Like many 12-year-olds, Anshika Lara found history lessons fairly drab. This changed in June, when her school introduced a 'smartboard' that brought bloody battles and forgotten fossils to life.
"My school uses an audio-visual system that makes even history interesting. We get to see many more pictures and listen to interesting audio-clips, instead of mechanically memorising dates and events we cannot relate to," says the Class 7 student at Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai.
Encouraged by good response from students as well as teachers, several schools across the city are have employed technology to add value to their lessons.
Every classroom in Lara's school has been equipped with a special white-board, and a projector which allows teachers to use pre-programmed audio-visual packages to teach different subjects, including music and sport. "Teachers no longer have to waste time in class drawing complicated diagrams on the board, especially for subjects like biology. Seeing how parts of the body function through animations makes the subject easy to grasp," says Zulekha Khan, primary co-ordinator at Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai.
At EuroSchool, Airoli, teachers and students have been using special touch screens, which respond to electronic pens and can solve mathematical problems and verify scientific equations. "The technology helps us immensely, making teaching joyful. Children are also more attentive and engrossed in the process," says Anandi Gosrani, a teacher at the school. Her principal, Natasha Mehta agrees, adding, "In an age where children use videogames, handle smartphones and other gadgets with complete ease, we find that technology engages the students more effectively."
Touch screen devices, in particular, seem to hot favourites. Students of DY Patil International School, Worli, are taught with the aid of trendy Apple iPads. The tablet is used to teach them various subjects, including the oft-confusing Shakespeare. "It has been almost a year since we introduced the iPad in the class. It caught the children's fancy immediately," says Husein Burhani, an academic director at the school. "The iPad has applications which provide synopses and summaries of books and plays. This makes learning more accessible and helps children understand the book better," he adds.
The thrust of technology is not confined to the classroom alone. Parents find that students are encouraged to use computers at home as well to submit projects, which were earlier expected to be handwritten. Vina Agarwal often sits with her daughter Dhwani - a Class 6 student at Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra - to create slideshows for her school projects. "It would be more useful for schools to get children to work on things like these in the class, since parents inevitably end up doing most of the work at home," Agarwal says. She cautions against teachers using technology to gloss over critical details and concepts. "Technology does make things easier and faster for teachers. But students then have to cope with various tests without being taught things clearly," added the Khar resident.
Meanwhile, though the market for educational software is becoming increasingly competitive, experts feel there is need for wider adoption if every school-going child in the country is to benefit from this trend. "India has more than 200 million school-going students, but only 3-4 % of schools use these kind of products. If we want to reach out to the whole population, many more companies need to come into this sector," says Srikanth B Iyer, chief operating officer of Pearson Education Service, which provides learning and administration related software to about 1,000 schools in the state.