But this is absolutely authentic data that can be used in Statistics, Economics or Sociology classes. Thus, the internet is teeming with images, video, sound, music, text speeches, demos and much more. It is left to the teacher as to what she downloads and how she uses them. 

Subha Das Mollick interacting with teachers
In the subsequent session Subha Das Mollick spoke about the advantages of using cinema in the classroom. Popular cinema is easily available, everybody easily connects to these films and even a film that does not do well commercially is made with a lot of effort. Thus it is advisable for a teacher to take a second look at these films and identify portions that can be effectively used in the classroom.

As examples of effective use of movie clippings, Prof. Partha Bandyopadhyay demonstrated how a clipping from the Hindi film Swades can be used to teach a Physics lesson on electricity. The teachers immediately pointed out that the same clipping can be used to teach community work, resource mobilization and even dramatics.

Devika Kar showed a clipping from Lagaan and demonstrated how this three minute clipping can be used in the class to initiate discussion on so many issues on environment and bio diversity.

The wonderful thing about technology is that it upgrades us from being passive consumers to active users.

Devika Kar played portions of Ganga Jaminar Koto Kotha to show how even the grassroots children can be made creative users of technology in a filmmaking workshop and how two groups of children on two sides of the border can be brought together through skype. 

Technical session 6:
Triggering writing abilities using images

Roshni Ghosh, an English teacher at Loreto Sealdah and a Fulbright scholar,  showed us how she uses one set of creative output of her students to trigger another set of creative endeavour. In an English language class on “Time”, Roshni shows some photographs taken by her students, that can be connected to the theme of time – the ravages of time on the human body, the tyranny of time in our everyday life and the times in our lives that we all look forward to. Then she asks her students to write continuously for five minutes without putting down their pens. She thus uses the 40 minutes of class time to trigger the students’ thinking process, to exercise their writing skills and then review their work. Finally she shows a small film on Durga Puja made by her students to enrich the students write ups.

Mini Joseph, another Fulbright scholar and an  English teacher at St. Xavier’s School, demonstrated how she uses a short film on a father son relationship to discuss ideas of growing up, parental care, responsibilities of children and the generation gap.

Technical session 7:
Good practices for the internet

The penultimate session of the day was on good practices we all must follow when we tap resources from the internet. In this session, Debasish Mandal, Headmaster of Dhulagari Adarsha Vidyalaya, made the audience aware of the various spyware and malware hovering in cyberspace and how one can protect one’s data and personal information from these predators. He also spoke about free and open source software, copyleft and Creative Commons. Finally he demonstrated with a wonderful video how one can make clippings from a long film, put the clippings on a time line, add voice over or music and take export

Technical session 8:
A glimpse into the future

In the last session of the day, Rupali Sachdev, an English teacher at Mahadevi Birla World Academy gave a glimpse into the future of technology through Pranav Mistry’s Ted Talk. In this talk Pranav Mistry demonstrates how wearing a small gadget called Sixth Sense we can always be networked and use any surface as an interface with cyberspace. Before playing this TED Talk, Rupali drove home the gadget addiction of the present generation by asking the audience what is the first thing we do when we wake up. From those on the left side of 30, the answer was ‘I check my phone’. Then Rupali read out some revealing data from recent surveys that point to the all pervading nature of the malady. So the question that everybody was left with was, when Pranav Mistry’s gadget becomes a reality, how do teachers adapt to it, how do they redefine their roles in a 24X7 networked world.

Important dates:
Before the day’s session was brought to a close, the guidelines for developing the lesson plans were outlined by Subha Das Mollick and the announcements for submission deadlines were made. The submission deadline for lesson plans is the first week of January. Lesson plans may be submitted either by email or burnt in a CD. The presentation of shortlisted lesson plans to the jury  is January 31, 2015. 

Report prepared by Subha Das Mollick
Design & lay out: Shubham Paul

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