Volunteer Laura’s Perspective.

Volunteer Laura’s Perspective.

After one month research in Dharavi for the Mobile English Language Learning programme Laura will leave tomorrow, the 29th June 2012. We were happy to have her and to get to know more about innovative resources for effective English learning projects for underprivileged communities. Read here about her experience:

I first came to Mumbai in January 2011. I was here alone, and quickly discovered that the Reality Tours were a great way to experience the city and to meet new people. I also had a chance to learn about the work of Reality Gives.

At home in the UK, I was working with an organisation called Anspear, which creates educational resources for disadvantaged and marginalised groups via mobile phones. I had worked with a number of migrant families to help them learn English, with interactive activities to support vocabulary, pronunciation, listening, reading and grammar skills, and the results had been really encouraging. While I was in India, I wanted to see if there was potential do something similar.

I was really lucky to be offered the chance to come to work with Reality Gives, and their Youth Empowerment Programme. I’ve been working with the current batch of students, who want to improve their English to find a job, go back into education, or use their language skills to teach their children. My aim is to match the learning materials, and the technology used, to the needs of the students.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of the programme and to learn from the teachers and the students about what would be most helpful. It’s been an interesting to let students trial a sample program, with photographs from the local area and quizzes and games based on their existing English curriculum.

I’ve also been trying to understand how the students are already using mobile phones, so we know the best mobile platforms to target. Our trial phones are lower-end Android smartphones, and although a number of students already use something similar, it is clear that Java phones are still more common. There are still some important development decisions to be made!

So far the trials have been met with great enthusiasm from the students, and I’ve had lots
of constructive feedback.  I’ll go away now, and design something to support the group’s new English curriculum. I hope to return in January with a resource for students to trial for a few months, and I’ll tweak it based on their feedback. Longer term, I hope it will be a resource that can stay in Dharavi and can be freely distributed to future students and the wider community.

Thank you to everyone at Reality Gives, the teachers and YEP students for making this a great experience. I’m already looking forward to coming back!

Laura Pearson,
June 2012