by Meenakshi Uberoi
Expert Educator Columnist, India
My tryst with technology goes almost a decade back, when Microsoft announced the ‘Innovative Teachers Leadership Award 2005’ in India, more specifically in our school. I was instantly drawn to it, as it catered to my need of the hour – to carve a niche for myself amongst the highly capable, experienced and qualified teachers. Though I am and have always been a technology enthusiast who loves to work with the latest in technology, this platform brought out the best of me.
While preparing for this competition, Microsoft PowerPoint has been a game changer. It helped me create captivating and interactive sessions that were information-packed and grabbed my students’ attention instantly. When I explained the concept of photosynthesis to my 4th graders using PowerPoint, it helped them visualize the concept and develop a better understanding of a phenomenon that cannot be seen or experienced otherwise.
This was only the beginning; PowerPoint then became a medium of expression for me. It aided explaining and showcasing concepts that were otherwise difficult to convey or comprehend. I was now an artist, with the mouse and keyboard at hand and PowerPoint slide as my canvas. Ever since I’ve used this amazing program in every sphere of my personal and professional life, my creativity and imagination has no seen boundaries.
What technology has done for humans is it has opened up new vistas of creativity, and what Microsoft continues to do for educators is innovate and create new programs to make learning more meaningful. Within PowerPoint, Microsoft developed Office Mix, a program that gave superpowers to PowerPoint presentations. I was now able to use the same PowerPoint at a totally different level for student learning. I could now add a voice to my story about photosynthesis and record the narration. I didn’t need to sit around to narrate and read out the dialogues aloud. I could record it beforehand and while it was playing I could be there for my students to answer their questions or discuss and clarify doubts without actually breaking my rhythm of storytelling. I was now engaging and interacting with learners at various stages and checking for understanding, clearing doubts and viewing the story presentation at the same time.
Furthermore, I now use this tool more effectively by mailing my presentation to the students for viewing over the weekend so that they could watch at their convenience and construct meaning on their own. They can also come prepared with questions to discuss or inquire for the following day. Thus, without actually having to spend class time in just viewing the presentation one day and holding discussion the following day, I could manage to save time and use it more productively. More so, this helped foster the habit of studying independently in a focused manner, and the students became very interested in viewing these presentations and recording their questions so that they could contribute meaningfully during class discussions.
As a next step, I added a short interactive quiz in the presentation to instantly gain an insight into how much and how well the concept has been understood. Office Mix maintains a record of student responses and also the time spent in answering each question. This helped me personalise assignments, keeping in view the insights gained, and I was able to know exactly what level of understanding each student had. This is an amazing tool to cater to varied levels and styles of learning amongst students and a boon for teachers since the biggest challenge for any teacher is to cater to these varied levels in a span of around 40 minute periods/timeslots. I am now a dynamic teacher planning to cater to diverse groups of learners – all thanks to Office Mix!
As a coordinator, I often hear teachers say that they have to work harder to retain their students’ attention as they tend to have short attention spans. But, I always draw their attention to the fact that these are the same students who master complex video games without blinking an eye, and that they find our ways very traditional and slow-paced. This is where the problem of diminished focus arises. The teachers need to constantly upgrade their plans by integrating what their students like best – technology. I encourage educators to innovate using Microsoft tools and build an environment that fosters collaboration and creativity to ensure meaningful life-long learning!
This was MY Tryst with Technology, what’s YOURS? Do share yours with the rest of the world.