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Schools morph to click-and-type mode in Bengal

New Delhi, April 18: School teachers in West Bengal are switching over from a ‘chalk and talk’ style of teaching to a ‘click and type’ mode of instruction.

Electronic teaching has hit schools in the state and nowhere is it better exemplified than in Jadavpur Bagha Jatin Government Boys Senior Secondary School.

The school was selected by Oracle, the largest enterprise software company, for its pilot project along with a school in Gurgaon near Delhi.

The school was part of a Think.Com project. The initiative was launched in the UK at the instance of Prime Minister Tony Blair who urged the Oracle chief, Larry Ellison, to provide every student in his country with an email ID and password to allow them to seek any information.

Now a growing global program with more than 150,000 students and teachers around the world, it has users in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Italy, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, and China.

Local language support in Thai and Chinese was released in May 2003, allowing students and teachers to communicate and collaborate in four languages: English, Spanish, Thai and Chinese.

Oracle executives said the pilot project had been tested in English but it could be customised for use in the local language.

Teachers of Jadavpur Bagha Jatin school use the internet to access Think.com, a private website with spam-free, password-protected environment. The Oracle-hosted, web-based educational environment provides primary (ages seven to 12) and secondary school (ages 13 to 16) students and teachers with personal web pages, with powerful communication and collaboration tools at no cost.

The students and teachers have their own personal web space within a protected online community, where they exchange e-mail, create web pages, upload images, and host collaborative learning activities with other schools across the world. Powered by the Oracle Database and Oracle Collaboration Suite, this website allows users to easily add text, audio and video to their personal pages and interact with other members.

Accessible from a standard web browser, members can stay connected to their classrooms from home, school, or the library.

Amit Poddar, the English teacher in Bagha Jatin school, is happy that his students are responding faster and are more informative about the topics and syllabus. “The response to an essay or write-up on Rabindranath Tagore or Subhash Chandra Bose has improved tremendously. Earlier, the students were running away from such activities but now they are eager and the work is much better.”

“Our students get to interact with students from all over the world in different schools. We have undertaken many science and literary projects. The state government has been very impressed with the project and is likely to offer support to set up another computer lab in the school,” said Poddar.

The school has 1,150 students and currently houses 11 computers and one internet connection that it received as part of the Vidhya Vahini project launched by the Union communications and information technology ministry last year.

Sankar Kumar Banyopadhyay, principal of Bagha Jatin school, is happy that this effort has helped students from middle and lower middle income group who may find it difficult to access computers and internet.

Oracle executives and school authorities were unwilling to comment on the difficulty in allocation of computers to students. Industry observers said this would remain a handicap till the government undertook an initiative to offer each student with a computer in schools.

Ajay Kapoor, director, Oracle education initiative, said, “Combining web page creation, discussion, and collaboration in one place, Think.com is powerful and yet simple to use. Teachers and students benefit from the friendly interface, producing online projects faster with more energy directed toward content and learning.”

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