The word ‘Digital’ precedes 21st-century education. Here’s an inquiry into the promises offered by digital tools and technology in schools…
When asked about the negative impacts of digital education in schools, Meeyoung Hong Chang, Head of Child Education & Culture Institute in Korea, asked rhetorically, “What do you think of when you see a knife? Is it useful or dangerous?” She continued, “Yes there have been instances when people were stabbed with a knife, but does that entail putting away all the knives? Does the solution lie in banning them? No. The issue here is not a knife, but what we decide to do with it. What is important is to ask yourself, how do you plan to use the knife!”
Backed by digital adherents and billionaire techies like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, among others, school education is entering its electronic epoch with digital pedagogy, tools, technology and they are being designed, customized and innovated for kids of all ages. Today we shop, bank, react online. We have even begun to find love online, and now with new era IT kids, we are also taking our education online. “High-speed Internet access and a balanced mix of digital and offline curriculum is already the norm in most schools in South Korea,” informs Chang.
Recently, the Indian version of NuriNori, a state-of-the-art on/off-line material which is a household name in South Korea, was launched in India for pre-school education. Within minutes, children could be seen taking turns to swipe the touch screens containing learning material and multimedia content. On a pilot project run on NuriNori learning material, Nidhi, a teacher from one of the participating schools, said, “It has been a great experience taking classes through NuriNori program. There are visible changes in children in terms of grasping the concept as it is a more practical way of learning. They are full of enthusiasm when we play and do activities. They are discussing, putting up questions and giving answers.”
The idea of using tech for education is not so niche. Back in 1928, Sidney Pressey invented the teaching machine aimed at liberating the teacher and pupil from ‘educational drudgery’ as he called. Everybody then thought that teaching will soon be replaced by edtech (education technology). During 1960s, the wave died away and potential of edtech remained unproven. Fast forward to today, it would be delusional to say that the model of lecturing, cramming and written examination is going away immediately. So, it begs the question, what is so different this time? Why e-ducation is set to become the order of the day when it couldn’t till now?
“The future of artificial intelligence, data aggregators and robotics, and the presence of high-speed Internet, cheap electronic smartphones, and availability of petabytes of data, presents a promising picture. Today, anyone can develop a mobile app or an online game. Plus, we are sitting on a goldmine of data and new data mining software have the capacity to predict how a pupil has performed, what are his/her weaknesses and strengths and much more, thus giving teachers an opportunity to intervene at the right time,” says Himanshu Gupta, MD, S Chand Group, a well-known name in educational book publishing.
We are moving from blackboard, chalk and textbooks to online tools for teaching. Papia Sarangi, a teacher at Saraswati Model Sr. Secondary School, says, “Teaching has changed over the years from guru-shishya parampara to digital. At the heart of former was a teacher spouting lessons to a class of 50 students. Today, students are using computers to do research, make projects, type essays, learn lessons and even for the craft. It has shifted teaching and learning from one-size-fits-all teaching monologues to a more personalized approach. We are using WhatsApp and other such forums for instant feedback and conversation with students and parents alike. I feel more like a coach now instead of being a traditional teacher.”
Though no one can deny that the future is digital in education, the controversy surrounding the role of a teacher in the education space remains. While Amazon Kindle may be enough for a child to visualize and read class notes, only a teacher can make those class notes interesting and generate a discussion around them. Chang says, “It is 21st century and children are entitled and ought to have the advantage of technology. However, the main aspect to consider here is that how we can implement technology in an age-appropriate manner. Even though NuriNori provides multimedia content, the key factor is the teacher. A teacher needs to interact with the kid, watch multimedia content together, otherwise, it won’t work.”
NuriNori is a smart learning programme for early childhood education from South Korea which has been localized for the Indian market. Its design is based on the idea of integrated learning where the learning material, multimedia content and tablet converge to help children experience the world, touch it and thereby learn about it. “It is first of its kind programme in India in early education which will handhold teachers through activity and theme-based lesson plans and on/off-line experience to teach students effectively,” says Himanshu.
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