E-EDUCATION In a world that’s connected. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Interactive whiteboards, wi-fi, LAN, video conferencing and even a robot in place of a teacher…that’s education in the digital age
The year 2020? Maybe it’s 2050. The bell rings, some hundred middle school students pile into a classroom and take their place in front of their PC. The teacher walks up, switches on the whiteboard. A few clicks on the laptop later she’s ready with her multi-media presentation. The students are free to choose between the small and the big screen to follow the lesson.
Today, the PPT is on volcanoes. The graphics appear, and the kids watch unblinkingly. The main points of the lesson form the text, and the teacher fills in the details, answering questions. Just when student attention dims, a volcano erupts with a loud bang. Clap and cheer! Lesson over, the students take an e-quiz uploaded on the desktop. They search the Net for information, prepare answers, make their own graphics and save the answer sheet on the screen. Class dismissed.
As a future classroom, this version is pretty basic. Advanced ones will have interactive whiteboards, wi-fi, message boards for group project work, instant access to interviews, external networks via LAN, recording facilities for radio/TV projects and definitely, facility to join the classroom from home. Children will study e-books or download textbook content. Audio-visual rooms will have video-conferencing facilities with experts. Hypermedia tools will take the drudgery out of homework. In high school, all assessment will be done through computer software. No favourites! Better still, CBT and CAL software will help with self-evaluation. Less paper!
That’s gurukulam morphing into guru-cool, a click-and-learn knowledge port. Here, e-education imparts supreme e-confidence. All right, handwriting will be a dead art, but aren’t key-boarded essays easier to read? And guess who the substitute teacher is? A robot named… whatever. Is this ed-Eden?
“Technology provides opportunities for innovation in the teaching-learning process,” said Nuriya Ansari, VP, Learning Links Foundation. “Classroom learning becomes more interactive, experiential and creative. Students get multi-sensory content that they explore through research.” Difficult concepts are better understood when projects and presentations are made collaboratively, she argues. “Tech solutions prove beneficial not just to achievers but also to those who require special attention.” Teachers are more engaging, students more involved. Assessment needs only an Excel or spread sheet. “Ed-tech is not parallel. Our projects integrate technology within the educational framework in various environments — school-based, online or distance education model to enhance learning.”
“Digital technology has been instrumental in reshaping what ‘education’ is all about,” said Venky Datla, GM, KU Education Digital India. “Unlike the traditional sense of learning as ‘retention of as many facts as possible and application,’ digitally-enabled learning focusses on ‘application of facts’ and ‘collaboration for quicker and easier learning’.”
Through multi-media technology, “Students gain mastery of the topic and knowledge of the domain,” said Nuriya. “Take magnets — do conventional textbooks show the forces of attraction and repulsion?” Technology demystifies concepts through videos and 3D graphics. Students grasp much more than textual learning when they gather and analyse information. As the child clicks at his individual PC, he doesn’t just get his lessons, he jumps on to a level-playing field of 21st Century skill-sets. Technology removes background shortcomings, it’s a fillip needed to catch up with the class.
Wait, doesn’t classroom DT blunt the child’s intuitive ability? Can students calculate without digital aid? Nuriya believes the essence of technology is its ability to motivate passive listeners to interact, discover and learn creatively through new models and solutions. “Digital literacy programmes of Learning Links have established that students develop three core skills: ability to use technologies effectively, think critically and solve problems, and effectively collaborate with others,” she said.
The beginnings are already here. The Seshadripuram First Grade College, Bangalore, is introducing ‘Interactive Platform On Mobile (IPOMO)’ enabled games/messaging options disabled mobile phones to teachers to mark attendance and students to answer multiple-choice question papers. The handsets are returned and answers and attendance are recorded on the server. An SMS leaps to the parents’ number if the student is absent for three days.
Does technology equal total education? Debatable. But ed-tech makes class size irrelevant, management hassle-free. It brings one-on-one human tutoring closer to possibility. Teachers can leverage the power of well-designed tech tools to understand student requirements more accurately. They can capture data, analyse and tailor teaching to student needs.
Without doubt, older students doing independent study will benefit the most from ed-tech. But kids? The sight of kindergarten children staring into computer monitors is disgusting to a lot of us.
* Classrooms will be “workstations”.
* Micro-robots (Roboteach) will help students with advice and resources.
* Students will still discuss projects face-to-face.
* Classrooms will be re-designed, teachers trained and managements ready to revolutionise school practices.