“A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.” – Srinivasan Sriram, India
“Where there is a will there is a way,” says Srinivasan Sriram. For this award-winning educator from India, a positive outlook to “learn, unlearn and relearn” is the most essential element for success. That, and support from colleagues, students, and his community.
“Collaboration can play a very big role in overcoming challenges,” Sriram says. “Be a part of online forums and seek ideas from others; there will be plenty that one can learn and implement. I will be more than glad to help other educators on similar missions to implement them.”
Sriram, who was awarded the National Teacher Award for ICT Innovation in 2012, is a veteran in the world of computer science, having been introduced to it in 1983. “In those days, a computer was a rarity and working on it was both a privilege and an achievement,” he says. “This was probably the beginning of a journey that went on to impact many young lives. The device fascinated me so much that I would ask my computer teacher for the keys to the room after school hours, and would spend my time programming on GW-Basic and Fortran.”
Indeed, he has gone on to impact many young lives, including those of young teachers. Sriram shares his knowledge, wisdom and work on his blog, and through mentorship, and his dedication and belief in community shines through. His recent project to develop a community radio with his students was based on “involving students en masse as an effort to create a knowledge pool that would participate in peer teaching and learning using ICT enabled resources,” he says. “A Student Community Radio Station (CRS) was set-up and managed by students to take lessons across various subjects to teach students in nearby villages using a radio.”
For Sriram, the heart of the project was collaboration between students, teachers and the community. “It provided a community service in the form of free lessons to students in nearby villages of Ajmer,” says Sriram. And while Sriram’s students were learning the ins and outs of creating podcasts, they were also helping the illiterate members of their community. “The school also has plans to distribute small pocket-sized radios to children in nearby villages,” says Sriram. “Emphasis will be paid to all qualities like knowledge building, use of ICT for learning, problem-solving and innovation, self-regulation, collaboration and skilled communication.”
Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Srinivasan Sriram!
Why is education important to you?
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education is a candle that can dispel darkness. It is a tool that shapes one’s life. I strongly believe lack of education is mainly responsible for most of society’s ills. An educated person can take more meaningful decisions and seldom tread the wrong path in life and hence, inclusive education for all is a must. In the words of Sydney Harris, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Therefore good education is the only way that a country can progress. With so much technology that enables you to collaborate with others in search of new ideas, education is no more the mundane process that it once used to be.
Can you describe the teacher who most influenced you?
Two teachers influenced me most:
- When I started my career as a teacher, I had the privilege to work with some of the finest teachers in the country who practiced selfless service. One such teacher who was highly instrumental in shaping my life was Mr. Ramesh Shah, the erstwhile Vice Principal of Mayo College. He was a role model for many to emulate. He was not only an excellent teacher but he would give priority to make students good human beings with high moral values. His involvement in school activities was phenomenal and would always be available to anyone for support.
- When I was awarded the National Award by Government of India in 2012 for ICT innovation, I had the opportunity to meet many fellow educators from the country. One such teacher was Pokuri Srinivasa Rao who teaches in a village school in Andhra Pradesh. When the authorities asked him for some photographs of the computer lab in his school, he wrote back saying “Education need not be propagated within the four walls of a classroom. I teach students in the corridors of my school with my personal laptop (there were no computers in his school) and yet they have been successful.” These words touched me and I realized how focused he was even with lack of support facilities. Truly inspiring teacher
Describe the most inspiring day you’ve experienced as an educator.
During my earlier days as a teacher, I had the opportunity to teach mathematics for grade 7 for a few years. Though I am not a regular mathematics teacher, I had good fundamentals in mathematics, this being one of the core subjects during my graduation, and I took the job seriously. It involved extensive preparation and problem solving as a considerable group of students had very good IQ levels and I was slightly uncomfortable whether I would be able to live up to the expectation of the class. The lessons were a mix of riddles, puzzles and solutions to problems using day to day examples and mathematical problems to solve. Barring a few hiccups, I was able to see them through to the next grade with very high percentiles. In the act, I never realized I had become their favorite teacher. When the class was over, the entire class demanded that I continue teaching them in the next grade and everyone was in tears. A very touching, inspiring and fulfilling day that is always etched in my memory.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
My proudest professional achievements until a few months back was when I received the National Award by Government of India for Innovation in ICT and Computer Literacy. They were National level achievements and it will remain close to my heart. However, when I was selected as an MIE Expert, I was elated because here is an opportunity to collaborate with global educators and represent my country at the international level. This has to be undoubtedly my proudest professional achievement.
Education for the underprivileged masses has been a subject close to my heart. I have been involving students every year in project-based learning activities with a social outreach. These projects are implemented with a goal to educate village communities on a specific topic that was socially relevant to them. During such initiatives, I found that the people lack basic education to understand the issues that we place before them. Therefore with the help of Government of India, I am working towards implementing a Community Radio Station (CRS) involving students which will broadcast not only educational content but also socially relevant issues that affect their day to day life; like tips on good farming practices, etc. Students have recorded podcasts with the help of teachers on various subjects for different classes. These podcasts can be transmitted using CRS to all villages within a distance of 20 Km. I have been recognized for this work
If you could change one thing about today’s “system” of education, what would it be?
A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image. Today’s system of education is totally oriented from the point of view of the policy-maker without taking into account the varied learners and seldom gives room for students’ creativity. The academic performance alone holds maximum weightage for higher education whereas a student can possess immense talent in co-curricular or extra-curricular activities which goes unnoticed.
The system should lay stress on the following parameters for holistic learning of a concept by students: To Analyze (distinguish, examine, compare, contrast, investigate, categorize, identify, explain, separate, advertise), to Synthesize (create, invent, compose, predict, plan, construct, design, imagine, propose, devise and formulate) and Evaluate (judge, select, choose, decide, justify, debate, verify, argue, recommend, assess, discuss, rate, prioritize, determine). I would ideally support a system that caters to all types of learners, kindles creativity amongst students and develops skills and abilities which prepare them for a global world of life-long learning. I would also empower the teaching community with skills that will help them lead the way for students.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Opportunity lies in actions. Shiv Khera says, “Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently.” Innovation can start from anywhere; from teaching methodologies, support material, using technology effectively to support learning outcomes and being a reflective practitioner. Ensuring participation of students effectively, by giving them enough opportunities and letting them be creative, can lead to innovation. Use of technology to foster curiosity and kindle the joy of discovery amongst students, utilizing the option of mobile devices to enhance teaching/learning practices in classrooms, and using 21st century skills in optimizing educational outcomes combined with concepts like cloud storage provides the best opportunity for innovation in education.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
New teachers should be willing to change and be different to make a difference in education. They should create the right environment for the students to bloom. They should be able to ignite a spark in the minds of students to think creatively. They should emphasize project-based learning so that the students practically understand the concepts rather than go about rote-learning. They should be receptive to new technologies and involve themselves in mastering it. They should have 21st century skills to impart education in a way that will enable students to compete in the global scenario. They should be a guide and facilitator to students. They should be a life-long learner willing to learn from peers and students as well. They should anticipate future needs and realign their teaching techniques accordingly. They should foster peer relationships, cater to the needs of all levels or types of learners by implementing personalized teaching techniques and lastly, they should be able to distinguish between effective and non-effective technology/methodology by being a reflective practitioner.
What is your greatest hope for the future of education?
My greatest hope for the future of education in my country is the kind of exposure that teachers are getting today and the willingness of teachers to adapt to changes and pass on 21st century skills to students so that they can face the future challenges better. Knowledge partners like Microsoft, Intel and SMART have been instrumental in creating awareness amongst teachers on the latest trends in education and also hand-hold the teachers with the necessary skills.
Children are better prepared than ever before because of greater exposure and they in turn can be instrumental in passing the skills to fellow children and the next generation to come. The Government of India has been very supportive of improving education standards in government schools, though there is much more to do. Many educators are getting global exposure and thereby getting to know the best practices in education and it helps them to take informed decisions. Educators in their individual capacities have taken to fulfill social responsibilities and have taken steps to provide education for all, including villages. These steps will definitely help our country to eradicate illiteracy and show the way for generations to come.
About Srinivasan Sriram
IT Administrator and Head of Computer Science Department
Ajmer, Rajasthan, INDIA
- Education: MCA(P) from Jaipur National University, B Sc from Madras University, PGDCA, B Ed
- Website I check every day: Slashdot.org, Daily Edventures, Springboard blogs
- Person who inspires me most: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
- Favorite childhood memory: Getting to work on the computer for the first time during my schooldays.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): United States/Canada
- Favorite book: You Can Win by Shiv Khera