In the backward Shorapur block of Karnataka, Teacher Learning Centres constitute a vibrant space for continuous professional development, where teachers decide for themselves the conceptual, technical, and human relations skills they want to enhance. This article describes how teachers learned to make their own video teaching-learning materials, and documents the lessons learnt from the 15-year process of personal and professional growth for teachers.
The teacher is integral to the use of technology in the classroom because it is her responsibility to infuse ICT-enabled practices in schools. The National Policy on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) In School Education (2012, notified in 2014) emphasises the capacity-building of teachers through induction and refresher courses. The state provides a 10-day induction to ICT, introducing teachers to internet access, search, downloading and saving information, email and so on.
However, teachers in government schools in India have undergone pre-service education of questionable quality. They enter the educational system with little preparedness for teaching. They have very little autonomy. They are required to teach children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Given this context, teachers’ motivation to engage in continuous learning is often not very evident. To make matters worse, the state follows a top-down approach to ICT in education training for teachers. It is not surprising then that teachers have problems internalising what they learn and sometimes even resist the use of technology.
Continuous professional learning has largely come to mean enhancing those skills and abilities that serve the needs of the educational system. Even where teacher continuous learning is self-directed (an alternative to the top-down approach to teacher training), what teachers think of or act on is largely conditioned by their perceptions of classroom needs or pedagogy. While these are important, there is a tendency to emphasise usefulness and relevance as components of continuous learning, at the expense of innovation and creativity. Freedman (2018) talks of an economics teacher who attended a basket-weaving course and how the autonomy to make this choice enhanced professional learning. Such choices, for him, are important in creating a culture of innovation and creativity in professional learning. “How can you be exposed to a completely different way of thinking if you only ever go on training that reinforces the paradigm with which you are already familiar?” Freedman asks of teachers. Teachers express the need to engage in activities that allow them to explore, discover or create new ideas. These activities may have direct or emergent implications for their teaching. More importantly, they have tremendous implications for their personal development. They fuel the process of continuous learning.
For those engaged in the process of continuous learning, there is very little distinction between learning what is required for the profession and for the self. At a deep level, both are closely connected. At a programmatic level, however, personal and professional learning differ. Effective continuous professional learning must support both to create a culture of innovation. Day (1994: 300) asserts that “professional development must extend beyond classroom practice, such that support for the personal and long-term professional needs of the teacher as artist, connoisseur, craftsperson and technician are legitimated.”
This paper looks at the process of teachers learning to make Video Teaching Learning Materials (VTLM) from this perspective of self-development.
Teacher Learning Centres
Shorapur block, a taluka of the newly formed Yadgir district of Karnataka, is one of the most backward blocks in the region. It ranked lowest in education as well as all other human development and socioeconomic indicators. In 2003–05, the Azim Premji Foundation introduced some educational programmes in Shorapur. One of them was the Child Friendly School Initiative (CFSI) covering all government schools in Shorapur block. Teacher academic development being one of the core areas of intervention, CFSI set up Teacher Learning Centres (TLC) in 2008 to work closely in the area of teacher professional development. According to Moger et al (2013), the objectives of the TLCs were “1) To create a vibrant space for teachers to engage in improving their conceptual, technical, and human relations skills; 2) To provide opportunities for building skills among the teachers through sharing of best practices, structured and guided exercises, demonstrations, peer learning processes, workshops and trainings; and 3)To support the government cluster level institution in extending academic support to teachers.”
The TLCs are usually located in a school campus and filled with educational resources. They are generally kept open on holidays, weekends and after school so that teachers can visit them anytime. Teachers from nearby schools also use these TLCs voluntarily. The centres provide a variety of learning opportunities, and the choice is left to teachers. Through evolving discussions, teachers define the growth experiences they want. They decide on what they want to learn and how they want to learn. The TLC has provided a platform for continuous learning of teachers (Periodi and Karopady 2011) through subject-based festivals (melas) and theme-based campaigns (jathas), innovative workshops for teaching learning material (TLM) creation, puppet-making and theatre in teaching. The TLC also facilitates creativity workshops for children, and these are discussed by teachers. Teachers are taken to historical places and participate in outreach programmes. They are encouraged to take up research studies and make presentations of their research and experiences. The TLCs facilitate these processes. Teachers identify a topic they want to learn about and then discuss amongst themselves whom to approach. Sometimes they seek the help of another teacher, and sometimes of specialists. The TLC identifies the specialists and organises the activity.
A group of teachers who came regularly to the TLC decided they wanted to learn the process of making video films. They anchored their thoughts in the school curriculum and identified difficult concepts on which they could produce video films.
The purpose of the workshop was to enable teachers to think through the purpose of the video film, write the script, and convert it into video format, keeping the audience in mind. They decided to make short and low-cost videos on concepts in the school curriculum.
A design-based learning approach was developed, in which participants involve themselves in extensive research of the problem and try various solutions until they figure out an optimal one. This approach is known to provide rich learning opportunities for students. In the video workshops, the participant teachers were required to go beyond their textbooks and use different information sources, thus enhancing their content knowledge. Moreover, the teacher participants developed a sense of their audience since they had to think of ways to present the content that their students could grasp. Teachers felt that the task of creating their own VTLMs was meaningful and they reported a sense of ownership. Developing the VTLMs also helped them to experience personal growth and to reflect on their experience.
At the first four-day low-cost video development workshop at the Shorapur TLC in 2012, seven teachers and three TLC coordinators used locally available resources (handycams and computers available at the TLC) to produce five short videos (six minutes each) on environmental studies, science and language. A more elaborate workshop was held from August 2013 to March 2014, with the preproduction sessions on weekends and video production workshops in the vacation month of October. Forty teachers participated in the second workshop, shortlisting topics they would like to work on, researching the content, learning how to convert the content into a script, getting feedback on the script and learning about camera functions, shooting techniques, editing techniques, sound recording and background music. In all, teachers produced 27 videos on different areas of the curriculum. In the final stages of the process, the workshop focused on the use of the videos in the classroom and strategies to distribute the films.
The 27 VTLMs were screened at the District Institute in Yadgir to get feedback from a wider audience, following which some teachers felt they could further improve their films. The VTLMs were eventually finalised in March. A manual on using the VTLMs was distributed to all the TLCs.
Ullal and Devadiga (2016) undertook a study of this voluntary approach to self-development and professional learning.
Their study emphasised firstly that projects of this nature cannot be actualised and sustained without an institutional support structure such as the TLCs. The teachers felt that the TLC provided space for them to share experiences and identify areas in which they wanted to experience personal growth. It fostered an atmosphere of trust, a collegial relationship among teachers and coordinators, and gave them a sense of confidence. For teachers to reach this level of awareness and confidence has been a long journey (more than 15 years), facilitated and enabled by the TLC.
Secondly, the study reported that the process of writing scripts for videos helped teachers deepen knowledge of their subject. When they were stuck in the scriptwriting process, they would go to the TLC for resource materials to clarify and learn more. Such awareness about one’s own level of knowledge is essential for learning to occur. Almost all teachers used multiple sources (library books, resource persons, internet) without relying solely on textbooks. The shooting phase also helped a few teachers learn more about the topic. One teacher discussed his visit to a hydropower plant. He wanted to talk about hydroelectricity in his video and decided to visit the plant in Bheemarayana Gudi, a town near Shahapur. “It was the first time in my life I had seen [a hydroelectric power plant]. Until then I had only heard about it… [The staff] took me around and explained everything,” he said. Another teacher who made a film on handlooms said she knew little about handlooms while writing the script. It was during the shooting that she understood the process in detail. In fact, their team decided to rewrite the script after the shoot. According to her, she is now able to explain handlooms with greater clarity. Teachers were aware of the deepening of their content knowledge. An English teacher reflecting on her learning said, “The audio editing process helped me with pronunciation. I discovered my mistakes in pronunciation, how it sounds to the students, to the outside world. And that is very important.”
Thirdly, any communication has to be designed for the persons for whom it is intended. For the teachers, the intended audience was their students, and that made them think about their needs throughout the video production process. Teacher participants took pains to organise information and present it in a way that students would understand. One teacher noted, “We have to consider children’s ability to comprehend, their prior knowledge, and then write a script which supports our teaching. That’s why scriptwriting is difficult.” This consideration of the students’ needs was not limited to scriptwriting. For example, a teacher who used material from the internet thought that it should be simplified to help students grasp it. Teachers’ reflections on the films made by them also revealed the need to focus on the intended audience. One teacher remarked, “If I remade the film now, I would do it differently. If the voice is monotonous, the children might find it boring. It could have a bit of humour, or children themselves could narrate it. I have been getting some new ideas now.”
The few teachers who did use their videos in the classroom reported that students were more engaged in class. Some of them noted that the students asked more questions. According to one teacher, the students were excited because their own teacher had made the film. Setting aside logistics, infrastructure issues in schools and so on, teachers reported that they experienced a sense of personal growth.
However, most teacher participants tended to see the VTLMs more as films than as teaching-learning resources. It is difficult to say whether the films will be used in the classroom. The coordinators of the workshop are planning a follow-up workshop to help the teachers integrate the VTLMs in their classrooms. But that is another challenge.
Ketan Devadiga has a master’s degree in computer science and is involved with organisations and people engaged in the primary education sector in Karnataka.
Umashankar Periodi is Karnataka state head at the Azim Premji Foundation. He has over 30 years of experience in the development sector. He has contributed extensively to the Total Literacy Campaign and to tribal education in BR Hills, Karnataka, and trains grassroots field workers and primary school teachers in what he calls Barefoot Research.
Natesh Ullal is a Mangalore-based documentary filmmaker with 28 years of experience. He specialises in video documentation, community television and facilitation of video production workshops.
Day, Christopher (1994): “Personal Development Planning: A Different Kind of Competency,” Journal of In-Service Education, Vol 20, No 3, pp 287–302.
Freedman, Terry (2018): “Creating a Culture of Innovation, Part 2: Make the Professional Development Interesting,” https://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/creating-a-culture-of-innovation-part-2-make-the-professional-development-interesting
Moger, Guru et al (2013): “Child Friendly School Initiative (CFSI) — A Process Document of Stakeholders Perspectives,” Bengaluru: Azim Premji Foundation.
Ullal, Natesh and Ketan Devadiga (2016): “A Study on the Process of Enabling Teachers to Produce Video Teaching and Learning Materials,” unpublished paper submitted to Azim Premji Foundation.
Periodi, Umashankar and D D Karopady (2012): “Holistic Primary Education: A Case Study of the Child Friendly School Intervention by Azim Premji Foundation in Shorapur, Karnataka,” paper presented at the 3rd International Symposium on Education for Rural Transformation (ERT).