Teacher's Community of Learning Project in action

The Government schools have reopened, which means the TCoL team is back in action! During the month of June, we visited our chosen schools and have been installing Ubuntu in the computers there. During the installation process, we have been training the teachers and the students to install this themselves. We had a great experience in G.M.P.S Puttenahalli, where two 9th standard boys installed Ubuntu on 10 machines themselves, after Anupama had just shown them to do it on one. They then started exploring the tools within it, for example, Kgeograpahy, Stellarium etc. It is heartening to see that when children are given the freedom to use the computer, they learn so much by themselves. Unfortunately this does not happen in most schools though, where computer rooms are locked up, children are not allowed to touch computers, too much supervision, etc.

Another exciting fact for us was that, the teachers were glad to see us when we visited their school. The comfort level was higher than in the first visit and they were more open about their problems, their usage and what they expected from the project. They also seem more open to learning new tools and exploring different things during the project. Thus, the trust between the schools and the TCoL team is growing. However, the project still faces its share number of challenges. Constant changes within the government bureacracy, lack of internet facilities, multiple duties of teachers are some of these and within the team itself understanding these challeges as well as how to apply the software tools to the current teaching process. One important hurdle for us to cross is to figure out how to initiate teacher interaction and networking and sustain it. We also conducted a computer aided learning workshop recently, where the agenda was to introduce the teachers to the web-portal bangalore.karnatakaeducation.org.in and tools such as blogging and discussion forums. We discussed the idea of ICTs in Education, what teachers felt of it and its possibilities, how does it compare to what they are already doing and what areas of improvement did they feel they needed. Finally, we introduced some free and open source educational software to the teachers in the subjects of Mathematics, Logic, Geography and English. It was good to see that teachers felt that they needed new methods of teaching to supplement the old and felt the need to be on par with private schools. It was also interesting to see that they felt that the main purpose of education was to prepare children to face challenges of tomorrow's society. Ideas of behaviourism versus constructivism were introduced to them as well as the National Curriculum Framework, which most of the teachers had not yet herd of. One of the unique aspects of this project is that, we keep asking the teachers what they would like to learn/do in it. These teachers are not used to being asked what they want, so most of the time they have no answer. But, this is improving slowly and steadily. They still think about the school children, what they would like and how to teach them that. But there are signs of their own empowerment coming across in they way that they talk and the way that they interact with one another. They do realise that they need to worry about themselves and build their own knowledge. Only then they feel they will be useful to their students as well. This was emphasised in the second day of the above mentioned workshop one Maths teacher requested to address another teacher on a problem that she had raised in the online discussion forum. The teacher came up to the podium and addressed the teacher concerned (in default the rest of the participants as well). According to me, this was the highlight of the day where suddenly the project and the team disappeared from the space. It was a teachers space and they were interacting with one another, just using the space provided by us! We look forward to providing more spaces like this and facilitating more interaction. Exciting times ahead! The teachers now have to choose a topic to explore ICT tools for during the next one year. In the meanwhile, we will be using tools like way2sms and this to interact and help them.