New Delhi: Gone are the days when students visited their teachers to solve last-minute doubts before exams. They now have a tool to rely on — WhatsApp.
Take the case of Shruti Bhamb, who topped the ISC Class 12 board exams in the Delhi-NCR region. Two months before her final exams began, Bhamb says she had deleted her accounts on most social media platforms.
No Instagram, no Snapchat and bare minimum engagement on Facebook. The only exception — WhatsApp, without which, she says, it would have been extremely hard for her to clear last-minute doubts or stay in touch with her teachers before the exams.
“We had separate WhatsApp groups for every subject… A lot of doubt-clearing happened on those groups,” says Bhamb, a humanities student from The Shri Ram School. “For some subjects, we had one group with teachers and one without — when we thought a doubt was too dumb to ask the teacher, we’d discuss it on the group without the teacher first.”
It’s a growing trend among private schools, which are resorting to the use of technology and social media tools such as WhatsApp, video calls and Skype to help students solve problems.
Teachers back the method
Teachers too see merit in forming these groups with children.
“WhatsApp is a social media tool for communication and we don’t mind if our teachers use it to communicate with students. In fact, it is good because it provides a common platform to both students and teachers and they can discuss a problem at a common platform,” said Ashok Pandey, principal of the Ahlcon International School in Delhi.
“Many parents also feel safe when they are part of school WhatsApp groups,” he added.
The teachers say it also allows them to solve a problem without being physically present in the class. With some of the groups having over a hundred students, they become common platforms for the teacher to address one students’ doubt, which could potentially help other students on the group as well.
“Earlier, if students had to clear doubts during their preparation leave, they would wait till they had a significant number of doubts and then would come all the way to school to meet us,” said Charu Tandon, an English school teacher for the last 21 years. “Now, there is this live group they have with us in which the moment they have a problem, it can be solved.”
Not all rosy
Research, however, shows that the use of WhatsApp for learning has its disadvantages, though the advantages ‘outnumber’ them.
A study, Effectivity of E-Learning through Whatsapp as a Teaching Learning Tool by Sonia Gon and Alka Rawekar, published in MVP Journal of Medical Sciences, says, “Though there is no significant difference between gain of knowledge from WhatsApp or didactic lectures, advantages (technical, educational or instructional) out pars the disadvantages.
“A few disadvantages, like message flooding and eyestrain, can be overruled by making small groups and using mobile phones with bigger screens,” the study says.
School teachers, however, disagree.
“For people who say that use of technology and giving screen-time to children is bad, I just have one argument, would you rather let your child indulge in constructive screen-time like learning or let them while away their time by playing mobile phone games,” asked Ahlcon International School principal Pandey.
Not just for clearing doubts
WhatsApp groups are, however, not just being used for clearing doubts, but also to make up for lost days at school. When there are pollution holidays in Delhi, a lot of crucial teaching time is lost and schools try to make up for that through WhatsApp and Skype. Classes are held at a certain time when all the students are supposed to be present.
Not just students and teachers, even parents have WhatsApp groups of their own where they exchange information on the syllabus, tuitions, previous years’ papers etc.
Priya Gupta, whose son just cleared the Class 10 Board exams from Modern School Vasant Vihar, said she is a part of multiple school groups.
“There are these mothers’ groups that we have created…We exchange notes, old papers, etc. on the group,” she said. “Earlier, everyone would wait for the school to send emails of old previous years papers… Now, one person gets it and just uploads a picture of it on the group and everyone instantly has it.”
The messaging app makes up for missed classes too. “Remember, earlier when a child was absent, they would go to school the next day and take notes of what they missed? That rarely happens now,” she said. “If someone’s child is sick, they just tell us, and one of us posts pictures of whatever happened in school.”
“Whatsapp is becoming indispensable to studying in school,” she added.