As a teacher with many years of teaching to high school students behind her, Bijal Damani has great experience with how technology can help in the classroom.
She is transforming high school practices using technology and has got valuable advice for teachers, so when EdTechReview got a chance to ask her a few questions about her experiences, here’s what she shared.
What/Who motivates you? Any thought leader with innovation which you follow for success?
No. I do not specifically follow any thought leader for success, for the simple reason our circumstances and situations in lives are very different. And you have to derive your own inner strength, relying on your own value system. But I believe strongly in a quote given by Mahatma Gandhi ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ So I try to make a different in whatever capacity that I can. And I have realized – It Matters.
What according to you is the major difference between learning in the past and learning in the 21st century?
Learning in the past was restricted to teacher’s knowledge and memorization skills of students. With so many technology tools and internet at our disposal, this equation has changed tremendously. The role of teacher is no long that of Content provider. Such a lot of content is available free of cost on internet. The role of teacher has changed from Content Provider to Skills Developer. Instead of teaching content, we have to teach students how to be curious about learning. Focus is more on developing skills like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, inquiry/inquisitiveness, initiative, empathy etc.
How has technology and various trends affected education i.e. the learning and teaching processes? Would you categorize this change under “Change for good”?
There is a big hue and cry about using technology in classroom but I believe technology is just another tool in the hands of teachers. Just like chalk sticks and charts were used to be the tools used by teachers for better understanding of a concept. It should be as natural as that.
Every change that is introduced has its own pros and cons. For example, if students are using computers, they will lose out on writing practice. But I believe, we have to look at future and its requirements. As teachers we have to remember, we are preparing students for future – not present or past. Technology makes many things possible which were not possible earlier. So I believe, it is definitely a ‘change for good’.
How has technology impacted your teaching specifically? How do you think we can embed 21st century skills into education? And can technology help?
Technology has helped me tremendously in converting my class from ‘Teacher Driven’ to ‘Student Driven’. Technology tools also provide me real time data about students learning – so I can adjust my teaching accordingly. Moreover, because of technology, I can encourage students to pursue their other areas of interest as well. For example, if a child has to attend any national level camp or any sports event, now can access lessons from my E-classroom or connect with class through video conference . So now he does not have to choose between attending my class or taking part in the sports event.
Technology also helps me in providing ‘Voice’ to my students. Most of the decisions can now be taken taking students’ voice into consideration. I used polls to get real time information about the class sentiments. Technology also provides voice to students who are shy and do not take part in classroom discussion. Technology also helps tremendously in Assessment. Small Online Quiz at the end of the day gives me a clear picture of students’ understanding.
I am a firm believer of Project Based Learning and most of my project would not have taken place without technological support. Technology helps in a big way in Collaboration. Technology also helps me in connecting to expert resources from the world.
How has your career journey been so far?
It has been a fantastic and very exciting ride so far. I started my career as a Marketing Manager but took a radical decision to leave the corporate field and to join the academic field. But believe me, I have not regretted my decision even once.
Teaching is not at all an easy task. We are sure that being a teacher you must have faced several challenges and failures in bringing new methods of teaching in the classroom. What are some of the major challenges or lessons which you would want other educators to know?
As a teacher, the challenges I have faced and am facing even now, are not the challenges of lack of resources. But the major challenge which I have encountered is the challenge of mindset and attitude. Any change undergoes the following three stages – resistance, acceptance and admiration. I have undergone these three stages as well with every new initiative in the classroom or school. So I believe, if you persist resistance does get converted into admiration. So don’t give up or get disheartened if you are criticized for being creative – for being different. It reminds me a quote ‘You laugh at me because I am different – I laugh at you because you are all the same.’ J. Parents, students and fellow teachers will support when they will see how these projects are benefiting them.
Which educational tools would you call your favorite for both personal and professional work?
I experiment with lots of tools in my classroom for various projects. But some of my favorites are Skype, Edmodo and all the Google Apps for Education (YouTube, Picasa, Docs, Drive, Sites, Maps etc.) and Aurasma.
You have been recognized and awarded by various leading education organizations for your excellence in teaching. How does it encourage and motivate you? What is the reaction of students you teach when they get to know about your professional achievements?
Yes I have been fortunate enough to be connected and recognized globally by many of the eminent educational organizations. It really feels good when what you do is being appreciated by the who’s who of the field of global education. But recognition is just the by-product of what you are passionate about. Award or no award, I will still continue to evolve as an educator and as a human being. I compete with myself - to be better than what I was yesterday.
Strangely enough, I do not share all of my professional achievements with my students or colleagues because I do not want them to be in awe of me when I enter the class. I want them to know me simply as their teacher and build my rapport with them from ground zero.
What model would you suggest for 21st century professional development for teachers in India?
There is a lot of scope for 21st century professional development for teachers in India. Many teachers from public schools are already doing wonderful things but at the same time, if they are provided with opportunities – a lot of development at grass root level can happen. I believe Online MOOCs and Social Networking platforms exclusively for teachers will help a great deal in collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources.
What are your tips to the high school teachers for embracing technology in their classrooms and preparing the students for the 21st century?
1] Go beyond PowerPoint presentations.
2] Do not be afraid to learn from your students. They are the richest source of technology knowledge :)
3] Do not be afraid to experiment with new tools.
4] Technology can never replace a strong lesson plan and a great teacher. It is just a tool in your hand. Use it appropriately for better results. Do not include technology into your lesson plan for the sake of it. Your teaching is in center, wherein technology is the tool which can make the teaching learning experience deeper and more fun.
5] Do not be so serious. :) Find creative and customized ways to use technology. :)
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