Published: 08th May 2020
IIT Roorkee's Anushruti Academy for the Deaf is using WhatsApp to teach the kids. Here's how
The lessons, which include videos, images, PDF documents, links to websites and worksheets are sent over to every student through their parents on WhatsApp
With students across the country attending classes online, why should the ones with special needs be left behind? Anushruti Academy for the Deaf, a social initiative by IIT Roorkee, is using WhatsApp to teach students amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdown. The academy is situated on campus. Teachers are sending videos and answering the questions of their speech and hearing-impaired wards on WhatsApp. But classes for kids with special needs certainly can't be the same as regular classes. So how are they managing? By involving the parents, of course.
Here's how it works. The lessons, which include videos, images, PDF documents, links to websites and worksheets are sent over to every student through their parents on WhatsApp between 11 am and 1 pm every day. Students and their parents go through the material and raise doubts via call, text or video calls during the two hours. "The teachers have to be vigilant and prompt with their replies. We sometimes have to find and send more material to help the students or their parents understand a particular problem. We are using what's available online and our own personal notes as most of our books and other study material are still at the school," says Neelima Agarwal, a Math teacher at the school.
But the transition to online classes wasn't all smooth. Several kids attending Anushruti Academy belong to marginalised communities and hail from low-income families. Initially, several didn't even have access to smartphones or laptops or even have an internet connection for that matter. So how did they even get access to these online classes? The management, which comprises several professors from IIT Roorkee, provided them with smartphones and high-speed internet. "With the help of these online classes, we can perhaps expand beyond this area and teach hearing-impaired children across the country, as long as they understand Hindi," says Dr Rajat Agarwal, Department of Management Studies, IIT Roorkee. He is also the Assistant Manager and Co-convenor at the school.
"We provide audio instructions to the parents with regards to the lessons being sent over, its contents and how they can explain it to their child," informs Neelima. "We also share visually-enriched YouTube video links and ask the parents to watch it with their kids and explain it in their own way," she adds.
So, how are the students reacting to the change? "The kids in the primary section have taken the shift really well. Learning through videos and visually-enriched worksheets is always fun for the young ones. The older kids are taking more time to adapt, but their parents are regularly in touch with us through messages, calls and video," explains Neelima.
Students of Anushruti Academy for the Deaf
Are online classes the way forward? "While the kids are enjoying the classes and their parents are more involved in their education, this mode of teaching can't replace what we can achieve in the classroom with special needs children. However, the kids are responding quite well," adds Neelima.
The medium of teaching at the school is Hindi and these students hail not only from Roorkee, but also from areas that are almost 80 kilometres away, adds Dr Agarwal.