Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lessons on a white board - Vijay Gupta of Fazilka

It is 9.30 a.m. and Vijay Gupta, teacher of English and social sciences, waits in the corridor of the Government Senior Secondary School in Karni Khera village in Fazilka, Punjab. He is here from the neighbouring Arniwala village, close to the Indo-Pak border, to deliver a guest lecture on disaster management and drug de-addiction. He has with him a laptop, a projector and a few other things that he has brought along for his audio-visual lecture. But there is a electricity failure and the generator is acting up too, so Gupta decides to wait. "These are the usual problems in government-run schools, so we learn to be patient," he says.

But what makes Gupta stand out in this middle of such ordinariness is his unusual teaching methods. This government school teacher in Arinwala village lifts drab lectures in government-run schools using Powerpoint slides and CDs, audio-visual aids that are largely unheard of in these parts and evokes curiosity among students. Last year, Microsoft chose him for its Innovative Teachers Leadership Award—he was among the six teachers from India who were awarded and sent to Brazil to learn advanced teaching skills. The state government too awarded Gupta last year and he now inspires other teachers to improvise their teaching skills through information technology.

At the Karni Khera village school, students of class 11 and 12 sit in a hall to listen to Gupta's lecture. A few students of class 10 peer inside, look at the projector and screen and ask if they can join in. "We have never seen lessons being taught on a projector. Lectures are normally boring," says Jasdeep Singh, a class 10 student.

In between his lecture, Gupta says, "When I started teaching in the Arniwala school in 2001, I was discouraged from using teaching aids, but it bothered me that the faces of children looked blank. So I designed chapters on flex sheets and also gave handouts to students. From 2003, I started using the Internet to teach students. I would also get students to record their sentences on the cellphone and play it back to correct their pronunciation. I myself did a pronunciation course from an institute in Chandigarh so that I could correct my students' diction."

Gupta is also planning to make digital textbooks for classes VI to X. "A lot of my students don't have computers at home, but they have CD players. With digital textbooks, they will enjoy their lessons better," he says.

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