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Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support Programs in India

Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher
Support Programs in India
Rama Adithya Varanasi
Information Science, Cornell University
New York, NY, USA
Aditya Vashistha
Information Science, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA
Tapan Parikh
Information Science, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA
Nicola Dell
Information Science, Cornell Tech
New York, NY, USA
Current ICTD best practices call on practitioner organizations that
deploy technology interventions with marginalized communities
to commit to long-term engagements and provide continuous sup-
port. This paper describes a qualitative study that examines the
challenges and issues that arise for organizations that have tried to
answer this call: a set of education-focused non-prot organizations
in India that have invested heavily in building long-term relation-
ships with low-income schools and that are deeply committed to
providing ongoing support, both in-person and via technology.
Interviews and observations with 71 participants (51 from eight
organizations, and 15 teachers and ve principals from 12 schools)
reveal (1) the challenges and issues that arise as organizations in-
tegrate smartphones into teacher support programs, and (2) the
strategies that teachers and organizations use to ease smartphone
adoption in teacher support programs. Our ndings uncover the
eects of organizations’ smartphone-oriented support programs
on teachers’ workloads, ecacy, and stress, and highlight oppor-
tunities for organizations to improve their programs and support
Human-centered computing Empirical studies in HCI.
HCI4D; ICTD; education; teacher support; smartphone; non-prot;
practitioner organizations; India
ACM Reference Format:
Rama Adithya Varanasi, Aditya Vashistha, Tapan Parikh, and Nicola Dell.
2020. Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support
Programs in India. In Information and Communication Technologies and
Development(ICTD ’20), June 17–20, 2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador. ACM, New
York, NY, USA, 11 pages.
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The ICTD community has long recognized the important role that
organizations, both NGOs and social enterprises, play in the long-
term success or failure of technology interventions [
In the education domain, in which our work is situated, a robust
body of research has examined the development and deployment
of specic technological interventions [
]. When
describing what it might take for such projects to be scaled or sus-
tained, researchers frequently point out the need for long-term,
continuous support that is provided by local organizations famil-
iar with the context and communities in which the technology
is being deployed [
]. Our paper forwards this conversation by
examining the benets, challenges, and tensions created by organi-
zations that have answered this call. Specically, we focus on a set
of education-focused non-prot organizations in India that have
worked to build long-term relationships with low-income schools
and that are deeply committed to providing ongoing support, both
in-person and via technology.
We conducted a qualitative study in India with 71 participants:
51 from eight organizations, as well as 15 teachers and ve princi-
pals from 12 low-income schools. These organizations view smart-
phones as a tool to augment their primary in-person support initia-
tives rather than substitute them. We nd that the multipurpose
nature of smartphones means that dierent stakeholders have con-
icting opinions and receive contradictory directives about the
appropriateness of using smartphones at school, with state govern-
ments and school leadership worried that smartphones will distract
teachers from their duties, while organizations encourage teachers
to use smartphones, both inside and outside the classroom.
For the most part, organizations require that teachers use their
personal smartphones for these programs, which leads to chal-
lenges for teachers who do not own a phone or who share a phone
with family members. Using personal devices for work also creates
tensions stemming from teachers increasingly being expected to
be available online after work hours, potentially adding to their
already overburdened workloads.
We also discovered a mismatch between organizations’ expec-
tations regarding teachers’ knowledge of how to use their smart-
phones and teachers’ actual knowledge, with support programs
often focusing heavily on the pedagogical aspects of their programs
and not on training teachers how to troubleshoot common techni-
cal problems. As a result, much of the time that organization sta
spend providing support in-person is focused on solving technical
ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador Varanasi et al.
problems. Thus, to complement their in-person support, many or-
ganizations have developed programs that they deliver via social
media to engage teachers in pedagogical discussions.
Our ndings expand the ICTD community’s knowledge of the
role played by organizations that seek to aid marginalized communi-
ties via sustained engagement and long-term support programs. We
show how organizations are in a good position to help mould the
community’s mindset about the role of smartphones as productive
tools for teachers’ work, but doing so would require improved co-
ordination of activities and more consistent messaging. In addition,
we nd that it is crucial to pay close attention to how technology-
based programs might add to teachers’ workloads, force them to
work outside of work hours, and increase stress and anxiety. Finally,
we show how the social-media based support programs created by
organizations may provide valuable online communities of practice
[45] that aid teachers professional growth.
A rich body of literature in ICTD has studied technology-supported
education in low-resource communities, with a recent survey of
the HCI4D literature nding that education is the most prevalent
research domain in HCI4D [
]. Many projects focus on designing
or deploying technology interventions that target students, both
in classrooms (e.g., [
]) and outside of them (e.g., [
]). One
famous early example is the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project
that aimed to deliver low-cost laptops to millions of children in
the hope that they would teach themselves how to use the tech-
nology [
]. Following the failure of many OLPC-focused projects
], Toyama discussed how technology is pointless if it is
not accompanied by strong support and eective training for teach-
ers [
] and several projects have subsequently worked with both
teachers and students to deploy digital technologies with better
outcomes [23, 68].
Several interventions have focused on improving the quality of
instruction by connecting low-skilled teachers in rural areas with
expert teachers via video-based content [
]. Another cluster of
studies have specically examined the motivations of teachers in
low-resource schools and the challenges that they face. Heeks and
Krishna nd that teachers want to learn new skills, if given proper
support, to improve their social standing [
]. Vishwanath et al.
] study teachers’ use of online teaching systems, uncovering
linguistic, training, and cultural challenges that impacted teachers’
willingness to use technology. A recent study by Varanasi et al. [
examines how a teacher-focused technology intervention impacts
teachers’ work practices, including preparation, teaching, and ad-
ministration in low-income settings. Another set of interventions
aim to help teachers plan and deliver content [37, 53, 55, 72].
Although many of these prior interventions and projects have
partnered with non-prot and/or practitioner organizations, there
is a need for research that examines how such organizations pro-
mote the integration and use of technology within their school and
teacher support programs, the impact of technology on the relation-
ships and interactions between organizations and teachers, and the
eects of technology-oriented programs on teachers’ workloads,
ecacy, and stress.
The ICTD community has long recognized the important role
that organizations (both NGOs and social enterprises) play in de-
termining a project’s impact on the ground [
]. For
example, Gitau and Marsden [
] point out how locally-situated
organizations often have a strong understanding of a community’s
culture and attitudes, resulting in increased sensitivity to the so-
cial, political, and cultural challenges that community experiences.
Consequently, these organizations are in a perfect position to poten-
tially adapt technology interventions to better suit such dynamic
stakeholders and their ever changing contexts [
] Several studies
have also discussed the challenges that organizations face working
in ICTD contexts and proposed interventions to improve organiza-
tion eciency and work practices [
] Other projects
have highlighted the value of strong organization support programs
in domains across ICTD, including education [
], health
[43], Internet access [46], micro-nance [18], and agriculture [24].
Most of this prior work calls for organizations to focus on long-
term engagement with communities and to provide ongoing sup-
port programs. Our paper moves this conversation forward by un-
covering the challenges and issues faced by organizations that have
tried to answer this call; organizations that have invested heavily in
building long-term relationships with schools and that are deeply
committed to providing ongoing support, both in-person and via
technology. We focus specically on education-focused non-prot
organizations in India and, rather than focusing on only a single
organization or intervention, we engage with a variety of dier-
ent organizations that work with schools who serve low-income
communities (both government and aordable private schools).
Collectively, these organizations deliver a range of technical and
non-technical interventions and teacher support programs.
Our work takes place in India within a rapidly-changing and
evolving technological landscape [
]. In the last few years, two
important shifts have made it feasible for teachers in low-income
schools in India to own and use mobile devices. First, there has been
an exponential inow of cheap smartphones into the Indian market
from Chinese and local manufacturers [
]. Second, the launch of
the Reliance Jio LTE service in 2016, which gave free SIM cards
to anyone with access to Aadhaar (India’s biometric ID system),
has led to drastically reduced cost of mobile data [
]. For example,
subscribers currently pay
199 per month (US$2.30) for 42GB data,
after which they receive unlimited 3G or 2G data. This is roughly a
third of what data cost two years ago.
Our IRB-approved qualitative study took place over six months
in two states in India, Karnataka and Telangana. We conducted
observations and interviews with organization sta members as
well as school teachers and principals to answer the following
research questions:
What challenges and issues arise as organizations integrate
smartphones into teacher support programs?
What strategies do teachers and organizations use to ease
smartphone adoption in teacher support programs?
To obtain diverse perspectives on how smartphones impact
teacher support programs, we included participants from eight
Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support Programs in India ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Teach for All
(founded 2006): To build a movement of leaders to eliminate educa-
tional inequity
(founded 2014): Create a way to turn teachers into Master Teachers,
and shrink the teacher skill decit
(founded 2015): Create equitable access to learning opportunities for chil-
dren in the primary years
(founded 2012): Empower schools with a two-year teacher training and school
strengthening program
India School Leadership Institute (ISLI)
(founded 2013): Developing the skills
of school leaders to drive excellent outcomes from underserved schools in India
(founded 2015): Establish a chain of aordable private schools for India’s
poorest students
(founded 1990): Provide school reform to deliver a high-quality educa-
tion to each child, no matter his or her background
(founded 2013): Build a strong school culture that promotes
eective teaching-learning processes
Table 1: Organizations and their mission statement.
organizations and 12 schools. In total, we had 71 participants: 51
organization sta, 15 teachers, and ve principals.
Our team consisted of four researchers (one woman and three
men): two are Indian, one African, and one is from the U.S. but of
Indian descent. All four researchers are aliated with a U.S. uni-
versity. All eldwork was done by the rst author, a Ph.D. student,
whose foreign education would likely have placed him in a posi-
tion of power relative to study participants, especially those from
low-income schools.
3.1 Organizations and Schools
Table 1 summarizes the eight organizations in our study and their
high-level mission statements. Most of the organizations were
founded within the last decade and aim for multi-year engage-
ment with schools as they work to develop and sustain a range of
learning, pedagogical, and managerial support programs. These
organizations use dierent models to support teachers. For ex-
ample, Akanksha [
] and iTeach [
] run their own schools by
re-purposing unused space in government schools, with the goal of
expanding the government education system that stops after the sev-
enth grade in some Indian states. Mantra4Change [
], on the other
hand, provides systematic support to already established schools,
including needs assessment, new structures to improve school func-
tioning, and creating community awareness. Rather than focusing
on an entire school, ISLI [
] takes a top-down approach, target-
ing school leadership and management (e.g., principals or head
teachers), thereby indirectly impacting teachers. Several other or-
ganizations (e.g., Teach for All [
], Meghshala [
], EkStep [
321 [
]) focus mainly on teachers. Teach for All trains graduates
from top universities in India to become fellows that spend two years
as full-time teachers in a low-income school working closely with
local teachers. All organizations use smartphones to augment their
existing educational support programs that are carefully crafted
using pedagogical principles.
Finally, organizations’ objectives and programs often overlap,
sometimes placing them in the same schools in parallel, working
with dierent stakeholders.
We selected 12 low-income schools—both government and af-
fordable private schools—that work with one or more of the eight
organizations. These schools follow a similar curriculum, use Eng-
lish as the language of instruction, and evaluate students via exams.
Private schools and government schools dier on how they are man-
aged and funded. Private schools often hire teachers on a short-term
contract whereas government school teachers are full-time employ-
ees funded by the state. Private schools pay teachers substantially
less and oer less professional development training compared to
government schools. Teachers in both types of schools are often
overloaded with teaching and administrative responsibilities. While
private school teachers are expected to work after school hours to
conduct extra teaching, government school teachers are swamped
with administrative duties, such as compiling midday meal reports,
responding to government circulars, conducting surveys, and mon-
itoring local elections.
3.2 Field Observations
We conducted a total of 66 hours of in-school observations over a
one month period with sta from two organizations, Meghshala
and Teach for All. We examined how they interact with teachers
and integrate smartphones into teacher support programs. We re-
cruited participants through our on-going research relationships
with these organizations and observed them as they went about
their daily work in schools. We also observed teachers in these
schools for 11 hours to understand their participation in teacher
support programs.
Meghshala provides pedagogical support to teachers through a
custom-designed app combined with on-the-ground support. We
shadowed Meghshala sta as they went about their duties for
roughly four hours per day, including school visits to provide in-
person support, troubleshoot technical problems, and answer ques-
tions. By contrast, Teach for All provides support via fellows who
perform the same job as teachers. Thus, our observations with
these participants were the same as for teachers: we followed them
as they conducted their duties in classrooms, sta rooms, during
lunch, after-school meetings with management, casual meetups,
and group discussions.
In total, we observed 20 orgnanization sta and ten teachers at
eight schools in Karnataka and Telangana. Throughout our obser-
vations, we asked contextual and spontaneous questions to gain
deeper understanding. We collected detailed notes and recorded
audio (with permission) for further analysis.
3.3 Semi-structured Interviews
After completing our observations, we used snowball sampling [
to recruit interviewees. We asked our contacts at Meghshala and
Teach for All to introduce us to other organizations and schools
that we then invited to participate.
We interviewed sta at their oces, and teachers and principals
at their school. We began with a brief explanation of our research
and then asked questions to understand participants’ roles and
demographic characteristics, the role played by smartphones in
their work processes and interactions, and the challenges that arise
when using smartphones in teacher support programs. Example
questions included - “What kind of training do organizations provide
to help teachers take advantage of support programs?” and “What
ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador Varanasi et al.
Organization Participants
Participants Observation & Interviews: 51
Gender Female: 25 Male: 26
Age (years) Min: 20-25 Max: 45-50 Avg: 25-30
Experience (years) Min: 1 Max: 29 Avg: 4.2 S.D: 5.0
Education Graduate: 33 Post-graduate:18
School Participants
Participants Observation & Interviews: 20
Gender Female: 13 Male: 7
Age (years) Min: 30-35 Max: 45-50 Avg: 35-40
Roles Teacher: 15 Principal: 5
Experience (years) Min: 2 Max:25 Avg: 12.12 S.D: 5.36
No. of Subjects Min: 1 Max:3 Avg: 2
Grades taught Min:3 Max:5 Avg:3
Table 2: Summary of participants from organizations (top)
and schools (bottom).
kind of challenges do teachers face in using smartphone for the train-
ing program?” Interviews took place in a mix of English and local
languages, lasted 45 minutes to two hours, and were audio recorded
with permission.
In total, we conducted 41 semi-structured interviews: 31 with
employees from eight organizations, and ten with school teachers
and principals. All participants spoke English and about half were
female. All participants had a college degree. Of the ten partici-
pants from schools, ve had experience working as both teachers
and principals. Our teacher participants taught an average of two
subjects across three dierent grades, spending eight hours per day
in the school. Table 2 summarizes our participants’ demographic
3.4 Data Analysis
Our data consisted of audio recordings from our observations, 44
hours of interview recordings, and extensive eld notes collected
during observations and interviews. The recordings were translated
into English (if necessary) before being professionally transcribed
and analyzed using Atlas.ti. We used inductive thematic analysis
] to analyze our data. We began by reading through the data
several times to identify initial codes. The rst author then con-
ducted multiple rounds of iterative open coding to identify patterns.
After each round of coding, we used peer debrieng [15] with the
other authors to discuss and rene the codes. Our nal codebook
consisted of 49 codes. Example codes include device ownership,fric-
tion, and smartphone literacy. We then clustered related codes into
13 higher-level themes that we used to organize our ndings. Ex-
amples of themes are organizational support,device-sharing, and
conicting directives.
Our analysis provides insights into the challenges faced by teach-
ers and organizations and the coping mechanisms they develop
as smartphones are integrated into teacher support programs. We
found that contradicting directives on smartphone use during school
hours as well as issues with smartphone prociency and sharing
cause stress and anxiety to teachers, thereby debilitating teacher
support programs. Teachers are also expected to use their personal
phones for work and engage via organization and school-run social
media groups, which leads to expectations that teachers respond to
work requests outside of work hours. We organize our ndings to
rst present challenges and tensions that arise when smartphones
are integrated into teacher support programs (RQ1, rst two sub-
sections) and then outline strategies that teachers and organizations
use to ease smartphone adoption in teacher support programs (RQ2,
last three sub-sections).
4.1 Conicting attitudes about the
appropriateness of using smartphones at
Our ndings suggest that the multipurpose nature of smartphone
devices means that dierent stakeholders have conicting opinions
and receive contradictory directives regarding the appropriateness
of using smartphones at work. Our conversations with organization
sta revealed that school management and the state government
felt that smartphones have the potential to be distractions in the
classroom, thereby diverting teachers’ attention away from their
work. A participant noted,
“The government is totally against it. There are orders
banning the use of smartphones in the classroom. But
[teachers], not surprisingly, fail to implement it. Teach-
ers will never publicly admit that they use phones in
class. But they all use them.” (P31, Program Manager,
Since smartphones are a major vehicle for entertainment (e.g.,
watching videos and listening to songs), the higher management
at many schools regularly send circulars strongly discouraging
teachers from using their smartphones during work hours. A few
government schools in Karnataka even directed teachers to deposit
their smartphones in the principal’s oce during teaching hours. At
the same time, the government and school management often con-
tradict this directive by encouraging teachers to use smartphones
at work for both administrative purposes and teaching support. For
example, management of the schools’ midday meal program, which
aims to improve student attendance by providing a meal at school,
is now done via a smartphone app instead of paper.
In addition, our analysis revealed that school management at
many schools have created and make heavy use of WhatsApp
groups that teachers are expected to participate in for a range of ad-
ministrative and communication functions. For example, WhatsApp
groups have enabled school management to save time and human
resources by moving away from paper-based announcements and
circulars. Previously, important logistics, administrative circulars,
and other announcements were sent through physical registers
to classrooms, requesting signatures and coordination. This time-
consuming process is now done entirely over WhatsApp. Teachers
are required to monitor these WhatsApp groups, both during school
hours and outside of them, and take actions as directed.
Meanwhile, further exceptions to the “no smartphones in class”
rule were made to enable teachers to use specic organizations’
apps in their work. Several school principals in Karnataka said that
they have in fact made it mandatory for teachers to use a specic
organization’s app. A teacher said,
Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support Programs in India ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador
“One issue is that teachers are not allowed to use smart-
phones in class. This is an ocial rule. Normally, we
cannot use it in the period . . . We are only able to use
it for [the organization’s app] as we got permission.
Sometimes we have to give it to the headmaster, but I
keep it in the bag.” (P61, Social Science Teacher, Grades
Indeed, our analysis revealed that all the organizations used
smartphones to assist their support programs. In this sense, rather
than viewing smartphones as a distraction, organizations tended
to view them as essential support tools.
Interestingly, we also discovered cases where dierent organiza-
tions that were working in the same schools in parallel, but with
dierent stakeholder groups, did not coordinate their activities or
messages, which often led to confusion and tension. For example,
ISLI is an organization that works with school principals and man-
agement, providing techniques for giving feedback to teachers and
advice about essential management functions. Their programs do
not include any training or mention of how to manage teachers’ use
of smartphones in the classroom. At the same time and in the same
schools, other organizations like 321 and Meghshala were actively
training teachers to use their smartphone to support their class-
room interventions. This led to tension between teachers who were
being encouraged to embrace smartphones and upper management
who had not received any exposure to these new smartphone-based
interventions. Indeed, four out of the ve principals in our study ex-
pressed uncertainty about observing, understanding, and assessing
teachers’ use of smartphone devices in the classroom. As a result,
principals were sometimes reluctant to endorse teachers’ adop-
tion of smartphones, and this reluctance in turn aected teachers’
attitudes towards these devices. A participant said,
“How open and broadminded they are in terms of ac-
cepting new methodologies, it sort of trickles down . . . If
the management is not in favor of technology . . . or is
willing to just stick with traditional methodologies, then
this [attitude] trickles down [to teachers] as well.” (P28,
Program Manager, Teach for All)
Overall, our data suggests that the contradictory directives re-
garding whether or not teachers are allowed or encouraged to use
smartphones at school result in confusion and anxiety, potentially
leading to increased stress for teachers who are simultaneously
required to use smartphones at work but also afraid they will get
into trouble for doing so.
4.2 Device sharing and ownership issues
impact the availability of smartphones for
work purposes
As discussed above, majority of the organizations in our study
ran programs that expected teachers to use smartphones as an
educational tool, both at work and at home. Although there were a
few instances where organizations occasionally provided devices to
schools, for the most part the organizations in our study (six out of
eight) required that teachers use their own, personal smartphones
when participating in the organizations’ programs. However, such
a model makes a number of assumptions: that teachers do indeed
own a smartphone device, that they know how to use it, that they
are able to bring it to work every day, and that they have access
to it at home. Our analysis showed that these assumptions often
result in challenges that we now discuss.
Regarding smartphone ownership, prior literature has discussed
how it is common for people in the Global South [
and South Asia in particular [
], to share a single device between
multiple individuals. Our ndings validate this prior work, with
teachers in our study frequently sharing devices with their spouse
and/or children. We also extend the literature by revealing how
device sharing impacts the ways in which teachers, who are mostly
women, are able to use these devices as tools for work. As one
participant said,
“Teachers either use .. .their [own] phone, or sometimes
they give the numbers of their brother, mother, or father
where they go back home and use that phone. Because
there are a lot of young teachers who may or may not
carry these phones by themselves.” (P12, Design Man-
ager, 321)
We heard how, if the teacher is not the owner of the device, they
were sometimes able to bring the device to school, primarily for
safety and communication purposes. However, when they go back
home, the device is returned to the owner (e.g., husband, sibling,
parent), resulting in a lack of access at home. Even if teachers have
their own device, they frequently share it with their family. In these
cases, teachers typically carry their phone with them when they
go to school and, while at school, they are able to use the device as
needed. However, once they return home, it is very common for
family members, especially their children, to take their phone and
use it for playing games, watching videos, or homework. As a result,
our participants described how the teachers’ opportunities to use a
smartphone (e.g., for communication or preparation) may decrease
when they are at home or over the weekends. These situations may
prevent teachers from being able to fully participate in the organi-
zations’ programs and inhibit their ability to receive pedagogical
content through technology. To overcome this challenge, several
teachers said they spend a substantial amount of time at school
trying to catch up (e.g., lunch breaks, after school), which may add
additional work to their already overburdened schedule.
On the other hand, teachers who did have their own smartphone
reported that the amount of smartphone-based work they now
do outside of school has grown substantially. This includes tasks
required by organizations’ apps (e.g., lesson preparation) as well
as responding to various work-oriented notications from generic
apps, such as WhatsApp. Consequently, several teachers said that
they felt they were always online despite no longer being physically
at work.
In addition to these challenges, we discovered a number of bene-
cial side eects that stemmed from device sharing. For example,
our interviews revealed that, through their children, teachers are
often exposed to new educational apps and troubleshooting tech-
niques that they were not previously aware of. Some of these apps
are introduced through programs at their own children’s schools,
and teachers learnt about them when the children installed the app
on the parent’s device. For example, P69 (social science teacher,
grades 4-7) mentioned that this was how he was introduced to
ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador Varanasi et al.
Byju’s (a popular Indian learning app) [
]. The teachers in turn
share their knowledge of these new apps with other teachers and
organizations, sometimes adopting them in their own teaching.
In addition to sharing devices with their own children and fami-
lies, we observed that many teachers were also comfortable handing
over their own personal devices to students in their class to allow
the students to view and explore content on the device (see Fig-
ure 1A). For example, while explaining the concept of germination,
we observed one teacher hand over her smartphone to a group
of students so that they could watch a time-lapse video of a seed
germinating. Another teacher described how giving the device to
children prompted engagement with class material, telling us,
“I just opened the device, loaded the content, and gave
the device to the students. I asked them to look at it for
a minute and then I started to explain the lesson. They
immediately began to engage and tell me their opinions
about the content.” (P66, Science Teacher, Grades 1–5)
4.3 Training teachers to use technology
Having looked at how device ownership and sharing patterns im-
pact teachers’ general usage of smartphones for work, we now
examine the challenges experienced by teachers and organization
sta as they work to introduce and integrate technology interven-
tions into schools. Our data shows that the organizations in our
study view smartphone technologies as an important tool to help
with their ultimate goal of achieving pedagogical change in low-
income schools, with several (four out of eight) investing resources
in building custom smartphone-based apps (e.g., Meghshala, EkStep,
Mantra4Change). However, we discovered a mismatch between
the organizations’ expectations regarding teachers’ knowledge of
smartphone technologies and the teachers’ actual knowledge.
Most of the organizations (six out of eight) use a model in which
they conduct workshops that train teachers to use their tools (see
Figure 1B). During these workshops, organizations focus mainly on
pedagogical and learning topics, in part as a result of the organiza-
tions’ overarching goals to achieve pedagogical change and in part
due to the need for smartphones to be seen as educational tools
(rather than for entertainment). At the same time, the training work-
shops typically require teachers to use their personal smartphones.
Combining these factors, we saw how the training materials de-
veloped by organizations generally expected teachers to already
possess the knowledge and experience required to handle general
smartphone troubleshooting. In other words, the training materials
took as a starting point, “how to use our app or platform” and not
“how to use your smartphone.
However, we discovered that many teachers have limited expe-
rience using their smartphones, only interact with a few popular
apps (e.g., calling, texting, WhatsApp), and often do not have the
troubleshooting experience to deal with the range of technical prob-
lems that may result when using new apps or platforms on their
own phones. One participant said,
“A lot of teachers have smartphones but they don’t re-
ally know how to operate it or nd the right informa-
tion that they want at that moment.” (P23, Manager,
We observed that many teachers struggled with common trou-
bleshooting, such as locating downloaded les, using the ‘settings’
menu to force-stop a rogue instance of an app, solving problems
that come up when trying to “cast” content from the phone onto a
big screen, deleting les to make space for new content. However,
organizations’ training workshops spend almost no time training
teachers to deal with these kinds of technical issues or teaching
them troubleshooting skills. As a result, participants described how
the training sessions can be technically challenging for teachers,
and result in a need for on-going tech support, as we discuss next.
4.4 Strategies for sustaining technology
Our analysis shows that as teachers interact with smartphone-based
educational interventions in their day-to-day work, they often seek
technical support from a variety of dierent sources. Some teachers
turn to their teaching colleagues for help (see 1.C). As one relatively
tech-savvy teacher said,
“Other teachers keep on asking me, ‘I downloaded a le
in the [organization’s] app. But, I don’t know where is
my downloaded le.’ Things like this happen all the time
. . . I spend time helping with that” (P57, Math Teacher,
Grades 1–7)
Alternatively, we heard how teachers would, on occasion, ask
family members to help them overcome technical hurdles. Teacher
13 described how in one workshop teachers were provided a link
to resources on Pinterest, which only opened in the Pinterest app.
However, the app installation failed many times, after which she
sought help from her husband who troubleshooted the issue by
creating enough space in the phone’s memory for the app to be
successfully installed.
Finally, teachers also often turn to organization sta for technical
support. To support long-term engagement and sustained interven-
tions, several organizations (ve out of eight) provide continuous
pedagogical support to the schools they are engaged with by physi-
cally situating or sending sta to visit the schools periodically. For
example, Meghshala deploys associates to provide consistent in-
person support to each school roughly every 1.5 weeks to help with
teachers’ preparation and teaching via their smartphone app. Al-
though the organization sta intend to provide pedagogical support
to teachers, in reality they mainly spend time providing technical
support rather than engaging teachers in discussions and training
around pedagogy. A participant noted,
“Any technical issues like devices not working or sud-
denly . . . the [devices] are not able to connect to the
server, or any of these issues that pop up, they call me
because I am the point of contact on the ground.” (P15,
Associate, Akanksha)
Even with this on-going, in-person support, many teachers fre-
quently forgot aspects of how to use the technology, resulting in a
need for repeated assistance. One teacher said,
“After downloading the video in the app, I have to watch
it again for preparation. But, I don’t know how to do it.
[Support sta] have told me many times. But, it does
Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support Programs in India ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Figure 1: (A) Students trusted with devices in class; (B) Teachers using personal phones to learn an organization’s app in a
training workshop; (C) Teacher receiving technology assistance from a peer; (D) Organization sharing Pinterest resources via
not stay in my memory.” (P61, Social Science Teacher,
Grades 1–5)
We did hear some instances where organization sta were able
to assist teachers with pedagogical support, providing feedback on
lesson plans and teaching strategies. Such in-person meetings be-
tween organization sta and teachers often occurred during lunch
time or after school. A participant said,
“I usually sit down a lot with the maths teachers .. . We
give each other feedback on lesson plans, classes, what
we teach, how we teach. This is not something that was
designed or told to us, but we do it nevertheless.” (P21,
Associate, iTeach)
However, both parties have tightly-packed schedules and it can
be dicult to nd opportunities for these in-person interactions.
Thus, teachers and sta have steered towards social media apps
(e.g., WhatsApp) for such discussions. We observed cases where
teachers used WhatsApp to take a picture of a lesson plan they
wanted feedback on or recorded audio about a problem they were
facing and sent it the organization’s associate for feedback or a
solution, making it easier for sta to respond in their own time.
One participant said,
“A teacher found it hard to teach maths .. .she would
write the math problem on the chalkboard, take a photo
and then would ask me, ‘Sir, how to do?’ . .. I would use a
whiteboard . . . solve it in two or three steps, take photos
of that, and send it back to her. Sometimes, she would
send me back a photo of her actually having done it
in class. This was not something I directed, it was her
initiative.” (P24, Implementation Manager, Meghshala
& Fellow, Teach for All)
Our analysis suggests that these organic WhatsApp-based inter-
actions are a very important support structure that enable teachers
to discuss classroom strategies and pedagogical challenges with
organization sta as they arise. We now discuss how several or-
ganizations developed more formalized structures for providing
support via social media applications.
4.5 Organizations’ use of social media
In recognition of the struggle to provide teachers with technical
support and engage them in pedagogy-related discussions, several
organizations (Teach for All, Akanksha, 321, Megshala, iTeach,
and Mantra4Change) have converged on a common strategy in
which they use popular, o-the-shelf social media applications
(e.g., WhatsApp, YouTube, Pinterest) to complement their in-person
support programs. Sta from 321 and Mantra4Change discussed
how their organizations postponed or entirely dropped the idea of
developing custom apps. Instead, these organizations are focusing
their strategy on popular applications that teachers already use.
For example, sta from Mantra4change described how they de-
signed a set of YouTube videos containing relevant content and
pedagogical training for teachers that is closely linked to their local
classroom challenges, such as nding resources and classroom man-
agement techniques. They said how “making pedagogical content
accessible via platforms that teachers already use and are comfortable
with” is a useful way to promote use of their tools.
Several other organizations introduce new platforms to teach-
ers by posting links via familiar platforms. For example, we saw
resources posted via WhatsApp that linked to Pinterest, Twitter,
and community podcasts that are prominent among teachers in
Western settings. We learned that organizations share these apps to
support specic aspects of teachers’ work. For instance, Pinterest
was frequently shared by 321 and Akanksha sta via WhatsApp
and in-person interactions to help teachers explore classroom ma-
terials. Pinterest is a popular app where teachers design and ideate
several ideas around support materials for the classroom and share
it on the platform [
]. Figure 1.D shows one such example where
organization sta from 321 shared a Pinterest resource around dif-
ferent classroom ‘rules’ by creating innovative posters and sticking
them up in the classrooms. This resource was originally shared on
Pinterest by a teacher in a Western setting.
However, out of all the apps, our analysis revealed WhatsApp as
the most widely-used tool. Although there are variations in usage
due to dierent device ownership models (discussed previously),
ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador Varanasi et al.
all participants, including teachers, had at least some access to
WhatsApp. One participant described,
“Even though the teachers struggle to use our resources,
they are very comfortable using the WhatsApp groups
. . . Nowadays we see teachers watching videos of 10MB.
Earlier the challenge was to solve their access to these
resources. Now it has become easier for them.” (P19,
Several participants also noted how teachers conversed openly
on WhatsApp groups in local language (typed in English script),
in contrast to reluctant in-person participation with sta and col-
leagues where they are often pushed to speak in English. The sta
member noted,
“An interesting aspect is that teachers generally struggle
to speak out. . . but when they write messages in What-
sApp groups, they converse quite a lot in Hindi but write
it out in English. It is something like WhatsApp English.
(P19, Consultant)
In addition to using WhatsApp for organic interactions between
organization personnel and teachers, most of the organizations in
our study (Teach for All, Akanksha, 321, Megshala, iTeach, and
Mantra4Change) have created dedicated WhatsApp groups to scaf-
fold their support programs and communications with school stake-
holders. The interactions that take place on these groups are driven
mainly by organization sta members who send messages designed
to motivate teachers to adopt new classroom activities and pedagog-
ical techniques, and encourage them to become content generators
by also posting about their experiences on the WhatsApp group.
For example, one teacher described his experience with an organi-
zation’s WhatsApp group as follows,
“I have written many times in the WhatsApp group.
Two months back, I had asked for details about how I
can use a graph. After learning that, I mentioned places
where graphs could be added. I also sent an example of
a graph construction video to show how these kinds of
videos can be added.” (P68, Math Teacher, Grades 1–5)
Three organizations have tightly integrated WhatsApp into their
ocial training and support programs. For example, a manager at
321 described how the organization has created an entire WhatsApp-
based digital support module that aims to make teachers feel sup-
ported and appreciated via WhatsApp group conversations. Along
with 321’s in-person workshops and coaching modules for teachers,
the trainers personally interact with teachers on WhatsApp several
times a week. Design managers at 321 carefully craft the content
that is sent over WhatsApp to generate positive perceptions of
self-worth and motivation, with the goal of engaging teachers.
Despite the ubiquity of WhatsApp, our ndings show how the
platform also presents challenges. One problem is that teachers
often belong to multiple WhatsApp groups, both for organizations
and their school. Teachers receive many messages and resources
that often pile up in their download folder or get lost in the myriad of
all the other messages. Several teachers (N=6) shared how they need
to revisit such materials multiple times and often end up wasting
a lot of time accessing the WhatsApp media folder or searching
within their messages to nd specic items, which is frustrating.
For example, teacher 13 reenacted how she wasted a substantial
amount of time the previous night searching for an important cir-
cular that she had downloaded from her school’s WhatsApp group.
She had trouble retrieving the le via the media gallery or by man-
ually scrolling through the group messages, since the group was
quite active (60+ messages/day; 200+ group members). The piling
up of content also often resulted in teachers’ phones running out of
storage space. Most teachers owned cheap smartphones with lim-
ited memory (e.g., 8GB on average) and complained about routinely
deleting WhatsApp content to make space for new content.
Facilitating engagement on WhatsApp posed several challenges
for the support organizations as well. Participants described how
the closed and proprietary nature of WhatsApp made it impossible
for them to augment the app with their own features or bots. They
also discussed how they are unable to automate the process of col-
lecting usage data. Instead, we learned that organizations currently
manually curate and collect data, such as manually counting replies
and recording numbers of reactions to a post in an Excel sheet for
later analysis. This manual data collection is time and resource
intensive. Most organizations were aware of the ‘WhatsApp for
Business’ app, but did not exactly know how to use it or what it
oered. One organization was interested in using the ‘WhatsApp
for Business API’ (an option catered to medium and large-scale
enterprises) and submitted the application form, but their request
was rejected without any explanations.
Our ndings uncover a range of benets, challenges, and tensions
that result when organizations incorporate smartphones into their
work with low-income schools. At a high level, all organizations
recognized that technology on its own will not solve problems in
education, and their programs were typically accompanied by long-
term engagement combined with strong support and training to
engage teachers and school leadership. This attitude is encouraging
in light of past technology failures in education (like OLPC) [
]. Nevertheless, we uncovered opportunities for organizations to
improve their programs and support structures, as we discuss.
5.1 Are Smartphones for Entertainment or
Schumacher [
] suggests that one way to drive regional devel-
opment is by creating intermediate and appropriate technological
solutions. Smartphones are inherently such intermediate multipur-
pose devices, capable of running many dierent applications that
provide a wide range of services. At the same time, phones and
apps are appropriated for a specic purpose: to serve teachers in
low-income schools.
As the presence of smartphones in schools and their accompany-
ing support ecosystems become more prevalent, we see numerous
tensions that result from the multipurpose nature of these technolo-
gies: state governments banned the use of smartphones at school
while organizations encouraged their use, and school leadership
would do both, often simultaneously. We also encountered schools
where teachers had participated in tech-based support programs,
but school principals had not received the same program and were
Challenges and Issues Integrating Smartphones into Teacher Support Programs in India ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador
uncertain about integrating technology into classrooms. These mis-
matches led to anxiety and possible stress among teachers.
However, the organizations in our study are in a good posi-
tion to help shift the community’s mindset from one that views
smartphones as a distraction to one that views them as productive,
educational tools. Such a shift would require organizations to do a
better job of coordinating their support programs, especially with
other organizations that work in the same schools, to ensure con-
sistent and coherent messaging around the role of smartphones in
teaching practices.
It would also require that organizations augment their existing
programs with a broader focus on training teachers and school
principal to think critically about smartphone technologies and
their role in teachers’ work. Such a program might focus on teaching
common terminology and functionality (e.g., casting content, force
stopping, controlling permissions). Beyond basic functionality, such
programs could train teachers to critically engage with the role that
smartphones could play in their teaching, benets and drawbacks of
technology, data privacy, and more. Such programs might naturally
solve the organizational problem of spending time and resources
troubleshooting minor technical problems (that currently takes too
much time and resources) and open up more space for pedagogical
development. They could better equip teachers and principals to
not only make better use of smartphones in their daily lives, but
also improve their ability to introduce and integrate technology
into their teaching [10, 33].
5.2 Personal Devices for Work: Productivity or
Prior HCI4D work has examined how employer-issued mobile
phones are used by employees for personal activities, leading to
both positive and negative consequences [62]. We examine the in-
verse: what are the benets and tensions that arise when personal
devices are used as work instruments?
Our ndings show that most organizations expected teachers to
use their own personal smartphones as work devices, arguing for
the scalability and sustainability of this model. We found that most
teachers do have direct or indirect access to a smartphone, making
this a feasible model for organizations to embrace. Teachers also,
on some occasions, noted the benets of using their own phone
to support their work (e.g., reviewing lesson plans at home). We
also discovered new models of device sharing; for instance, we saw
how teachers were comfortable sharing their personal smartphones
with students to augment learning and discussion in the classroom.
However, treating personal phones as work instruments also
leads to new challenges that must be navigated. For example, there
is a mismatch between the troubleshooting knowledge that organi-
zations expect teachers to have and the knowledge they actually
possess, resulting in technical challenges for teachers. In addition,
both installing organizations’ custom apps and downloading re-
sources sent via WhatsApp groups may lead to a lack of storage
space on teachers’ devices. We heard several instances of how teach-
ers uninstalled organizations’ apps due to lack of space. There are
also privacy risks that result from teachers using a single device
for both work and private lives, such as teachers’ family viewing
potentially sensitive student data, or students in the classroom
viewing teachers’ private information. Teachers have also reported
how higher management periodically sends additional unplanned
work to their smartphones while they are at home, which may
create a sense of “forced connectedness” that pushes teachers to
be constantly online and to complete the required tasks outside
of work hours. This may add additional stress to teachers’ already
burdened work lives [44, 58].
Tarafdar et al. [
] show that not all stresses around technology
(technostress) should be treated equally or automatically associated
with negative consequences. There is a clear distinction between
technostress associated with creative engagement (eustress), which
may lead to professional growth, compared to the stress due ex-
cessive workload (distress) that creates hindrance and professional
stagnation [
]. For instance, previous studies have shown peer
feedback to be a great source of eustress that pushes teachers to
improve their capacity in constructive ways [
]. In our study, we
saw causes of both eustress and distress as smartphones are inte-
grated into teacher support programs. For example, seeing a teacher
express herself uently in English on a WhatsApp group caused
eustress to other teachers who struggled with English, whereas
conicting directives and expectation to be available outside work-
ing hours caused distress. Future research could further examine
factors that cause technostress and develop tools to manage it, es-
pecially since previous studies have shown repeatedly how techno-
distresses negatively impact teachers’ overall wellbeing [6].
5.3 Social Media for Supporting Teachers
Lastly, our study expands a nascent body of work that examines
social media usage in educational ICTD contexts [
We do this by critically analyzing how organizations integrate
social media platforms into their teacher support initiatives in low-
income schools. Lave & Wenger [
] have shown how three
elements: domain,community, and practice, can make it easier for
teachers to participate in an online community of practice that
has the potential to develop long-term growth among teachers
]. In this sense, we saw how organizations’ strategy of adopting
popular tools like YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Pinteret created
a community of practice and introduced new teaching ideas. We
also observed how each app was used for guided development of
teaching skills (domain) (e.g., WhatsApp was used to enable specic
pedagogical discussions). New ideas were often posted or discussed
by other teachers (community), creating an opportunity for organic
interactions around these specic skills with other teachers in the
community (practice).
It is also important to understand the dierent types of content
that organizations shared via these platforms. Several organizations
promoted resources developed in Western settings to strengthen cer-
tain aspects of teachers’ work practices. For instance, Pinterest links,
shared by an organization to help teachers learn classroom manage-
ment, were designed by teachers in Western settings. While many
underlying teaching principles have broad applicability, teachers in
low-income schools in India may face additional challenges such
as language translation (e.g., English to local languages), semantic
localization (e.g., replacing Western names with local names), and
cultural localization (e.g., adding relevant local cues). While this
may manifest as a form of eustress or a challenge for teachers to
ICTD ’20, June 17–20,2020, Guayaquil, Ecuador Varanasi et al.
accomplish, it is important to note that these kinds of micro-tasks
may add substantial distress to already burdened teachers [
Organizations have the opportunity to further support teachers by
helping them to develop contextually-relevant localized versions.
Finally, the proliferation of aordable smartphones and cheap
data has prompted organizations, school administration, and teach-
ers to rapidly adopt WhatsApp for communication, support, and en-
gagement. Our ndings show interesting emergent practices around
how teachers and organizations use WhatsApp for teacher support
programs. For example, many teachers perceived WhatsApp groups
created by organizations as safe communication places [
]. Unlike
their physical work lives where they are under constant pressure to
perform by higher management [
], these groups provide teachers
with a safe place to receive constructive feedback, ask questions
about their teaching [
], experiment with new ideas, and express
themselves freely. At the same time, they cause distress to teach-
ers when the lines between work and play (and oce and home)
are blurred. These ndings oer rich opportunities for future re-
search that seeks an in-depth understanding of how teachers are
interacting via WhatsApp groups and how new peer-support and
pedagogical practices emerge in these communities of practice.
This paper examined the challenges and issues that arise as education-
focused non-prot organizations in India work to integrate smart-
phones into their teacher support programs. Our qualitative study
with 51 sta, 15 teachers, and ve principals found that contradict-
ing directives on smartphone use during school hours combined
with issues related to smartphone prociency and sharing cause
stress and anxiety to teachers. At the same time, organizations and
teachers developed a variety of strategies to ease the adoption of
smartphones in teacher support programs. We discuss how smart-
phones can be used by motivated organizations to augment their
existing support initiatives for improving teacher’s productivity
and wellbeing. Although we tried to balance the perspectives of
both organizations and teachers, we acknowledge that the teach-
ers we interviewed interacted with only two organizations. More
research is needed to: (1) examine concrete learning gains (if any)
that can attributed to smartphone use, and (2) the extent to which
our ndings generalize to contexts beyond our work.
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... A rich body of HCI4D research has examined how smartphones can be used to support teachers in classrooms [2,3,18,37,106] and advocates for the integration of smartphones into teachers' work [37,63]. While there are arguments that smartphones can improve teachers' productivity [37] and compensate for a lack of pedagogical training and resources [107], discussions of how the integration of smartphones into teachers' work lives might have negative effects, particularly on technostress (defined as a specific type of stress that individuals experience due to their use of technology), are notably absent. ...
... Relatedly, Cannanure et al. [18] explored how teachers' aspirations may impact their smartphone use at work. These studies suggest that smartphones are playing a critical role in teachers' work lives, directly impacting their practices in low-income settings [48,100,107]. ...
... Teachers in these schools sometimes work on contract in multiple shifts across different schools in a day. Despite these differences, teachers in both government and low-income private schools experience acute challenges, including (1) teacher and student absenteeism, creating uneven workloads [59], (2) being overburdened with teaching and non-teaching duties (e.g., election management, COVID management work) [46,61,79], (3) extremely high student-teacher ratio [50], and (4) lack of equal and regular access to professional development training [68,107]. Many teachers are also new Internet users and lack know-how to operate smartphones [107]. ...
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Smartphones play an increasingly large role in the professional lives of teachers in low-income contexts, creating an urgent need to better understand the role of technology-related stress (technostress) in teachers' smartphone use for work. We contribute a mixed methods study analyzing the impact of smartphone use on teachers' work lives in low-income Indian schools. Findings from 70 interviews and 1,361 survey responses suggest that although smartphones aid teaching and administrative functions, smartphone use also significantly predicts burnout among teachers, with technostress providing a major explanation for this relationship. We reveal how teachers' work is constantly surveilled and monitored via technology and how teachers' personal smartphones were controlled and repurposed through socio-technical structures by the higher management to serve management's goals, substantially increasing the work teachers were required to perform outside of work hours. Our work extends technostress research to HCI4D contexts and highlights the need to develop better support structures for teachers and rethink how smartphones are used in their work.
... The increased affordability of smartphones and the internet has further enabled the delivery of online education. Varanasi and colleagues have studied the use of smartphones by teachers in classrooms in India [94,95]. Recognizing varying access to the internet, Poon et al. designed an intervention that helped students in Cameroon prepare for exams using Short Message Service (SMS) and WhatsApp [66]. ...
... ICTD researchers have long sought to enable access to quality education in countries in the Global South using technology. For example, Varanasi et al. have studied the use of smartphones by teachers in classrooms in India, uncovering the workload that they add for teachers [94,95]. Poon et al. recognized the challenges around intermittent internet access, and employed interventions involving SMS and WhatsApp to prepare students prepare for exams [66]. ...
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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the transition of workflows across sectors to digital platforms. In education settings, stakeholders previously reluctant to integrate computing technology in the classroom now find themselves with little choice but to embrace it. This move to the digital brings additional challenges in underserved contexts with limited, intermittent, and shared access to mobile or computing devices and the internet. In this rapidly evolving digital landscape, we investigate how educational institutions (schools and non-profit organizations) working with underserved populations in India are managing the transition to online or remote learning. We conducted twenty remote interviews with students, teachers, and administrators from underserved contexts across India. We found that online learning efforts in this setting relied on a resilient human infrastructure comprised of students, teachers, parents, administrators, and non-profit organizations to help navigate and overcome the limitations of available technical infrastructure. Our research aims to articulate lessons for educational technology design in the post-COVID period, outlining areas for improvement in the design of online learning platforms in resource-constrained settings, and identifying elements of online learning that could be retained to strengthen the education system overall.
... A significant factor of learning environment is teacher support. Teachers are expected to facilitate a secure and encouraging learning environment for their pupils, one that encourages their active participation and engagement (Varanasi et al., 2020). A compassionate, active teacher who builds sincere, trustworthy relationships with each student is the foundation of a supportive classroom (Lei et al., 2018). ...
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To examine the relationship between students' perceptions and their non-cognitive outcomes, this research uses secondary analysis of PISA data from 14,167 students in the United Arab Emirates. Seven factors of learning environment were identified after reviewing the literature. The findings reveal that six factors of the learning environments had a statistically significant association with epistemological beliefs. It was also found that three aspects of learning environments had a statistically significant association with self-efficacy. The results indicate that the three aspects of learning environments had a statistically significant association with anxiety. There was no association found between anxiety and any other teacher factors. The findings also show a positive and statistically significant relationship between students' epistemological beliefs and self-efficacy, and a negative significant relationship between self-efficacy and anxiety. The research thus confirmed previous research by establishing a significant association between the nature of the learning environment and students' cognitive outcomes.
... Even though the children can learn and adapt to the new technologies themselves, the socio-cultural constraints to access the technology is still prevalent in India [73]. ICT for Development (ICT4D) focuses on education and understanding of teenagers' mobile Internet use and is one of the research areas studied extensively in India [42,47,52,58,59,74,85,87]. In [59], authors conducted an anthropological study of everyday mobile internet adoption among teenagers in a low-income urban setting in Hyderabad, India. ...
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Recent advancements in socially assistive robotics (SAR) have shown a significant potential of using social robotics to achieve increasing cognitive and affective outcomes in education. However, the deployments of SAR technologies also bring ethical challenges in tandem, to the fore, especially in under-resourced contexts. While previous research has highlighted various ethical challenges that arise in SAR deployment in real-world settings, most of the research has been centered in resource-rich contexts, mainly in developed countries in the ‘Global North,’ and the work specifically in the educational setting is limited. This research aims to evaluate and reflect upon the potential ethical and pedagogical challenges of deploying a social robot in an under-resourced context. We base our findings on a 5-week in-the-wild user study conducted with 12 kindergarten students at an under-resourced community school in New Delhi, India. We used interaction analysis with the context of learning, education, and ethics to analyze the user study through video recordings. Our findings highlighted four primary ethical considerations that should be taken into account while deploying social robotics technologies in educational settings; (1) language and accent as barriers in pedagogy, (2) effect of malfunctioning, (un)intended harms, (3) trust and deception, and (4) ecological viability of innovation. Overall, our paper argues for assessing the ethical and pedagogical constraints and bridging the gap between non-existent literature from such a context to evaluate better the potential use of such technologies in under-resourced contexts.
... A handful of merchants, such as Merchant 21 did not allow customers to walk away with purchased items until they confirmed that the money has been transferred, even if it meant longer wait times for customers at the cost of embarrassment to merchants. Lastly, a few merchants leveraged shared usage of the smartphones with their family members and co-workers-a common practice in Global South [2,74,79]-to manage transaction verifications during busy hours. Merchant 11, who helped her husband run a soda counter, shared how she kept an eye on the SMS they received for the transactions, while her husband prepared and served the soda. ...
... Technology is being increasingly adopted to support education in low-infrastructure contexts by providing resources to students and their families (Poon et al., 2019;Pouezevara & King, 2014;Valderrama Bahamóndez et al., 2011;West & Chew, 2014), as well as teachers (Cannanure et al., 2020;Konagai, 2020;Varanasi et al., 2019Varanasi et al., , 2020. While some devices are used exclusively in schools (Warschauer & Ames, 2010), others are designed for learning outside school to provide students the opportunity to continue learning at home and in their community (Kumar et al., 2012;Valderrama Bahamóndez et al., 2014). ...
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School closures due to teacher strikes or political unrest in low-resource contexts can adversely affect children’s educational outcomes and career opportunities. Phone-based educational technologies could help bridge these gaps in formal schooling, but it is unclear whether or how children and their families will use such systems during periods of disruption. We investigate two mobile learning technologies deployed in sub-Saharan Africa: a text-message-based application with lessons and quizzes adhering to the national curriculum in Kenya (N = 1.3 million), and a voice-based platform for supporting early literacy in Côte d’Ivoire (N = 236). We examine the usage and beliefs surrounding unexpected school closures in each context via system log data and interviews with families about their motivations and methods for learning during the disruption. We find that mobile learning is used as a supplement for formal and informal schooling during disruptions with equivalent or higher intensity, as parents feel responsible to ensure continuity in schooling.
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The preponderance of Western methods, practices, standards, and classifications in the manner in which new technology-related knowledge is created and globalised has led to calls for more inclusive approaches to design. A decolonisation project is concerned with how researchers might contribute to dismantling and re-envisioning existing power relations, resisting past biases, and balancing Western heavy influences in technology design by foregrounding the authentic voices of the indigenous people in the entire design process. We examine how the establishment of local Global South HCI communities (AfriCHI and ArabHCI) has led to the enactment of decolonisation practices. Specifically, we seek to uncover how decolonisation is perceived in the AfriCHI and ArabHCI communities as well as the extent to which both communities are engaged with the idea of decolonisation without necessarily using the term. We drew from the relevant literature, our own outsider/insider lived experiences, and the communities’ responses to an online anonymised survey to highlight three problematic but interrelated practical paradoxes: a terminology, an ethical, and a micro- colonisation paradox. We argue that these paradoxes expose the dilemmas faced by local non-Western researchers as they pursue decolonisation thinking. This article offers a blended perspective on the decolonisation debate in HCI, CSCW, and the practice-based CSCW scholarly communities and invites researchers to examine their research work using a decolonisation lens.
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Technostress—defined as stress that individuals experience due to their use of Information Systems—represents an emerging phenomenon of scholarly investigation. It examines how and why the use of IS causes individuals to experience various demands that they find stressful. This paper develops a framework for guiding future research in technostress experienced by individuals in organizations. We first review and critically analyse the state of current research on technostress reported in journals from the IS discipline and the non‐IS disciplines that study stress in organizations (eg, organizational behaviour and psychological stress). We then develop our framework in the form of the “technostress trifecta”—techno‐eustress, techno‐distress, and Information Systems design principles for technostress. The paper challenges 3 key ideas imbued in the existing technostress literature. First, it develops the argument that, in contrast to negative outcomes, technostress can lead to positive outcomes such as greater effectiveness and innovation at work. Second, it suggests that instead of limiting the role of IS to that of being a stress creator in the technostress phenomenon, it should be expanded to that of enhancing the positive and mitigating the negative effects of technostress through appropriate design. Third, it lays the groundwork for guiding future research in technostress through an interdisciplinary framing that enriches both the IS and the psychological stress literatures through a potential discourse of disciplinary exchange.
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The proliferation of mobile devices around the world, combined with falling costs of hardware and Internet connectivity, have resulted in an increasing number of organizations that work to introduce educational technology interventions into low-income schools in the Global South. However, to date, most prior HCI research examining such interventions has focused on interventions that target students. In this paper, we expand prior literature by examining an intervention, called Meghshala, that targets teachers in low-income schools as its primary users. Through interviews and observations with 39 participants from 12 government schools in India, we show how the introduction of a teacher-focused technology intervention causes teachers to reconfigure their work practices, including lesson preparation, in-classroom teaching practices, bureaucratic work processes, and post-teaching feedback mechanisms. We use the concept of material agency to analyze our findings with respect to teacher agency and reconfiguration, and use theories of teacher knowledge to highlight the kinds of knowledge production that teachers in our research context tend to focus on (e.g., content knowledge). Finally, we offer design opportunities for future teacher-focused technology interventions.
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Tablet-based educational technologies provide a supplement to traditional classroom-based early literacy education, especially in regions with limited schooling resources. Prior work has probed how children generally interact with and learn from these technologies, however, there is limited research on student engagement with applications that utilize valuable input techniques such as automatic handwriting and speech recognition. In our study, we designed and field-tested early literacy speech and handwriting recognition applications with the primary aim of maximizing student engagement. We designed the applications based on prior research insights and classroom observations from our target population and field-tested the applications with 283 children living in rural Tanzania. We found that observing a small set of classrooms can produce design insights that increase engagement on tablet-based learning systems on a much larger scale. We also demonstrate the importance of domain familiarity in students' choice to persist through activities while learning with technology.
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Significant research has demonstrated the crucial role that parents play in supporting the development of children's literacy, but in contexts where adults may lack sufficient literacy in the target language, it is not clear how to most effectively scaffold parental support for children's literacy. Prior work has designed technologies to teach children literacy directly, but this work has not focused on designing for low-literate parents, particularly for multilingual and developing contexts. In this paper, we describe findings from a qualitative study conducted in several regions of rural Côte d'Ivoire to understand Ivorian parents' beliefs, desires, and preferences for French literacy. We discuss themes that emerged from these interviews, surrounding ideas of trust, collaboration, and culturally-responsive design, and we highlight implications for the design of technology to scaffold low-literate parental support for children's literacy.
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In India usage of internet in education is not an innovation, but it is still considered to be in initial stages. Government of India has taken lot of initiatives for the implementation of e-learning at all the levels of education from past many years, but still teacher education programme around the nation continue to be challenged to prepare prospective teachers for using technology meaningfully in their instruction, as they are not yet prepared to do so. National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (2009) has also embedded the part of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in the curricula of teacher education but there is disinclination for the usage by both teacher educators and trainee teachers. In order to explore deeper in the realm of it, the researchers had conducted a study to identify the status of e-learning in curricula of teacher education, infrastructural facilities, and usage of e- learning tools for instruction by teacher educators and trainee teachers. The findings of the study have revealed that though the curricula related to e- learning was ample in the selected university but the infrastructural facilities were not accomplished in many terms like internet connection and time provided to use it. The trainee teachers were skilled with the basic computer applications but they are lacking the skill of using various special skills required for e- learning. Also the usage of e-learning tools by teacher educators like email, chat, discussion groups, downloading the content was average but they are not involved in preparing online courses, taking online classes, video conferencing and uploading the educational content. Similar results were found in case of trainee teacher for which they are motivated to use the elearning tools.
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We created a quiz-based intervention to help secondary school students in Cameroon with exam practice. We sent regularly-spaced, multiple-choice questions to students' own mobile devices and examined factors which influenced quiz participation. These quizzes were delivered via either SMS or WhatsApp per each student's preference. We conducted a 3-week deployment with 546 students at 3 schools during their month of independent study prior to their graduating exam. We found that participation rates were heavily impacted by trust in the intervening organization and perceptions of personal security in the socio-technical environment. Parents also played a key gate-keeping role on students' digital activities. We describe how this role - along with different perceptions of smartphones versus basic phones - may manifest in lower participation rates among WhatsApp-based users as compared to SMS. Finally, we discuss design implications for future educational interventions that target students' personal cellphones outside of the classroom.
In recent years, Reliance Jio’s offer of 4G services, guaranteeing free voice calls and ‘unlimited’ data streaming, lead to disruption in the Indian telecom market with other cellular operators losing their revenue and customer base. To comprehensively analyze this churn in the Indian telecom industry and its impact on mobile phone customers, the article argues for observing the entanglement of infrastructural and platform-related discourses at three levels of operation: Jio’s strategies to capture the Indian telecom market and the responses by the leading incumbent service provider (Airtel), ordinary citizens’ phone use practices and infrastructural encounters, and the government’s vision for India’s digital future. Connecting pipes to platforms, Jio made infrastructural investments (in spectrum, cell towers, and fiber optics networks) to promote its suite of apps (JioTV, JioChat, and JioMoney). Ordinary citizens relate their access/proximity to telecom infrastructure (cell antennas) to their ability to effectively use apps on their phones. ‘Digital India’ vision purportedly facilitated infrastructural growth to create platforms that would support demonetization and facilitate transparent governance. Through such a three-pronged analysis, I conceptualize ‘infrastructural imaginaries’ that are coproduced by states and citizens, and lie at the intersection of structured state policy/corporate initiatives and lived experiences/affective encounters of ordinary citizens.
Our paper provides an enriched understanding of the relationship between research and practice through the study of practitioners variously engaged in field research on technology interventions in the context of global development. By conducting a qualitative inquiry with 33 practitioners from 26 global development organizations, we highlight how these practitioners have different goals, work practices, incentive structures, and expectations than researchers, making it challenging to co-create and coordinate productive and effective partnerships. Despite these challenges, practitioners in global development do appear to value and engage with research as they strive for positive impact across their target communities. Our analysis suggests that the domain of human-computer interaction for development (HCI4D) might benefit from engaging in "informed practice" through alignment with design-based implementation research (DBIR), which unites researchers and practitioners in their shared commitment to both research and practice, even if research and practice respectively remain their primary commitments. Our work provides CSCW and HCI4D researchers with new ways to conceptualize and navigate the above research-practice divide. We also emphasize the contribution such an approach might make to CSCW researchers beyond the context of global development, and more broadly concerned with making a positive societal impact with their work.
Menstruation has long remained a conversational taboo across India, resulting in inadequate dissemination of menstrual health education (MHE). Menstrupedia, a digital platform designed for an Indian audience, aims to bridge this information gap to impart MHE via its website and comic. We contribute a study of Menstrupedia---the information exchange on its website, the education it aims to provide, and the perceptions of its users. Using a combination of qualitative research methods, and engaging a feminist Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) lens, we critically analyze Menstrupedia's affordances and shortcomings. We also make recommendations for the design of technology-based dissemination of MHE, as well as additional sensitive and taboo topics.
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We contribute to the intersection of multilingualism and human-computer interaction (HCI) with our investigation of language preferences in the context of the interface design of interactive systems. Through interview data collected from avid smartphone users located across distinct user groups in India, none of whom were native English speakers, we examine the factors that shape language choice and use on their mobile devices. Our findings indicate that these users frequently engage in English communication proactively and enthusiastically, despite their lack of English fluency, and we detail their motivations for doing so. We then discuss how language in technology use can be a way of putting forth mobility as an aspect of one's identity, making the case for an intersectional approach to studying language in HCI.