The ViMS Pilot in Schools started with some skepticism, as we did not know how the students and teachers would react to the ViMS Videos.
An Intern made a list of Government Schools and Low cost Private Schools, that had students from lower economic sections of society. To widen the scope, we chose from the list, one high ranking and one low ranking urban Government School, one Rural School, one low cost Private rural School, and one Tribal School in Madhya Pradesh. The central state in India was chosen, because it is quite low in the rank of quality education, and it has Hindi as the spoken language – the language of our Pilot videos too.
The Pilot began with the urban high ranking Government School. Our excitement and anxiety reached its peak, when the first batch of students walked in. Our idea and efforts were being put to test for the first time. The children got excited too, when they saw a projector beaming a large screen on their white wall, and red-blue glasses being handed over to them. As the video started rolling, their faces lit up. “Now put on your Red-blue glasses and enter into a new world with us” said the Narrator. The next 20 minutes flew past, as we captured the expressions of children. Glued to their seats, erect and attentive, they seemed to be in a trance, occasionally smiling, nodding their heads and repeating the Teacher’s words on the screen. Little did they remember that they were sitting in a classroom, next to their classmate, as they virtually walked into a Museum with the Teachers in the video, and understood every word that they said and explained. The Important points section and common questions asked by children in the video, prompted some of them to take notes as well. When we tried to check the recall value, by asking some questions, the whole class responded together. We went on Cloud 9, when the children asked: “Can we see another video”? Never in the school had the children requested for another class in continuation. We had won the first battle.
In the next 2 hours, batches after batches from different classes poured in, and gave us exciting and highly encouraging feedback. We were elated, when their Teacher walked up to us and asked: “Can I use these videos in my class”?
Our next location was a low cost Private rural School 400 kms (250 miles) away. After an overnight bus journey, we landed up at the School in the middle of a farm. As we set up our equipment, children queued up with curiosity. The teachers put curtains on the windows, turning the classroom into a Movie Theatre. The show began with a set of children ranging from Grade 6 – 10, and some Teachers. If the sound of the video could be muted, you could hear a pin drop. With all eyes glued to the video on the wall, we occasionally heard loud giggles, as some exhibits popped out of the screen, coming closer to the children. Every scene and word was absorbed, as the 3D video class progressed into the Important points section and the Frequently asked Questions in 2D. The eureka moment came, when the children started giving more examples, and asking more questions. Every game they played till now, suddenly appeared to have lots of science behind them. The video had taken them out of four walls, into the real live world, where knowledge floated everywhere.
The next stop was a Rural Government girls School 4 km (2.5 miles) away. Here there were no white walls, and no place to hang the screen we carried. But to our surprise, we found a donated 32″ TV here. The TV Room had lots of broken furniture and dust. When the children learnt what we had to offer, they picked up the brooms, cleaned the room in minutes, laid the mats and sat down. Suddenly the TV screen came alive, bringing sparkle in the eyes of the children. Probably, this was the second show since the TV was gifted to them about a year back. As they put their 3D glasses on, the environment around them changed. Walking into a strange place (the Museum) virtually, they moved close to each other, so that their bodies touched, making them feel their presence together. With every progressing scene, they relaxed, tried to touch the exhibit in air, and responded to the Teacher in the video. After the show and the usual questions testing recall, we asked them about the first time 3D experience. The children asked: “Can we go to many more such places again”? The physical barrier to quality education had broken.
Back to our pad physically exhausted, as we recalled every moment, the exhaustion seemed to vanish away. The next morning, as we drove through the forest to a deep located Tribal School, we were more excited than before, because here children spoke Hindi in a bit different tone. The school had very few Teachers, and most of them had jobs other than teaching at hand. An NGO was trying its best to give skill training and counselling to the children, so that they do not drop out of school. There was no electricity since morning, and the children had decided to go back home. But when they learnt about a movie show, they stayed back. Some of them even went out to find the Linesman and finally got him to fix the problem. The school suddenly echoed with shouts of joy, as the fans moved and the bulbs gleamed.
The classroom had turned into a Theatre, turning the big dumb white wall into a live window to the world. Children sat everywhere, on benches, on tables, and even on the floor. The infrastructure and furniture seemed irrelevant. As the video progressed, some back benchers came to the front row, surprising the other children. Suddenly education had become so interesting. An otherwise noisy classroom with no teacher, was completely silent, glued to the big screen on the wall, that had taken them to another world of Museums where knowledge, concepts, history and application lay everywhere. More children joined after the first video. We had limited number of 3D glasses with us. But that did not deter the children. The glasses were given to the new children who joined, while the older ones watched the next video without the glasses. The children who were earlier planning to go back home because there was no Teacher and electricity, stayed on for over 2 hours, forgot their recess, and did not step out of the room. They watched all the three videos we had, explaining different concepts. Despite studying in different grades, their absorption and response was same. But the final blow came, when we asked if their Teachers were around. They said: “Yes, they were there in the video, and they did not require anyone else”. The School did not have Teachers for higher grade classes, and these videos became the only and biggest source of knowledge for the children. The children left us only after we promised that their school would be the first to implement ViMS, when we are ready with the repository.
Back in the city, we got a sudden call from the low ranking Government school, asking if we could conduct the session today. The children were tired after a plantation drive, and were in no mood for classes. As we reached and put up our equipment, curious eyes started walking in. The Principal and other Teachers also joined. As the screen lit up, so did their faces, and the tiredness started waning out. Just like a movie attracts everyone, everyone tried to sit in the front, till the Teachers controlled them. And when they put on their 3D glasses, the difference between the first and last bench vanished. The eureka moment came, when a Teacher stood up and asked if she could continue the topic with the children. This Teacher had found a tool, that helped her take a class, even without any preparation.
The three objectives that ViMS had started with:
a) changing the environment of the child, and taking him/her to the learning spaces virtually;
b) giving the same span of attention to every child whether at the first bench or last bench;
c) bringing the same quality content and same quality Teacher to every child everywhere, irrespective of location or availability;
have been met in this Pilot, and has proved that the approach will create a new revolution and dimension in ensuring ‘Quality Education for All’.