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To Sir & Ma’am with love, on Orkut

Teachers are clicking with students not just inside classroom but also on the cyber space by storming into pupils’ online hangouts like Orkut, reports Neha Tara Mehta.
Hindustan Times | By Neha Tara Mehta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 15, 2007 02:00 AM IST

— heylo.. so finally u are here.. to keep an eye on us? hehe.. happy orkutting…
— …maam my result was hell bad. iit nahin hua bcoz of phy…aieee was also bad. koi scope nahin hai... ma’am plzz kuch to suggest karo as in what should i do....

It’s the age of the guru-cool. Teachers are clicking with students not just inside the classroom, but also on the cyber space by storming into pupils’ online hangouts like Facebook, Hi5 and Orkut. Having entered the domain of these social networking sites, they are now ‘scribbling’ on ‘scrapbooks’ and ‘walls’.

DPS RK Puram Physics teacher Archna Deepak got on to Orkut this April after being invited by her students. Her profile picture is that of a woman standing next to a Van de graaff generator. Students scrap to ask how her holidays went, whether there is an extra class on Wednesday, and even jokingly ask her to set an easy paper. A teacher’s presence on such a site makes children think that “ma’am is approachable”, says Deepak.

Maheshwari Natarajan, vice principal of Chennai’s Vidya Mandir school, created her profile on a social networking site after an invite from her 20-year-old daughter. Several of her ex-students have tracked her down. “It’s nice to be in touch with my old students, but I don’t get into the scrapbooks of my present students as they need their privacy.” Social studies teacher Swapna Rajiv too has re-bonded with no less than 500 ex-students on Orkut, 207 of who are on her ‘fan list’. Her present male students scrap to ask if it is okay to have girlfriends. “Some children feel shy to talk in class. They are more free online,” she points out.

Ahmer Anwer, teacher-in-charge of the department of English, in Delhi’s Sri Venkateswara College, says that being in an online space with students opens up the possibility of an informal, interpersonal level of exchange.

Dr Radhika Chopra, reader in Sociology, university of Delhi, feels that “these sites are extensions of informal meeting places that have always existed outside the classroom.”

Not all are happy with teachers being just a scrap away. A student of a leading South Delhi school says, “One of our teachers keeps tabs on us through her daughter’s Orkut account.”

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