India File

Blossoming with the help of IT

Rashmi Pratap | Updated on August 14, 2018

Digital learning under Google’s Future Classroom project at Visakhapatnam

Technology has helped small-time vendors and students go up the ladder

Devi, a floriculturist in Varanasi, knew only two numbers — zero and one — until she was 30. Her day would start at 8 am, harvesting flowers to make garlands for worshippers in the abode of Lord Shiva.

After spending hours sorting hibiscus, marigold and jasmine, she would accept whatever the middleman gave her as she had no idea about market rates or even counting money.

Sometime around 2013, Devi enrolled in the Human Welfare Association’s (HWA’s) Mahila Shakti Project where she began learning numbers by drawing a huge mobile on a chart paper and making the keypad on it.

“It was easy to memorise once I had the numbers with me all the time in the form of a mobile. On paper and blackboard, I had never learned all my life,” she says.

This was Devi’s launch pad to using the mobile for calculation, making calls and recording videos. Today, she makes a call to the wholesale market or mandi every day and ensures she gets a fair deal for her produce.

She leaves only a 20 per cent margin for the middleman now, way below the over 100 per cent he made earlier by paying her ₹5 for the garland he sold for ₹10 in the market. Like Devi, nearly 2,000 women have benefited under the Mahila Shakti Project where the mobile doubles up as a teaching tool.

Tech goes to school

Miles away in Visakhapatnam, schools are using Future Classroom, a solution developed by Google for Education to promote digital learning. Students use Chromebooks – laptops, which boot up in less than 10 seconds and the battery lasts the whole day. Initiated last year, the project is under way in 41 schools.

P Gowri Shankar, who teaches mathematics at Gandhigram High School in Greater Visakhapatnam, says in the blackboard-chalk method, it was difficult to make students visualise three-dimensional figures or how the heart pumps blood to various body parts. “But with digital learning, not only do we show them all the facets of a concept but they also absorb it much faster without just mugging up,” he says.

It has resulted in better learning outcomes. For the first time, the school scored 100 per cent results in the board exams of 2018. And students themselves are finding studies more interesting now. “Results of assignments are known as soon as they are completed. We don’t have to depend on teachers to clear our doubts as we can search information on the Web ourselves,” says student Durga Malleshwari, Malkapuram High School.

Wi-Fi lends a hand

Using technology for learning is not limited to schools. RailTel’s free Wi-Fi Railwire has made lives better for many. Students travelling to school and college by train use Railwire to download study material, browse job vacancies and prepare for competitive exams. Sreenath K, a railway porter, used free Wi-Fi at Kochi railway station to prepare for his written test of the Kerala Public Service Commission and has cleared the exam. Helen, an autorickshaw driver, who ferries passengers to and from Kollam station, uses the free network to download study material for her son and nephews.

Yet, improving educational scores or incomes is not the only advantage of technology. It is helping people make informed choices and empowering them. “The ultimate goal of using technology is development of society, which also leads to social and political upliftment,” says Dr Rajani Kant, Executive Director of HWA. When that is achieved, technology has truly served its purpose.

Published on August 14, 2018

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