Village school in Maharashtra welcomes ‘Alexa teacher’

Unlike other municipal primary schools in Maharashtra’s Badnera town, the one in Waruda has ‘three teachers’ for its 42 students studying from Classes I to IV. For a similar school, the ratio may have been only two teachers. In Waruda, besides teacher Amol Bhuyar and headmistress Sushma Kapse, there is also Alexa. Amazon’s ‘virtual assistant’ is the ‘third teacher’ in the Marathi medium institution. Slow net speeds Sharing the one-time investment cost with Ms. Kapse, Mr. Bhuyar has independently built a mannequin around an Amazon Echo device, giving a face to Alexa. Poor Internet speeds in the hinterland notwithstanding, students speak to Alexa in English, and are now learning math, poems, general knowledge, weather information and more, from the device. Bollywood music now forms a part of the school’s extra curricular activity. Mr. Bhuyar said he realised very early that Alexa could be a game changer for his students. “It was during a ‘go digital drive’ by the Amravati municipality in its schools that I had this brainwave of trying to push boundaries using technology,” he explained. Mr. Bhuyar discovered the technology on the Internet. The initial challenge, according to Mr. Bhuyar, was that the children only converse in Marathi, a language that the device does not offer. “We have in the last 11 months trained students in the structure of posing Alexa a question. Students ask about 15 questions a day. They prepare these questions at home and come to school,” Ms. Kapse explains. “Voice interface is set to transform the way we use technology in our everyday lives… since its launch, Alexa has been at the forefront of this disruption,” said Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager, Alexa Experience and Devices, who learnt about the ‘Alexa teacher’ at the Waruda school on cable television.

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