Fostering Change in Indian Classrooms – Meenakshi Uberoi, India
As a dietician by profession, Meenakshi Uberoi didn’t intend to become a teacher. “Teaching came to me as an offer from the school where my girls were studying,” says Uberoi. “Having said that, I must mention that since that day I haven’t looked back or beyond and I believe that changing careers was the best decision that I made. I guess I found my calling and I was always excited about making learning interesting, captivating and motivating for students.”
Today, Uberoi is doing the same for teachers. As a Curriculum Developer and Workshop Leader with The Pedagogics, Uberoi coaches, teaches, equips and assists teachers in creating innovative, challenging and enriching teaching and learning engagements that help students become life-long learners. She is a very active participant on the new Hot Topics (formerly What’s Fresh), and shares experiences and learning activities freely, including Water Wise, which inspired a local government to clean up a chemical spill.
“My focus lies in addressing the diverse interests and abilities of the students by presenting information in a variety of ways using technology as a vehicle and emphasizing relevance of class material to the world beyond the classroom,” says Uberoi. She won Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Leadership Award in 2005, and has been a steward of innovation and technology integration in the curriculum at all of her places of work. “I learn each day and I share my learning each day,” she adds.
Here is today’s Daily Edventure with Meenakshi Uberoi.
What has inspired and defined you as an educator?
It might sound cliché but the defining moment of my life was when I was awarded the Innovative Teachers Leadership Award (ITLA) in 2005. That actually boosted my confidence and gave me the courage to take on a job that was more challenging.
The boredom of textbook teaching in a prescribed manner compelled me to explore new options and I began using technology to enhance and enrich the learning experiences for my students. My sessions were now more alive and interactive and students were more involved, aware and responsive. But overall, I get inspiration from a desire to be the best I can be and the best experiences that I can provide to my students.
Inspiration, I believe comes from oneself and will happen only if one wants to be inspired. My mentor, Mrs. Paramjit Kaur Narang, is the person who has impacted my way of working the most. She not only trained me, showed me the right path, hand-held me and sometimes baptized me by fire, but inspired me to extend my knowledge and understanding by giving me the opportunity to attend professional development sessions and drafting an implementation plan of the same to broaden my imagination and capacity. I guess if it were not for her positivity and outlook towards education, I would still be teaching in a regular classroom in a regular way.
What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?
My amazing and beyond expected moment was when the summative task given to my students created an impact to bring about a change in our society. I was teaching Grade 3 then, and I had always felt that the children in this age group are sincere and enthusiastic about the work assigned to them. This is what encouraged me to design tasks where there was ample scope of implementing the concept/idea that the students have learned. As a part of the theme, Water Wise, the students explored water pollution caused due to human activities and their impacts on the surroundings. As a part of the study I shared the Exxon Valdez incident with my students, and we also took a trip to a river nearby which is highly polluted.
About a month after the theme was over, an unfortunate chemical spill in the river flowing in the industrial town which was located in another state was reported in the newspaper. One of my students got very worried reading this news in the newspaper and decided to do his due. He wrote to the Chief Minister of the state, telling him about his worry and requested him to help the people living on the banks of the river. He then shared that email with the rest of the class and it became a motivation factor for others to take on a task and do something about it.
To his pleasure, the ministry took notice of his letter and responded reassuring him and sharing with him the steps being taken by government to deal with the situation. In a highly populated country like ours, it is very likely that such letters get lost in the daily humdrum. But that response letter was huge for us, as it gave my students the confidence that their action can result into more actions and gave me an insight into the huge impact that our teaching and learning engagements can bring on these young hearts and minds.
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
In my experience with innovation and technology, I have been able to enliven the classroom experiences for my students and it has aided expression of my thoughts and ideas. It is sometimes difficult to tell, but when you use technology, expressing or sharing what’s on your mind becomes easier and it is almost like another mind at work with you. Also, it’s my “what next” factor. Both my students and colleagues now have an unsaid expectation from me to bring to them something new and innovative using technology as a tool.
Microsoft PowerPoint has been a game changer for me. It helped me create captivating and interactive sessions that were information-packed and grabbed my students’ attention instantly. When I explained the concept of photosynthesis to my 4th graders using PowerPoint, it helped them visualize the concept and develop better understanding of the phenomenon that cannot be seen or experienced otherwise.
Nowadays, I’m sharing OneNote, Office Mix and Sway as presentation tools for my workshops and sessions with the school principals to amaze and enlighten them.
Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
The biggest obstacle that the schools in my country have is the expense of buying the hardware and accessing the Internet. We are a developing nation and not many schools can afford to purchase the necessary equipment. The new schools are very open to using technology to enhance teaching and learning experiences but the costs and procurement procedures need a lot of time and money investment which discourages them.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
I’m most excited about going paperless. I find it a huge waste of time, paper, money and effort to do paperwork and make files that run into pages and then have a place to store the pile. Also what I saw in the Microsoft’s Vision of the Future Classroom is going almost deviceless, or with limited use of devices. Well if that’s possible, then I think working from anywhere, anytime and in any way will be totally possible and that will be HUGE!
About Meenakshi Uberoi
Curriculum Developer, Workshop Leader and Columnist
- Blog URL: https://meenakshiuberoi.wordpress.com/, https://learnoholics.wordpress.com/
- Birthplace: Chandigarh, India
- Educational background: Post Graduate in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Website I check every day: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Favorite childhood memory: When I won an essay writing competition in grade 10, organized by Helpage India, an NGO.
- Favorite book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote and PowerPoint with Office Mix
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Never let logistics come in the way of learning.”