There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about smarter classrooms. We aren’t just talking about the push towards virtual classrooms, brought ahead by the Coronavirus pandemic, but also certain tools that enable better learning in classrooms. Many schools switched to the use of laptops and Apple iPads as a learning tool. The schools in the small Adivasi tribal belt called Lohandiguda, in the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh are setting a rather interesting example for the rest of us to follow. As many as 40 schools in this district are using Amazon Alexa virtual assistant powered Amazon Echo speakers in classrooms to make learning more fun for students, as part of the Smart Classes Project.
It all started with an Alexa powered Amazon Echo Dot which garnered a lot of interest at a school exhibition. Chandrashekhar Yadav, a Block Education Officer pointed this out to Abinash Mishra, the Assistant Collector. Mishra, an IIT graduate, had heard about Alexa before as well, since he follows the world of technology. But it was this interaction that actually set into motion the mission to get Alexa into classrooms in schools in the region, in an attempt to make studies fun. All 40 schools in the often troubled Bastar district were soon using Alexa assistant in classrooms as part of the regular teaching process.
It is not just curiosity or the new experience of smart technology that has piqued the interest of the students. “The teachers said that after Alexa came to the classroom, the class has seen improved attendance, children becoming more interactive and of course teachers too are loving this new medium of imparting training,” says Abinash Mishra, Assistant Collector, Bastar, in a statement. However, network coverage and reliable internet still remains a challenge, which the administration say they are working to solve.
Furthermore, this adds a modern touch and allows students to interact with smart devices, something that will come in handy for them at a later date. “I truly believe that technology has a large role to play in education and tech augmentation in education is the future. It will bridge the divide that currently exists between urban and rural kids. With tech, no matter which area kids come from – they can be updated on the latest developments in the world of AI, IoT, Data Analytics etc. This will help them acquire the right skills for jobs,” says Mishra.
It was perhaps a matter of time before smart speakers and smart assistants became a part of the classroom life. Students in the rural parts of the country surely stand to gain a lot from this tryst with technology. Not only does it open up a world of information for them which books may perhaps have not been able to cover, but also adds a new hook to make studies more fun.