Namastay! (= Greetings!)
It is the 7th week of our research internship here in the cool beautiful green city of Bengaluru. Guess what! just 3 more weeks to go. I cannot believe how fast these seven weeks have passed. It has been a wonderful learning experience so far. It is a privilege for me to work alongside a diverse multitalented team and most of all a great opportunity to frame lifelong connections with people here at Mathru.
This evening, our driver asked me, “Sir, aap ka kaam kab khatam hoga yahan pay? (= Sir, when does your work finish over here?). I replied, “Bhai sahab, mera kaam August 2 ko khatam hoga” (= Elder brother, my work over here finishes on August 2). He looked a bit sad and then he said, “hum log sab bahut yaad karaingay aap sabka” (= We will remember you all a lot).
At that moment, I realized that not only people at Mathru had touched our hearts in these seven weeks, but we, the iSTEP 2013 team had also unknowingly touched the hearts of many people here at Mathru. I guess I even came to know the true meaning behind the slogan of TechBridgeWorld: “technology with a global heart”, indeed.
These seven weeks have all been filled with beautiful memories. There have been moments that have taught me many things about what it is like to work on ICTD projects in underserved communities, how valuable each team member can be in realizing the set objectives of an assigned task, how important it is to maintain healthy relationship between our partner and the executive team of the TechBridgeWorld. I can best sum up my work this way: “Everyday is a chance to renew anew and I choose to be that!”
In this week’s blog, I want to describe to you more about the Mathru Differently-Abled Center from my work perspective. I really do hope you will enjoy reading this post.
The Mathru Differently-Abled Center was established less than two years ago under the initiative of “Project Nandini”. The inspiration behind setting up this new center is fairly simple and straightforward. Mathru School of Blind realized that not every student who joined the school were visually impaired. In fact, it was sad to see how so many students had other disabilities in addition to visual-impairments – either partial or complete. Disabilities such as deaf-blind, deaf-mute, mentally retarded, acute cerebral palsy, speech problem, autistic, hearing-impaired were quite common. These students because of their varying disabilities had unique educational needs that could not be fulfilled at the Mathru School of Blind. The latter was established to cater the educational needs of visually impaired students. Mathru Differently-Abled Center needed to be set up. Special educators with years of experience and well-versed in teaching students with multiple disabilities were needed. Two years later, Mathru Differently-Abled Center has now become a full-fledged multispecialty center that can cater to the educational needs of hearing-impaired students, and of students who have multiple disabilities. There are 4 teachers. 3 of which are dedicated in catering to the educational needs of hearing-impaired students and the other is a special educator involved with teaching students with multiple disability. There are about 33 students in total at this center and this number is bound to increase over the coming years. These 33 students based on their knowledge and ability are placed in either of the 4 class sections – Nursery (includes Lower Kindergarten and Upper Kindergarten), Class 1, Class 2, and Multisensory Class. It is also worth noting that Nursery, Class 1 and Class 2 exclusively cater to the needs of hearing impaired students while the Multisensory Class caters to the needs of multisensory disabled students.
As a member of the Needs Assessment Team in iSTEP 2013, I, together with the 3 other members have assigned tasks that need to be achieved before the internship comes to an end. Our objective as the Needs Assessment Team is to assess ways in which technology intervention at Mathru’s new center can help enhance the learning outcomes of the differently-abled students. Hopefully, in the year 2014, we will have a multitalented team like ours visit this new center to develop innovative technology solutions to address the needs that we shall identify this summer. Part of my responsibilities include interviewing teachers, conducting thorough observations of classroom interactions, transcribing notes, assisting the team in every way possible to analyze the raw data, capturing pictures and recording videos of class activities and doing an extensive review of scholarly articles and publications pertaining to educational techniques and teaching approaches used to educate hearing impaired and multisensory disabled students. I have learnt that literature review is fundamental to any ICTD-related work. This is because an extensive literature review provides key insights to work that has already been done or is in the process of being done in our research field. Although, I must admit that literature review is quite intense. It also consumes a lot of time and especially limited internet connectivity on field can prolong the task. One has to review several articles and summarize key findings from them to get a better picture of what needs (or can be) to be done at our work. To put it simply, we do not want to “waste our time re-inventing the wheel when it has already been invented” (quoting one of my professor with whom I had worked on a similar task in the past). Therefore, literature review helps guide the decision process and enables one to make valid inferences that can lead to the collective development of creative ideas that can make a big difference.
To make it simpler and to provide you a brief glimpse into the work I do, let me provide you with an example. At Mathru Differently-Abled Center, it is widely seen that teachers in addition to the sign language (Avia can provide you with a better information on the sign language used – read her blog!) often use flash cards to teach hearing imparied students about concepts relating the name of the human body parts, name of animals, name of everyday seen objects such as table, chair and many others. From my literature review, I found out that there was an Indonesian research team involved in the development of flash-card generating software that would generate digital flash card upon the teacher’s input. For instance, if the teacher wanted to teach about, let’s say car, the teacher would input car into the program and the program would first test the students knowledge of the Indonesian sign language used to denote a car and then would produce a digital image of the car thus reinforcing student’s knowledge of the object. Moreover, this flash card generating software can produce many digital flash cards. Students could also use it during their free hour to test their understanding of a name of the object. Thus, our needs assessment enables us to observe the current state at the Mathru Differently-Abled Center and the literature review enables us to see if there are ways by which we could improve and enhance the current state at Mathru using technology.
I hope you enjoyed reading my post this week, and stay tuned as I will address more about my work experience here in the cool beautiful green city of Bengaluru.
Dhanya-Waad! (= Thank-You!)