Beyond just chalk and talk

Apr 07 2014, 15:40 IST
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SummaryIndian classrooms need to go beyond solutions such as “flipped classrooms”, “mentor, not teacher”, “collaborative learning”, “learning by doing” and so on

Talk to people from the K-12 technology space and they will wax eloquently about how technology is going to transform the school landscape. One will hear words like ‘flipped classrooms’, ‘mentor, not teacher’, ‘collaborative learning’, ‘learning by doing’ and so on.

That said, such practices and tools are available and can be enabled by technology. That such models already exist and are being effectively used in India is also true. But the assumption that all schools in the country can successfully adopt and implement such approaches and the associated technologies is not so obvious.

New technologies are exciting. They are cool. They are fun to experiment with. Many of us want to be seen with the latest gizmos—be seen as someone who is ahead of the curve. However, the true value of technology to a school is within a framework where it is effective. Where it can deliver real benefits. An International Baccalaureate (IB) school adopting a collaborative learning technology makes sense. Class sizes are small. Basic approaches and philosophies match. The staff is skilled in using such approaches.

But assuming that a large-scale rote-learning school with 40 kids to a classroom and middle-competence teachers can adopt a collaborative, tablet-based approach is flawed. The technology needs to fit into the school’s model. The school will not change its model to fit in new technology.

However, many schools do make such choices. They will go out and acquire such technologies. These technologies will then be showcased to the parents. These schools will be positioned as cutting-edge, and these technologies will be held up as evidence of a school being forward-thinking and progressive.

So far the future of the classroom has been driven by economics, i.e. by the profitability motive of schools. In the future, I sincerely hope it will be focused on benefiting the student. Then the focus can be on which technology helps the school meets its own educational goals the best.

The school needs to be clear and cognisant about its own model before it goes shopping for technology. Different sets of schools have different sets of goals. Some want to see holistic learning. Some want to create IIT toppers. Others want to create champions—in sports, theatre, art or academics. Yet others may have their principle need of getting their students (and often teachers) to speak good English.

Technology is nothing more than a means to an end. Technology, by itself, rarely solves a problem. It

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