A Need in Indian Classrooms
A few centuries ago, spreading information to multiple people at once was cumbersome. To make a copy of a long text, a copyist would need to transcribe each word in the original manuscript and would need to restart the same process to make another copy. This made written information only easily accessible to the elite. It was at this time that a great invention in technology happened, which brought a momentous change in the lives of people. It was the printing press.
The printing press allowed to print information, ideas, and knowledge in bulk at a small cost and this information was easily available to many people within a short time. However, there was an issue: only a small fraction of the population knew how to read. This led to massive social conflict and issues pertaining to inequality and it reached a point where the entire education system had to be revolutionized to keep up with the latest technology. This race with technology has happened a couple of times in history and whenever technology leads ahead, it first causes social pain and inequality until at some point in time the whole educational system requires a change to keep up. The COVID-19 pandemic has again brought to light the huge gap between education and technology and has emphasised the digital divide in many countries, including India.
With COVID-19 restricting schools to online classes, vast majority of students struggled to keep up with learning. Many live in areas with no proper access to the internet and many could not afford smartphones, laptops or tablets. Others, including teachers, had trouble in navigating through e-learning applications and online live classes due to poor technical skills. We live in the 21st Century, where we rely on technology more and more each day for even basic simple tasks. And education is one of the key components that brings growth and progress into a society and helps contribute to our environment. In an era where lifelong learning is key to an individual’s success, the value of education only increases. It is only prudent to think of how to best educate people. And I believe it includes the incorporation of technology.
Technology can be used as a substitute, for example instead of writing an article on paper, I can write it on Google Docs. But just like we use pencils, erasers, sharpeners etc., as a necessary tool, we can use our devices too in much more creative ways that we couldn’t otherwise do without it. Today, most teachers around the globe, cannot do without Microsoft PowerPoint. It helps in organising and presenting each lesson in an impactful way for the students.
Integrating technology to classrooms to create a blended learning method which is more ideal than complete online learning, is not easy and that is where the use of guidelines like the SAMR model and the pedagogy wheel becomes helpful. But a vast majority of our teachers are not skilled or knowledgeable about any of these. Teachers today are burdened with the completion of syllabi, preparing lesson plans, assessments, and a lot of paperwork that prevents them from keeping themselves updated. Schools in India rarely hire assistants for teachers or Instructional Technologists who can help teachers in integrating technology into the classroom, in creating a better learning experience for the students, and in overall easing the workload of the teachers.
Businesses currently are scrambling to adopt the latest technology to stay relevant in the post COVID environment. Today, the algorithms designed by a few at the Silicon Valley create a huge impact on all our lives. Amazon, for example, uses these algorithms to understand their customer’s needs and influences them into buying their products. These algorithms are utilised in elections too, as we’ve seen in the United States, and the vast majority of us don’t even understand how this technology works, which causes many to take poor political decisions. Technology has already changed the way we shop, the way we vote and the way we live our lives today, but that change hasn’t been brought in education. More specifically, these same algorithms haven’t yet been applied to our education systems, even though it can help to provide students with a more personalized learning experience. Every individual has his or her own learning needs, style, and pace. And we learn best once we identify these and learn accordingly. But even today, we follow a system that puts about 100 students together in the same lecture hall designed for the “one size fits all” teaching philosophy.
Moreover, there’s an assumption that exists in the minds of many teachers that technology creates a barrier between students and teachers, it poses many threats to critical thinking, independent learning, prevents them from engaging in social learning and is a cause for more distractions. These are only misapprehensions that push the digital gap even further. It is crucial that they understand the transformational benefits of technology for education, and when implemented properly, can produce significant gains in student achievement, boost engagement, and creativity, which has been proved by lots of research. At a time when most jobs are being robbed by automation, technology can play as a key enabler in lifelong learning, upskilling ourselves, and remaining relevant for the workforces of the future. Apart from educational institutions, our industries and organisations too, need to add frequent training sessions and workshops to keep their employees at the top of their game as their careers progress.
Let’s revolutionize and transform our education system across that globe where technological software and applications like Canvas, Nearpod, Labster, Blender, etc., are applied in such a way that you’ll wonder how you managed without it. These tools effectively handle administrative tasks, help in making teaching and learning much more interactive, engaging and instil curiosity. Ultimately, we need to combine Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to our teaching models and keep up with the race with technology to effectively mould and empower the next generation with the right skills. Being citizens of a country with a hope for a better future, it is upon us to bring to our government’s awareness the digital divide and gap that exists, to bring vital changes in all our educational institutions.
Every individual has his or her own learning needs, style, and pace. And we learn best once we identify these and learn accordingly. But even today, we follow a system that puts about 100 students together in the same lecture hall designed for the “one size fits all” teaching philosophy.