This article covers a lot of issues I’ve been thinking about lately. I thought I’d highlight my favorite points from the article here until I find time to write down some of my own thoughts and observations from exploring education technology opportunities for low-income schools in India
Pure technology based learning has been proven to be a disappointment, to be used exclusively only in places where teachers are not available at all. Human intervention has proven essential for learning, especially when it comes to higher order skills. The internet or offline units of knowledge are useful for sharing information, preparing the student for the lesson and of course for testing. True learning needs the teacher to engage, curate and facilitate the conversation.
The training and support of teachers as they adopt current ICT systems into their classrooms is critical to the success. If rolled out before proper training and traction, it is very likely that the technology will lie unused and will not thus impact learning outcomes.
Technology is supposed to be the great leveller, but in India there is quite a journey that must be completed before we reach that stage. Technology based support systems are currently available to the well to do, both at school and at home. The have nots, who suffer a lack of mentors and teachers at home are pushed further back as the tech resources are expensive – both to buy and run. Having said that, where the system or the government has provided computers and internet to children at schools, various innovative learning tools such as class blogs have become successful tools for embedding learning via sharing.
An interesting question that has not been asked is whether this technology would make the teacher lazy using the same materials year on year? Entirely possible – as it is possible with content created by others. But this is a fear that has not been realised yet. Most teachers are more comfortable with their own materials. Even if they are guided by another person’s test or presentation, they prefer to create their own. It is this that troubles vendors who find that their research and design efforts may or may not actually be used on the floor of the class.
This is probably because, so far, the technology inputs have come from the suppliers. Unless the lead is taken by the teachers who demand what they need, the impact is going to be sub-optimal. Suppliers too would be happy to be guided to meet the right demand. It is up to the teachers to not settle for what the salesman supplies and to demand the tech that works for them, this building a partnership with the suppliers to invest in building the future of education.