After about 10 years in the United States, I moved to India in 2018. I started working with an education technology organization called Meghshala. Meghshala uses a two-pronged approach towards quality education in public and under-resourced schools; by creating engaging lessons to aid teachers and robust on-ground implementation.
I am a curriculum designer, or what we call a Master Teacher. As a Master Teacher, I create science lessons that help teachers take ownership to improve the quality of education. These lessons have not only attractive images and amazing videos, but also thought-provoking questions, and detailed and easy to understand explanations. Meghshala does not undermine the vital role of a teacher in a classroom. But its goal is to provide them with tools that can help them become better facilitators and role models to their students.
Let’s take a step back and think about what quality education means to each one of us. What exactly is quality, and who determines this quality? Is it access to better infrastructure? Or perhaps access to technology? Or maybe a cohesive learning environment? We might have different opinions on “quality education.” Quite frankly, I don’t think there is one right answer to this question.
After graduate school, I specifically looked for jobs in the education sector in the US and India. I came across many great education organizations that work on technology-enabled innovative models to solve the world’s education crisis. Because I began my search with an open mind, when I came across an organization, the first question I asked myself was – How does the organization define quality? This question gave me an idea of who the primary users and stakeholders are, and whether or not the organization was undermining anyone’s role in the education ecosystem.
The next question I asked was, is the model scalable? If the answer were yes, then I’d ask what resources a student/educator would need to access the organization’s product? My search would pretty much stop there! Most organizations I came across almost always had a prohibitive cost for students/educators to access it. Such organizations further contribute to the increasing divide between the privileged and the underprivileged communities, therefore not addressing the education and learning crisis.
What does technology in a classroom mean? To many, it may mean each student independently working on a tablet and (maybe) learning something new. Perhaps that’s the goal of technology in classrooms after all – to ensure that every student can navigate technology for their educational benefit and become lifelong learners. But what if we empower a teacher with technology – perhaps give them a tablet and other tools to navigate through technology? How might a teacher use it and build a learning environment that will benefit many batches of students?
Perhaps this constant self-inquiry on “quality education” and technology-use led me to Meghshala, which means “school on clouds”.
The first thing that struck a chord with me was that an educator founded the organization. An educator can genuinely understand the sensitivities of stakeholders and on-ground challenges to implement technology solutions. Consequently, an educator can talk the same language as other educators and can peer-teach them to use technology effectively.
Secondly, among nearly 800 million mobile phone users in India, about 40% use smartphones, and this number is only increasing. Implementing a solution that uses the prospects of a smartphone would most certainly be scalable, and have an immense potential for outreach.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the users of Meghshala are primarily teachers in low-income and under-resourced schools. So there is a high chance that these teachers would not be able to afford technology solutions. The organization’s model provides all the lessons for free.
I realized that Meghshala’s idea is not just to bring technology to a classroom in rural and under-resourced areas. But also to bring it to a teacher’s fingertip and support them to use it constructively. What about teachers who do not have smartphones? Well, via sponsorships, Meghshala also provides tablets and projects to some schools.
Coming back to my work at Meghshala, I and three others create science lessons from grade 1-8 for syllabus aligned to India’s national curriculum. We go through a comprehensive process of co-creation – first, the four of us debate and create a unit plan for the chapter. The create a unit plan based on the idea that we have to give suggestions to the teacher and allow them to improvise on the activities or content based on their contexts and environment. Once we have a final unit plan, we start designing and creating lessons based on our unit and lesson plan. These lessons go through many internal and external reviews, where each reviewer critiques the content, logic, flow, and quality of each lesson. After we address these suggestions/comments, the lessons go through editing for language and vocabulary, then through design for videos and illustrations, and then finally for quality check by the product manager. Once the final round of checking and reviewing is completed, we upload these lessons onto the Meghshala app. A teacher with a tablet (with internet) or any smartphone can access ALL the content through the free app.
Almost 20 of us work on each lesson. Each word, image, illustration, and video is analyzed, reviewed, and re-reviewed to provide the best possible content to teachers. While I am still looking for the right meaning for quality education, I am pleased with my current understanding. Quality education supports teachers with ideas and resources and gives teachers the power to contextualize these ideas for their students to become better and lifelong learners.