Ashutosh Batta, the founder principal and now the Chairman of Bloom Public School, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, is a veteran educationist. Mr Batta has over 30 years of experience in various domains in the field of education. He is a member of the prominent association of School Principals and School Management.
Vagish K Jha: Mr Batta, Bloom Public School is among one of the best schools in this area. This school was ranked third by the Hindustan Times C4 in terms of the personal attention given to the students. Being the founder principal and now advisor to the school, tell us – what makes Bloom Public School special?
Ashutosh Batta: Any school that focuses on the efficient delivery of the content or the curriculum will be termed as creative, innovative and student-centric. This is because the delivery is the key to learning. Our focus has always been on how to deliver creatively. Considering that there are 35 students in a class, it’s a daunting task to ensure that every student is learning. There is a complex matrix of emotional connect – the human angle, the love and bonding between student and teacher.
Enabling infrastructure and technology is another factor that facilitates learning. Effective delivery of curriculum must ensure that the mix of humans, technology, and infrastructure presents a perfect blend. That is what makes a school standout. Having eminent people as guest speakers more often is an important aspect. Finally, if a school has teachers who help in audit, research and counsel, it helps classrooms teachers deliver better. Professional development programmes for teachers and transparency in the running of the organization, makes up the magic potion, so to say.
VKJ: Bloom Public School was one of the early converts, so to say, to adopt technology for education. What has been your experience, what role do you envisage for the technology in education?
AB: It has been a very fascinating journey. It started some 20 years ago with ‘Schoolnet’ (this initiative was rechristened as IL&FS Education later). It was one of the pioneering efforts to integrate technology for educating better beginning with teachers’ preparing PPT on basic concept and so on. It has been growing since then. Technology has to be looked in a holistic way. Access and ability to use technology cannot be seen as the privilege of a few; it is basic necessity for all. It has to be a means of getting learning across to all students whether they are first generation learners or children who are from families where parents are educated. If technology cannot cater to such differences, then technology is not going to succeed in its purpose in schools.
So, the challenge for school is how to use technology for the economically weaker sections; the children who are very distracted; the children who are average in academics and also the children who are gifted. Schools cannot only look at interventional steps. They also have to facilitate students who are very strong in academics. This is a challenge.
So, fixing smart-boards and having digital content are all fine. But how do we ensure that the same content with the creativity of the teacher can be used effectively for diverse needs of students of different types. You need to have regular workshops for your teachers to give them direction and ability for efficacious use of technology for improved learning outcomes for all.
VKJ: Recently, your school has gone for one of the latest technological advancements by adopting ‘Geneo Class’. Tell us about the idea and importance.
AB: It’s a holistic edu-tech solution offered by IL&FS Education (IETS) to schools. ‘Geneo Class’, a comprehensive ensemble of technological solutions that includes offline solutions like KClass, ‘Read to Me’ (RTM) and online ones like Geneo licenses, a platform agnostic versatile learning app, and the ‘Google Future Classroom’ along with a variety of teacher training and support services. It offers a number of flexible possibilities to create an engaged classroom. The context again is important here.
Demographics of a school is changing because of RTE. Today, schools are in dire need of having an ensemble of hardware and apps to address the learning needs of students who have varied learning abilities. Let’s take the example of RTM. It reads out the text with a number of additional functionalities. They can hear a text as many times as they want. When we are looking at students of first-generation learners, RTM is a boon for them.
It is useful even for the teachers as they do not have to read over and over again. It is useful for not only those students who do not speak, but also those who are shy, introvert, or who are just scared to speak out. The more they hear English, the more they will speak English. So, it is a win-win situation for everyone. If a child is made to hear a neutral accent, spoken English and proper pronunciations in the classrooms, I do not see any reason why a child will not be able to communicate in English very soon. So, I think RTM is a wonderful thing and other than that it has got wonderful dictionaries, pictorial dictionary and a child can save his own recording and it goes very well with the current educational scenario of different schools.
We all know that there is an endeavour by the government to cut down on the amount of information we are stuffing into the students. So, the KClass offline solution satisfies the current educational needs of a school. It involves teachers to create a vibrant context for blended and deeper learning too. Offline is very important because you can play it as many times you want without bothering about bandwidth or internet.
The advantage of online is basically giving the children opportunity to be active participants in the learning process. So, the Geneo app allows students to see the digital textbook where each page is embedded with relevant resources to
reinforce or clarify the topics. Students can underline, take notes and take online assessments that gives instant response. They can even ask questions to mentors, if they are not clear. We are waiting for Geneo online for teachers which will enhance its utility further.
We have also adopted the ‘Google Future Classroom’. We have chromebooks that can be linked with K-Yan to connect each chromebook and project them in the class. We are still very new in this novel way of delivery of learning, but we are finding a lot of interest from the students. The reason we are not giving every child a chromebook because a lot of students cannot afford to buy it and take it home and bring back into the classroom.
So, we are doing it in phases. In the next two years our aim is every student should have a chromebook which they will be allowed to take home so that they are able to communicate from home as well. This way we would have extended the learning hours beyond school. That will be a platform – kids will use at home and teachers will use it in schools. So, the synergy will be huge, and the effect will be just amazing. This will happen once we get the teacher version of Geneo. So, together both online and offline makes a magical combination for learning. It is up to teachers to weave the magic and make learning happen.
VKJ: I am curious to know how well teachers are responding to the new educational technology like Geneo. How are they responding to the technological infusions you are making in the school?
AB: Very, very mixed reactions. It has lot to do with the receptivity of the teacher. We notice younger teachers are more open in accepting the technology. With age, there is a little inhibition in teachers to adopt the technology. But we find it is the environment you create, and it is how much hands-on practice teachers normally do. It is like playing a musical instrument. You devote hours. Whether it is young or old teacher, they need to devote hands-on practice on how to use the technology till the stage where it becomes a part of their teaching process.
Some teachers are wary that students are more familiar with technology than they are. So, they have to overcome this fear by doing hands on practice. It is not just proficiency in handling the technology, but the way edu-tech is to be used to engage students and achieve learning outcomes which is crucial. So, teachers do a lot of browsing of the content using technology and we insist that they practice on Saturday and give demonstrations of how they will be using the technology in the classroom. Other teachers watch and ask questions. So, it is really how you make teachers prepare to utilise technology for education in an efficient manner. Regular and relevant teacher training plays a crucial role in honing the teacher ability to use technology effectively.