Volunteering with Commitment : Devidatta Ghosh
Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.
– Ron Hall
How it all began
I am As a primary level Science teacher and an artist by profession., My colleague Vidhya, a trained lawyer and Math teacher, and I met Supriya in early 2018 to understand the objectives of Vision Empower. The discussion kindled curiosity in us about the possibility of using a customized version of the activities and teaching aids/manipulatives which we use in our lessons for Science and Math , for sighted children in our school.
For 2 hours, we heard from Supriya about the journey of how and why Vision Empower had started, what inspired her to join this endeavour. It was interesting to know about people at IIITB who inspired and supported them and the various other institutions and organisations which partner with VE on different projects.
But most importantly, the fact that visually impaired children lack resources to continue their study in Science and Maths beyond Grade 7 was a revelation for us. I realized I had never thought about the accommodations required for persons with visual impairment, especially children. I was always under the impression that VI children are being well taken care of in their schools and special methods are used to teach them. This meeting left me thinking about these children for the next few days. I wanted to contribute in some way, but had no idea if I could be of any help to these children or to VE. I browsed through the website of VE and tried to understand their vision and mission. I was still unsure of my role here as while I have experience dealing with sighted children, I do not have any experience with VI children.
Our learnings from visit to a blind school
To experience the teaching processes in a blind school we visited Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind. We found the school associates to be very friendly and helpful. They shared their challenges and experiences with us openly. They talked about their experiences in working with the school for so long and how they witnessed the growth of this school They also talked about the lack of availablity of permanent staff. I was shown how to work on a taylor frame and visited their resource room, wherein a teacher, with the help of couple of young children, demonstrated to us the usage of the available resources such as tactile diagrams for maps and body organs. They demonstrated how children identify different varieties of pulses and cereals. Here is when I felt that I could certainly contribute to creation and enhancement of the manipulatives currently used.
After our visit to the school, we resolved to provide help and support to the cause of VE in whatever way possible. We met Supriya at her Vision Empower office in Electronic City to discuss and chart out our next course of action. During the meeting we were introduced to Aditya, Sylvia and Rajagopal, who had already joined VE. Mr. Aditya explained to us about their Subodha platform and the pilot project implementation which they were doing for grade 5 at SRMAB. He showed us their web portals and files where they create and keep records of the lesson enhancement plans.
We attended other VE events such as the I-STEM Hackathon 2018 event and the I for Inclusion workshop by trainers from XRCVC. We gained new insights on blind children and their capabilities. I got introduced to the Perkins Brailler and learnt to use it.
Our struggle and contributions
We started working on bringing in new ideas which can be used as classroom activities using simple teaching aids in the form of audio or tactile designs. Since our expertise area is for grade 1 and 2, we started working for Grade 1, 2 and 3. Taking reference from Karnataka syllabus, Vidhya and I first estimated the amount of work that can be done within the 2 months of our summer holidays (April and May, 2019). We made a commitment for creating content for the first 4 units for each grade. We started our work on the excel sheet prototype provided by VE. Taking one unit from the syllabus, we subdivided the unit into several subunits. We started with doing research on the internet and collected information regarding various aids, methods and activities that can be used for VI children of 6-8 age group. I created Teacher Instruction Kits for Science following the VE process. In addition, we started having regular meetings with the VE team to discuss on our progress, challenges and future steps.
While we were developing the content, we realised that for any activity or manipulatives to be effectively used in the class room, there is a need to formalize on a method of introducing the concept as well as the manipulatives to be used. Also, we felt using the spreadsheet had limitations, and proposed to work with a text document where we could be more creative in description. Besides, I felt the need to have a clear structure, such as an “Objective” statement at the beginning of each sub-unit followed by teaching aids and then systematic step-by-step approach to execute a lesson. This was very well received by the VE team and has been absorbed into the Teacher Instruction Kit template. We have since been creating more instruction kits for Grade 1, 2 and 3.
So far I have developed Teacher Instruction content for the first 4 units of Grade 1, 2 and 3. In future I would like to take up the activities for the Subodha portal and continue to contribute as a volunteer whenever possible.
In the 'Stories' section, we attempt to document our experiences while volunteering, special people we have encountered in this journey. If you have volunteered with Vision Empower and have an interesting experience or story to share, do write to us.