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Will tech replace teachers?

Ritika Subhash wrote on LinkedIn in her post today “tech savvy teachers will replace teachers in future” (or something like that!) and bang…I had the flow for the next write-up. It was in 2012 that I quit teaching. I discovered that I had made myself redundant in the classrooms. 

The ‘tech savvy’ me had made the ‘me’ redundant. My classes were flipped. My students were learning on their own. I was only a manager. Someone who emailed to them the plan with all the web links and textbook work and they took over their own lessons. At times with a group and at times alone.

My students were groomed so well to be self-directed learners that they were happy to toss me aside!
How did this happen?

Flash back 2006
I walked into Pathways World school Aravali, a space with laptops and wi-fi. I observed students sprawled in corridors with their laptops doing god knows what for as per the IT department, the firewalls were very strong but the students just laughed it off! Not only that, they taught us too (some of us who were 'buddies' with them) how to go beyond them.

So I had an idea. I started designing lessons where they had to work on their own (alone or in groups) using the web links I would send and come up to me only if they needed help. I created a Gmail group of US with a new email id (I would not want them to chase me on my personal email) and would mail them their weekly tasks. This was grades 6 to 8.

And lo and behold! They took to it like fish to water. (Snapshot)

All discipline issues vanished for all I had to say was ‘let’s go back to textbooks’ and there would be a chorus of “no no no no…we will be fine”.
Discipline issues?
  • ‘I don’t have a charger’ …’Back to textbooks’…Mysteriously the charger appeared.
  • ‘My wi-fi does not work’…’Back to textbooks’…’Wi-fi is perfect now’.
  • ‘I could not access my mail’…’…’…’..’
You got my point? I had the magic tool!

There came a point when (please do not laugh) I.Missed.Them. I missed our banter and the exchange of affection. So at times I nudged them to get some attention from them. Their response? ‘Oh! MS.Kochar, do not disturb us. Let us study. Why don’t you have a cup of tea?’ (Yay! Pathways is that magical space where you can get a cuppa tea for yourself in the class).

I found myself redundant and the proof of it was when end of feedback found me holding a slip that said, “Ms. Kochar, the best gift you have given to me is you made Google my friend. Now if I need any information I don’t look for a teacher, I go to Google”. Yes…I was misty eyed. i made someone!
Coming forward!

Looking back I find a lot of truth in Ritika Subhash's statement. I was made redundant by the tech savvy ‘Ms. Kochar’. But there were issues with tech: Students needed the personal touch and missed it. (not just me). So I had to continue with my other ‘non-tech’ strategies also. Group discussions, projects etc…but in everything, I brought in the tech element.

1.     "End of group discussion, mail me a gist of what was discussed."
2.     Projects submission can be in any way including technology (a group sent me as a project submission a video of themselves doing the project!Check it out).
3.     Send me a feedback on this lesson.
4.     Work using the site today. Tomorrow we will have a discussion.
5.     Watch the video and answer the questions given on the handout. Then discuss with a peer his or her answers and compare.

You see! I ‘integrated tech’ in my classes. But I did not let it take-over. The personal relationships stayed as they were, in fact grew better.
Tech helped in many other ways too to make me self-empowered and actually reduced my burden of work.

1.     Pathways used Veracross as a LMS tool. I stopped maintaining a paper diary. All marks were immediately uploaded on the LMS and mails sent from it directly to parents wherever relevant.
2.     I started putting HW on Veracoss and ..well… students had no choice but to change when like a stubborn mule I would not tell them what the HW was. They had to find a way to get the blessed internet and find out the HW for the day (it was daily!)
3.     Students reports…the bane of our lives. Lazy me mailed specific targeted questions to students and asked them to mail me a report flowing through them. I added my 2 pence and posted them. They never went wrong for students knew themselves well.
4.     I did not wish to carry the heavy laptop around so I downloaded Dropbox and locked the school laptop in school.
5.     I used outlook outrageously to connect to parents and responded to them so quickly, there were no evening calls from anxious parents! And we bonded well for they appreciated the extra attention.

All in all…with these as few examples…I found few things:
1.     Tech is great as a helper. Not as a boss. Kids and us still need the personal connect.
2.     Kids need a lot of skill development for being self-directed learners before we can entrust them with it with a gadget.
3.     It does not work for everyone. There were kids who needed a teacher and would not learn from anything but me.
4.     LMS is great to learn and reduce one’s workload. Teachers must try it.
5.     There is a WHOLE world of teachers from all over the world online and ready to share their resources for free. Indian teachers can easily take charge of their personal and professional development through the material available.

When Pathways world school Aravali handed me a laptop and wi-fi password, they handed me a gift par excellence. They opened a new world for me and I am super grateful to them forever. I became a smarter teacher.

#monicakochar, #techinclass, #mathsteaching

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