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“Like a friend, we can ask Alexa everything. What is the meaning of reproduction, what is electricity—the device tells us about anything we want to know,” says an excited young student from a school in Chhattisgarh’s, predominantly tribal Bastar district.
A new installation in his school, a smart classroom where Alexa acts as his teacher, has been bringing out the same excitement among all his peers.
It all started when Chandrashekhar Yadav, the Block Education Officer in the Adivasi tribal belt of Lohandigudi in Bastar, installed the digital voice assistance device at a local exhibition, and allowed the people present there to use it.
After it received an overwhelmingly positive reception, he was convinced that it needed to be installed in local schools. Chandrashekhar took this idea to Abinash Mishra, the Assistant Collector of Bastar district, who immediately hopped on board.
“The success at the exhibition made me think that if so many adults were curious about it, kids, who by nature are curious, would definitely love it! And that’s how Alexa came knocking to schools in Bastar. Today I am proud to say that Alexa is present in 40 schools as part of the Smart Classes project,” says Abinash.
Working together, Chandrashekhar and Abinash successfully completed the project under the guidance of District Collector Ayyaj Tamboli and CEO Zilla Parishad, Indrajeet Singh, and are now planning to expand it to 400 more schools in the region.
Sharing details about the impact, the IAS officer says, “I visited a school, and was so happy to see the children ask a variety of questions, from “How many teeth does an anaconda have?” to “How many seasons are there?” and yes also “Who made you, Alexa?” The spirit of enquiry is what is dear to me. Often children are discouraged from asking too many questions at school. With Alexa, there is no such bar! The administration is now working on a plan as part of which they can take this model across all 400 schools in this region. The only problem we see is network issues and availability of trained teachers to impart this new style of education, but we are confident that we will overcome them.”
The excited students certainly believe that Alexa has an answer to every question under the sun.
“We usually hesitate to ask too many questions to our teachers, but there is no such issue with Alexa, with whom we can interact and ask questions as a friend,” explains one student.
Monika Uike, an assistant teacher at the Govt. English Medium School shares how this new way of learning has rejuvenated the spirit of education in her classes.
“The children can now freely ask Alexa any questions, have academic interactions, play quizzes or listen to music and dance. We are happy to see the kids progress in their academics in this manner. The strength of our school has increased and the environment has completely changed. Students have also become more regular in their attendance and teachers are also more enthusiastic about teaching. This transformation was necessary.”
Alexa’s positive impact has also been seen in the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Aawseeya Vidyalaya, where a majority of students come from Naxal-affected areas.
Nanda Sehgal, the warden and superintendent of the school explains, “With the induction of smart classes, these girls have become unafraid and confident. Whatever issues they couldn’t discuss with us, or all the things they couldn’t ask us, now they direct those to Alexa, without any hesitation.”
From improved attendance, more interaction in classes and an overall spike in enthusiasm to learn and teach even among teachers, Alexa has truly helped these schools better the quality of education.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
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