At the Government High School in Asthinapuram, a village near Guduvancherry, students are news readers, narrators, actors and creators.
Here, desktops, laptops and DVD players regularly occupy centre-stage, with students creating everything from e-content to power point presentations with the tap of a key and a swish of the mouse.
To get to Asthinapuram, you travel on the neatly-paved Nellikuppam Road, off bustling GST Road. The deeper you go, the more verdant the landscape becomes.
On the left is the school, which is looking at tapping ICT (information and communication technology) as one of the means of improving enrolment and attendance. It was only last year that this school was upgraded to a high school.
G. Janagarani and T. Sasikala, headmistresses of the high school and primary school (which is located on the same premises) say that ICT is a huge draw for the students who do not have access to it otherwise.
Teachers at the school say they have downloaded educational videos relevant to the curriculum from the internet, brought them to school, and are even starting to upload videos of some of the students’ projects online. One of the videos where a student is reciting a song got more than 1,000 hits,” says N. Gnanaprakasam, a science teacher at the school.
S. Chitra, a teacher at the school was one of the recipients of the National Award for integration of ICT in promoting students’ learning for 2011. Ms. Chitra who got the award in 2012, was one of the three teachers from the State to receive the award that year.
“Until I was trained in 2009 as part of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan’s (SSA) and Microsoft’s Project Siksha, I did not even know how to operate a computer,” she confesses.
A primary teacher back then, she went an extra mile to connect her classroom to the distant digital world.
She says back then, even when they brought internet data cards to school, they would have to go walking with a laptop along the road in search of network.
Students at the school don’t just passively listen to their lessons – they are protagonists in their classrooms. Most come from nearby villages and towns such as Kandigai and Pandur among others.
“Most students know about everything from memory cards to editing software. At times, they come up with solutions when we are brainstorming about technology-based projects,” says Mr. Gnanaprakasam, a science teacher. He has taken students on literal ‘field’ trips to understand agriculture, shot the experience on his handycam and has also made educational clips.
One of Ms. Chitra’s students is D. Arunkumar, whose father is no more. His mother is a daily wage labourer.
Now a class VIII student, he was in class III when he digitised a chapter in his textbook. He still gushes about how he got to show it to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam last week.
“In just a few months, he had finished all the exercises at the back of the textbook. To keep him engaged, we gave him supplementary books, which he converted into e-content. He took photos from the activity-based learning cards, recorded a voice-over, typed the contents of the chapter, and made it into a power point presentation,” Ms. Chitra said.
The primary school has a projector, three laptops, three desktops and educational CDs given by the government.
“I would come even if they called us on Sunday,” says an exited M. Badhrakali, a class V student who uses ICT to learn songs for competitions. The school was also part of SSA and British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ programme.
Though many government schools have computers, schools tap these resources based on their requirements.
A senior department official said that there are teachers in every district who are using ICT effectively in classrooms.
“Students are technology savvy, and teachers too are using technology very creatively in schools, especially to make subjects such as mathematics and English easier,” the official said.
Ms. Chitra has already created a Wikispace community where teachers from the State network and share their ICT ideas. She now wants to create a blog where the students’ projects can be put up.