I have a new friend. His name is Kalpesh and he lives in Talere, Maharashtra, India. He’s 15 years old, in 10th grade and his favourite subject is science. He likes his teacher because he makes jokes. Kalpesh loves Ben 10 cartoons, is a karate fan and likes to play cricket. His best friend’s name is Raviraj. His home language is Marathi and he speaks Hindi too. His English is limited to the classroom… and now his interactions with me.
I learn these things from our interactions via Skype through the SOLE project, about which I have written before here and here. It’s amazing how much we’ve already learned from each other, when you consider the limitations of our communication. Apart from the language barrier, there is no sound when we connect, although there is video, so we communicate by typing and by hand and facial gestures. This SOLE is in the Vaibhavwadi taluka of Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, in the village of Talere, although the children also come from surrounding villages. I’m told that the SOLE itself is a room with a tin roof which makes it feel like an oven in the summer heat.
During our ‘conversation’ about school, Kalpesh tells me there are 80 children in his class. He knows I’m a teacher and asks to see photos of my school, so I show him a few images of students learning in the classroom. His responses are usually brief and often single words and I know he doesn’t always understand what I type, because then he simply doesn’t respond. So I wonder if he’ll know what I mean when I ask ‘What did you notice?’
[28/04/2011 3:38:43 PM] SOLE C1: mam your school photos [28/04/2011 3:39:01 PM] Edna: let me look. [28/04/2011 3:40:29 PM] Edna: here are some pictures of children at my school [28/04/2011 3:41:26 PM] SOLE C1: nice photos [28/04/2011 3:41:34 PM] Edna: what did you notice? [28/04/2011 3:42:42 PM] SOLE C1: typing your school childrn in laptop and painting [28/04/2011 3:42:51 PM] Edna: yes [28/04/2011 3:43:09 PM] SOLE C1: thank you
I’m filled with mixed emotions… shame at having shown him the colourful classroom with small groups working at laptops… pleasure that he has understood and responded in a whole sentence… gratitude for the opportunity to see what learning looks like in a different context… disappointment that there’s no sound and I can’t hear what he’s saying to the other children as they laugh… frustration at the limitations imposed on our conversation by language… warmth towards these eagerly responsive children… delight that despite the obstacles, I have managed to make a connection…
[28/04/2011 3:55:08 PM] SOLE C1: mam you come India and my house
I would love to.