The Internet was Greek and the computer a conundrum to most of them. Leslie D’Gama had a tough task on hand, teaching a roomful of teachers the basic tools of Internet usage in teaching English. Few had a clue about computers, while most had never fiddled with a mouse before. After the seven-hour brainstorming, however, D’Gama left them craving for more. And to his delight, the 21-odd participants oozed computer-confidence and seemed quite Net-savvy.
Co-sponsored by the British Council Division, the session was part of a nationwide series of workshops conducted by Schoolnet India Ltd for English teachers on net gains of Net use. Similar workshops were held in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. “Several teachers ask students to surf the Net, not knowing exactly what and where to look for. Naturally, children are lost in a maze of information and the teachers are clueless, too. This workshop was a skill-building exercise and the first in Calcutta. I tried to show them how the Internet could be used effectively in teaching English in school,” said D’ Gama, branch head of Schoolnet India Ltd, a two-year-old resource-developing agency for school education, headquartered in Mumbai.
“The British Council had a target list which we tallied with ours and then invited some middle and senior schools to attend the workshop. We took in 21 on a first-served basis and had to turn down several others because of accommodation problems,” D’ Gama, a St Xavier’s School, Calcutta, alumnus, explained.
Participating schools included Shri Shikshayatan, Ballygunge Siksha Sadan, Mahadevi Birla Girls, Akshar, Nopany Vidyalaya, Pretoria High, Salt Lake School, Lakshmipat Singhania, Birla High for Boys, Carmel School, St Thomas Howrah and Apeejay School.
For the teachers — representing several reputed city schools affiliated to the ICSE, CBSE and West Bengal boards — digging out information from the Internet would earlier mean trial-and-error surfing.
“We would ask students to look up the Internet without giving them specific instructions, as we ourselves were not too sure of what and where to look for. This interaction cleared some of our preconceived notions. Now, we know the search engines and the websites to click. Or, how to download matter and get print-outs,” said a teacher of Nopany Vidyalaya.
“There is need for more such workshops,” chorused the teachers. Some of them demanded Board-oriented interactions, addressing the specific needs of each curriculum.
“You can use even a single computer effectively for 12 students. I showed them the skills of locating resources for both teachers and students,” said D’Gama. “Several schools ask us for inputs on teacher training. We are also willing to hold workshops with them, as we have 25 modules ready with us. The contents of our workshops are constantly updated. We have an extensive range of CDs and manuals for teachers. The aim of Schoolnet is to ring in a change in the teaching attitude. We want to make learning more constructive.”