First Things First! This is what Innovation asks for. The educators are required to be one step ahead than the learners; not in a way to generate inferiority among them. Rather the desire to learn is to be inculcated.
This inculcation has a very optimistic fact to its side: Curiosity and Appreciation. Hoe does this goes to work then? A Teacher takes advantage of the curiosity and when he appreciates this desire to learn, the students turn learners and end up becoming disciples.
Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (trending is Teaching first and learning later) in Higher Education is what this post is focusing on. The reference to 'Innovation and WhatsApp' came at the IEEE Workshop at Graphic Era Hill University in June (8 to 14 June, 2015). A teacher who teaches Communication Skills to students expressed grief over the over-usage of WhatsApp by students. Technology has indeed taken an upper hand and each of us can not deny the relevance of it. WhatsApp is used by the students as a leading communication tool but she is not able to find how to take advantage of this tool. The question was thrown to the participants by Dr. Sanjay Jasola who was conducting the session.
My Students have enabled me to bring the best out of the things that are integral to our communicative self. Same is applicable to WhatsApp as well. I shared what is being shared with the fresh minds assigned to me-the First Year students. While making them read APJ Abdul Kalams's autobiography - Wings of Fire- I had had 'suddenly' suggested that I shall be taking 'WhatsApp Viva' by sending a message to the Class representative with name of the 'targeted student'. They had smiled on the mention of the WhatsAppViva term and the novelty of the option motivated them to go for it. The readiness was there and the Viva-Voce become trendy this way.
WhatsApp is the instant messenger used by most of us who have smartphones. We send Text Messages, Photographs, Voice Notes, Contact Cards, conduct Group Chats, send Broadcast Messages. From personal talks to marketing, from sending feedback/complaints to receiving appreciations, WhatsApp demands to be used. Launched in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, it is loved by many, used by millions across nationalities and has risen to become one of the most used smartphone apps.
Why to use WhatsApp for Viva-Voce? What is the benefit of taking Audio Responses from Students? Is there a possibility that they opt the 'cheating' ways? How much duration is ideal for a WhatsApp Response? For which subject we can take WhatApp Viva? How to motivate students to adapt to this innovative use?
These are the questions that lie on the surface and the solution of each hurdle is within the reluctance. I wish to answer these in a pointed sequence, in order to put forth clarity in understanding.
- Why this? Because Internet based Platforms are the weapons of the day and must not be left only to the lazy users. Educators have all rights to exercise control and experiment with these. Being a popular tool to connect people, it is eligible to bring learning handy to students through an innovative teacher. Why to use it? simply for the empowerment it gives you and the connectivity it creates. "An educator can not escape the presence of technology."
- Students love to speak. We need to allow them to do so. In classes it is often ruled by the first row or the few interactive ones. There are many who carry good insights but hesitate to open up. Audio is easy to them. It is more about serving multiple delicacies in the platter so that the 'guest (student)' is not able to deny. It demands toiling from the educator and that's what we are paid for, I feel.
Without making the learner realise that we are willing to learn the way they prefer, makes them walk along. This should not be taken as a surrender of the authority that a teacher carries. There should not be anarchy towards the good practices of teaching and evaluation. However, integration of technology into modern day pedagogy, at all levels, is the first thing to be done.
- Do Students Cheat? No! They Don't! The student is handed over to you as a raw piece of wood. It is up to your craft, your skills and intentions what you make of him. Their being lazy, irresponsible or 'misuse' of technology should not hinder the way of learning. For the fear of a possible deviation or fall, we do not stop walking towards our destination. Do the same with your teaching too.
The EduSoMedia initiative has checked this WhatsApp possibility and can be used as an example so that it does not sound alien to your students. Beware of one thing when you opt for this: the day you start integrating technology into your classroom teaching-learning, walk with patience and according to the comprehension levels of your students. Do not throw the tools and technological platforms like bombshells. Let the learners develop 'Digital Temperament' first. Students, whom you really teach, do not cheat and will not misuse the guided freedom.
- How many words can be spoken in one minute? (Think a Reply) With internet facility getting available almost everywhere, the use of this instant messaging tool also bound to progress. While asking your student to send you a response in a stipulated time, remember that data usage may be available to them, still it costs. It is disappointing that at a time when, Digital India is running as a national campaign, private telecoms are making internet costlier. However, we are not feel insecure, as the advent of modern day sophisticated education system has brought free internet access in the higher education institutions. Do not make them record lengthy speeches or presentations as Podcast is there for that. WhatsApp Viva response can work better if we keep it within 140-160 words. An average speaker with good understanding of the language, can speak around 150 words when there is an answer to be given with fluency. However, this comes to 100-120 wpm (Words per minute) when we indulge in friendly discussion or we are in a special context. When you want to send them a brief guiding note, go beyond a couple of minutes.
- For which subject we can take WhatApp Viva? Answer is... For the subject you teach. There is no need to worry about the special alignment of whatsapp towards any stream or subject. It belongs to the Teacher, not to the nomenclatures.
- How to Motivate Students to join the wagon of WhatsApp Viva? They need to be appreciated for their skills of using the tools and platforms that communicate instantly. A Teacher has to be among the users and should be well versed with the technical features (Added/Changed very often) of WhatsApp. As said before about the other usages of WhatsApp, first you should be a part of student connectivity through this tool. Making them a part of Learning/Coordination Groups, Broadcast Messages etc. are the basic things to be done at the outset. Motivate them by integrating this app into teaching aids. Teach them to make the best of technology that comes ready for learning utility. When they see you doing-they learn and follow.
WhatsApp is capable of the wow impact on students on the condition of 'Strategically Implemented' teaching pedagogy. Make Groups of selected students who are group leaders (if you have large number of students). Keep communicating to them and attend to their responses. Drop Questions in the groups and regularly conduct tests there. Happily award them appreciations when they participate in the 'Virtual Quizes' or Recitations or they share photographs on a given theme.
Technology is not to be believed in blindly; one has to keep eyes wide open towards the horizons of learning.