MYSURU: For teachers, learning never ends. For a group of teachers in HD Kote, Mysuru, this process of learning is now done on a digital platform—WhatsApp.
The WhatsApp group ‘Vijnana Vedike’ (ViVek) comprises Science and Maths teachers who post doubts, teaching material and also share ideas on subjects and methods of teaching.
Birth of the Group
The group started in 2014 with 20 teachers, which has grown to 132 from 96 different schools in HD Kote Taluk, including school teachers from the tribal areas. This initiative gives teachers an opportunity to interact and learn from experiences of others in the fraternity.
The group has helped in creating an ideal atmosphere for teachers to raise doubts on their subjects. This has come handy for several of them, a majority of who work at government schools, who say they skipped portions in the curriculum to avoid facing doubts being raised by students.
Every Sunday, the group discusses a new topic relevant in the curriculum. Members can post their questions on the topic till Thursday. A member of the group is selected as ‘moderator’. He/she consolidates the questions and answers them in detail on Saturdays from 9pm.
Teachers are encouraged to send audio or video messages if they find texting difficult. Discussions sometimes last till midnight. Topics and doubts are explained with aid of audio clips, sketches, videos, and text messages.
The discussions are archived on Google Drive and updated regularly. Teachers who are not part of the group can also access the archived material. The group now reaches across to 6,000 teachers in the state through various social media platforms. Over the past three years, teachers from HD Kote who have been transferred to other towns or cities in the state have created similar groups in the region where they are posted.
The brain behind the programme is Praveen Kumar Sayyaparaju, Director of Science Education for Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). An alumnus of IIT-Chennai, Praveen joined SVYM in 2009 and introduced the concepts of a science lab and science park. He created the WhatsApp group to improve the quality of education by bringing together Science and Maths teachers.
“Teaching tribals and rural children is immensely satisfying. We started a mobile science lab in 2009 as most government schools did not have labs and we promoted science by experimenting. We slowly started working with teachers and found a lot of lacunae in their teaching. We then decided to create a platform for teachers to help themselves, to talk to each other and help each other.”
The science lab and the improvements in teaching have inspired many children in the taluk, considered to be one of the most backward in the state, to pursue a career in science.
Transition to English
Students in government schools in the taluk learn in Kannada up to Class 10. But most of them were wary of taking up Science subjects as they will have to switch to English. But now teachers of ‘Vijnana Vedike’ are making an effort to teach the technical words in Kannada as well as English, hence boosting confidence of students.
S Harsha, a teacher at Government High School, Hedthale, Nanjangud said, “After being part of the group, I have become more confident. As a resource person, I answer questions of other teachers. The knowledge we gain is remarkable.
Complex questions are explained in a simple way. We have shifted from being marks-oriented to learning-oriented. We are happy we have kindled an interest among students to take up Science.”