Integrating Educational Technology with the Power of Teachers in Maharashtra
By Anchal Sharma
Imagine a bunch of teachers going out of their way, overcoming their limitations of resources to provide the best educational opportunities for their children. They had to face all sorts of challenges ranging from students working in the fields, doing household chores, migration, etc. But what helped these teachers to overcome all the challenges was using some form of technologically driven ideas in their schools. Initially, most of these teachers started with just generating interest and curiosity among kids to come to school but eventually progressed through providing multimedia teaching tools and improving their learning levels. This not only paved a path for students to experience school life but also stretched their learning horizon beyond their immediate environment.
This has been the inspirational story of so many teachers in the Maharashtra state of India, teaching both in rural and urban areas. These insights were gathered since our research project initiated last year under the umbrella of a larger study – New ICT led model of growth in India- led by Professor Jeffery Sachs and Dr. Nirupam Bajpai. The education research team at CSD and TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute, New Delhi) has been engaged with MSCERT (Maharashtra State Council of Educational Research and Training) and LFE (Leadership For Equity, NGO based in Pune, Maharashtra) to support the state’s efforts in integrating ICT in schools. Maharashtra, the second largest state of India has been the choice for this study because of its proactiveness in identifying the use of technology in schools as a key area for helping to facilitate improvements in learning outcomes.
During our visits to some of the schools in the state, the penetration of technology in teaching practices both in urban and rural area schools was predominantly observed. The state has encouraged a large movement of teachers adopting technology-driven practices in their classrooms who are now called ‘tech-savvy teachers’. It is the initiative of these tech-savvy teachers that has encouraged the State to formally intervene with its resources. The State has launched the national platform DIKSHA (“Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing”) across all grades and in all mediums of instruction. The platform is intended to utilize technology to provide in-class resources, teacher training content, assessment aids, teachers’ profiles and communication tools to foster the teacher community. The most widely used feature of this platform by far has been ‘Energised Textbooks’ with Quick Reference (QR) codes embedded in textbooks that teachers and students can scan to be linked with relevant, open content.
With the generous support of the Education Commissioner of the state, the heads of different departments and our implementation partner LFE, we embarked upon this project with a Needs Assessment Study to understand the vision, goals, implementation plans and the challenges concerning the uptake of the platform and DIKSHA. Based on the findings of the study, research questions and activities have been proposed to identify such methods of pedagogical training that result in sustained uptake amongst teachers in different settings.
As a next step to understand the current levels of digital infrastructure, support, resources and skills in schools, the research team with the help of the Research Department at MSCERT designed and enrolled a Survey in August 2019 across 1000 government schools in all 36 districts in Maharashtra. A proportionate number of schools were taken from each District for the survey. The data collected from this survey will help inform the state on how to best direct resources to support schools in filling gaps and optimizing the use of digital technology and resources.
The overall experience of enrolling the survey was exciting and moving as it provided the CSD research team to work closely with the concerned authorities in Pune. It gave the research team the right opportunity to collaborate and build a relationship with the MSCERT Research Department. The survey was enrolled through a mix of online and in-person visits by BRPs (Block Resource Persons) to less digitally equipped schools and hard-to-reach schools. To prepare for the data collection, it was mutually decided to carry out webinar-based training sessions for all the heads of Maharashtra’s DIECPDs (District Institute of Education and Continuous Professional Development) offices and the BRPs from each district (total 36 districts) who will carry out the survey. Also not to mention it was a perfect opportunity to save on time and resources by taking the help of an ICT enabled training program.
It was commendable to witness the efforts of the Research Department Head Dr. Gitanjali Borude and her team to organize and arrange the required formalities for Webinar sessions in such a short time. The team was delighted to see such a hardworking team of Research Department staff led by a lady officer and it was inspiring on many different levels. The webinar sessions were attended by all the 36 DIECPD principals and the allotted BRPs. We have just received the data gathered from the survey, are are now working on the analysis process to come with our proposed next exciting steps and strategies for supporting schools in their continued growth in integration of technology for the improvement of learning outcomes.