There comes a time when the tried and tested has to be kept aside and new, exciting and challenging ways need to be adopted. This was such a time at LFW. Growth had to be pursued but by scaling… and not expanding the team of trainers. So the need for the hour was a smarter way of training our target segments — teachers — than by visiting them in person. With technology fast on its way of becoming ubiquitous even in the rural areas, it seemed the logical choice as a medium to train teachers.
So with that in mind, we decided to run a pilot test training session. Our audience were teachers belonging to a school — Adharshila School (http://www.adharshila.org.in) in village Agraa in the Vijaypur tehsil of district Sheopur, Madhya Pradesh. Situated amidst greenery near the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, the school, established more than a decade back, is governed by people committed to providing universal and meaningful education to the ~300 children in a fun-filled manner. Adharshila School is recognized as a high school by the Madhya Pradesh State Education Department. For them too this training was a pilot project, as they aimed to conduct such remote training for their teachers (spread across their Resource Centres) in other subjects too.
The teachers for the training that day, while only 20-odd in number, were an enthusiastic bunch of men and women from that region. Situated in the hinterland, it seemed to be the ideal place for testing the new method of training.
The printed material (Ground Level Reading Primer, in Hindi) through which we would be guiding the teachers during the course of the training, was sent to them beforehand. Our past experience had made us realize that for the training and the subsequent deployment of the English Literacy Program to be successful it was necessary not only for the trainer and teachers to be inclined and enthusiastic, but also for the coordinator to be hands-on and involved. Their coordinator Kriti Srivastava was all that and more as we would soon realize as the training progressed.
From the technology angle, two laptops were arranged for the training at both the ends, viz. our Mumbai office and at Adharshila, Madhya Pradesh. Making use of open-source software, we planned to take the teachers through the training. Due to time-constraints and it being a pilot test project, only up to 3 modules (out of the total 5 modules) of the Ground Level Reading Primer were to be covered.
The laptops were setup, one was to take remote control of their laptop and run our program through a series of presentations and the other laptop would ensure that there was a constant visual connect (with the help of the webcam) between the participants and the trainer despite the almost 1000 kms of distance between us. For using audio, we fell back on the much-tested mobile phone. And at Adharshila’s end, they connected the phone to the speakers by which all the teachers, including their coordinator, would be able to hear us. For the visual, they projected on a larger screen, the display of the laptop which would run our presentations.
As they say, well-begun is half-done… The connections went through and that set the ground for an effective session to take place. The cheerful waving of hands and warm smiles that greeted us, was heartening to say the least. We were on the anvil of changing our training method for good.
We raised the question of why was English so necessary for their students. The teachers readily chimed in with answers which echoed views of teachers we had trained so far. This only reiterated what we have believed so far — that most people understood the value of students becoming English literate.
All wasn’t hunky-dory… there were the customary glitches, line drops, losing remote control of their desktop. At times there was more than a couple of minutes of break due to these technical issues… but in the end, it was a good thing. Fortunately, these breaks didn’t make a dent in the teachers’ determination to learn. This is where Kriti’s spontaneity and quick thinking helped. During one such break, she had a few teachers to belt out a tune or two.
To ensure that concepts were understood, we used to ask teachers to reiterate what we had just covered. And seeing the teachers live over the webcam answering our questions successfully assured us that we were on the right track. Kriti too joined in and ensured that nothing was misunderstood or overlooked by her teachers. She would step in to clarify pronunciation nuances keeping in mind the differences between the two languages.
All’s well that ends well
Soon it was time to take a break for the day and end our session. It was way past lunch time and it was best to end now and continue the next time. But not before giving some homework to be done by the teachers before we met next for the concluding part of our first-ever video-based training. It felt good… gone were the days when we received homework from teachers… now was the time to give them homework.
The remote training only reiterated our belief that English could be taught in the mother tongue and could be taught by those who themselves were not fluent in the language.
There were a few things to be taken care of for the next time, but all that could wait but not the capturing of the photo memories for posterity.
Hardware and Software used for this remote training : 2 Laptops at each end, Skype (https://www.skype.com/en/download-skype/skype-for-computer/), Ammyy Admin, ( http://www.ammyy.com/en/downloads.html) – remote control of their desktop. Projector screen connected to a laptop at the other end, so as to make the content visible to all those attending the training session.