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Unsung Heroes: Meet Basavaraj Sungari, a science teacher who uses augmented reality to teach his students in Karnataka’s Belagavi | Cities News,The Indian Express

Unsung Heroes: Meet Basavaraj Sungari, a science teacher who uses augmented reality to teach his students in Karnataka’s Belagavi | Cities News,The Indian Express

With videos of AR-based learning tools going viral among his students, most of them turned up to schools during the lockdown period to find out what on earth an ‘elephant’ was doing in their school? While the elephant was actually a display of AR recorded through a camera on Sungari’s phone, the virality of his unique initiative set a new benchmark in education, especially in one of the most backward regions of North Karnataka’s Belagavi district.

Hailing from a remote village called Mastamaradi in Belagavi taluk, Sungari is a teacher who grew up amid financial and social constraints. He had plans to become a doctor and wanted to effect a change in healthcare in North Karnataka. However, with low rankings in medical entrance examinations and with very little financial stability, Sungari had to let go of his dream and became a teacher. However, in hindsight he feels choosing the latter has served him more satisfaction.

His first posting as a teacher was in 2007 when he was appointed as a science teacher at a government school in Hassan. However, after two years, Sungari was posted back to his home turf in Belagavi. But his new posting in Belagavi’s Bhutramanahatti came with its own challenges.

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Speaking to, Sungari explained that the region was very conservative and narrow-minded when it came to education, especially girls’ education. “As a teacher, I couldn’t stand any student being deprived of education. But the case in this village is different, where many parents want their children to stay back at home and toil the land and engage in farming activities. My efforts to convince the parents received backlash and criticism from the villagers. I then took to social media to address this problem in my own way,” said the 37-year-old teacher.

In 2013, Sungari created a Facebook account in the name of the school and chose to put up the picture of the school as the display picture for the account. Since the infrastructure of the school was an eyesore, the account received harsh and nasty comments on its timeline. Gradually, Sungari started sharing the success stories of the students on the account’s timeline along with their pictures.

“I used social media to highlight the progress of the students, for quiz competitions and cultural activities and the kids participated and shared it with their parents. Several posts went viral in the many villages around Belagavi where villagers and parents felt proud that their children are performing well by going to school. Through this initiative, I managed to help people come out of the narrow-mindedness and it also encouraged more children in the nearby villages to join the school,” said Sungari, who later managed to get donors to build Parmanu, a science lab and Pi Pulkeshi, a mathematics and social science lab.

“The development of the school infrastructure would not have been possible if I depended solely on government funds. While high schools had access to proper lab facilities, primary school students were deprived of the same. My fellow teachers and I made extra efforts to attract donations from individuals who helped in developing the school and also building the necessary labs for the students,” said Sungari.

When the pandemic hit in 2020 and the lockdown was announced, the education sector across India had closed its doors. However, given Sungari’s stand against depriving students of education, he introduced a programme called ‘Champs mind is not locked down’. He created a WhatsApp group consisting of parents, villagers and students and produced an eight-episode series along the lines of fun learning activities.

“I fondly call my students champs. During the lockdown period, I initiated a series called ‘Champs mind is not locked down’ that would encourage students to record videos of art and craft work, experiments in the kitchen, experiments with science tools carried out at home etc. Around the same time, I was also learning to work with AR software using different applications and one morning a thought struck me. I wanted to bridge the gap between technology and education using AR and check out how this could help improve the learning abilities of the children,” said Sungari, who was also working as a Covid warrior by helping distribute food kits to Covid-19 patients.

Sungari learnt about the applications of Merge Cube, an AR software, and then channelised the process by learning how to run the Arloopa app, an AR application. “The Arloopa app was very innovative and it involved education related content along with AR. I experimented with this in July 2020 and tried its features by recording an elephant anime through the app. Once I shared the video with the students, they actually started coming to the school thinking there was actually an elephant in the school. Once the schools reopened, I gradually trained them in using this app and now, I regularly take class using AR,” said Sungari, who also conducts a programme in the school called Government School Crorepati, (a science quiz programme), every Wednesday.

When the AR related experiential learning went viral on social media, Sungari expanded his teaching by introducing museums, human body parts, solar systems, reptiles, animals. “A picture is worth a 1000 words and the use of AR has had a significant impact among students because they are able to grasp and comprehend the concepts easily. The authenticity and realism of the software has a positive impact on their learning curve,” said Sungari.

Weighing in on the need to include technology in education, Sungari said, “It is important to ensure a clear marriage between education and technology. Tapping into AR and also virtual reality (VR) is integral to building a technologically sound education environment. Moreover, my aim is to make North Karnataka schools, which are often referred to as backward regions, capable of harnessing technical prowess into learning.” Currently Sungari is working on building a digital library consisting of high-tech gadgets, tablets and computers to help students learn more about digital technologies.

This content was originally published here.