Last year, chalk was a scarce resource at Shanti Bhavan (to be treasured and worn down until our fingernails scraped on the archaic blackboards). To our immense surprise the school has just time-warped from blackboards to revolutionary “Smart Boards,” skipping the whiteboard generation altogether.

Thanks to donors, Verizon, these ultra modern interactive whiteboards have just been installed in all classes from 7th -12th Grade. No whiteboard markers required… the smart stylus is apparently all you need to write/ draw/ annotate with, in any colour you choose. Many parts of the Indian curriculum are pre-loaded onto the system, complete with videos and revision exercises. This will be a great boon.

Because paper is so costly and photocopying even more of a luxury, we have always had to write tests and exercises up on the blackboard for students. Now we will be able to put a USB into the machine and project directly onto the board from the overhead projector.

K w Recycled diagram

Making the most of the cardboard from a new shirt

The contrast is stunning. In my first year at SB I had to use the cardboard from a shirt we’d bought to construct a diagram to make a teaching point. I used a variety of round objects to draw the concentric circles. The following is an extract from my very first blog about teaching at SB in 2010 (see photo):

We’ve survived our first week of teaching – my first school teaching ever. Out of respect for the Indian teachers I wore my new Salwar Kameez. So… picture this for my first class: As per our teaching manual, I am trying to write neatly with chalk on a blackboard for the first time ever about a subject I have never taught before, while ensuring that the backward-facing shawl does not fall off my shoulders… with the documentary crew’s camera and a two metre long sound boom in my face… Oh and did I mention that in three weeks time these students, taken in at the age of four, will be the first ever students at Shanti Bhavan to sit for the Indian Year 12 exams… Oh yes, and the amazing principal (you may have seen Mrs Law in the videos) is sitting in on the class too… no pressure!

Only four years later I feel a different pressure – to learn how to make the most of the Smart Boards… who would have thought?

I have included a photo of Barney’s attempt to project the children’s final computer Scratch projects for the assembled school four years ago. It took literally hours to set up a little projector, a makeshift screen, and to negotiate with the facilities staff to allow the generator to be on for half an hour during the day. When assembly time finally arrived, the sun came out and you can see how faint the resulting image was.

Barney showing Scratch in assembly 2010

Barney showing Scratch in assembly 2010

The Smart Boards will give these children a great advantage.

I had my first trial with a Smart Board using Powerpoint

I had my first trial with a Smart Board using Powerpoint

The other exciting news is Verizon’s donation of 20 laptops. These are used in a new purpose-built open-air lab next to the computer room.

Senior students accessing the internet alfresco.

Senior students accessing the internet alfresco.

And looking back the other way

And looking back the other way

Just so we stay grounded, the Smart Board technology is juxtaposed against the same old rickety desks  and concrete floors that we have come to know and love at Shanti Bhavan (see photo).

What's a wobbly desk when you have a few bricks?

What’s a wobbly desk when you have a few bricks?

Thanks to Robert and Bonnie Jenkins for your generous donation last year. The additional solar panels on the roof mean that we haven’t lost power once yet at school. (Supervising prep at night in the pitch dark used to be quite taxing).

Next blog, I’ll talk about the children who are currently applying for special overseas educational experiences in Italy and Japan.

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