As platforms like Coursera, Byju etc continue to disrupt the education ecosystem, schools today across the world are trying to find the right balance between technology in the classroom and the human touch.
The reality of the matter is that today, the technology has already brought about a major change in the way “Education” happens if one describes education not narrowly as what happens only inside the classroom but as the whole interconnected shaping of a child’s persona by his/her environment. Already, children are more aware of the world around them and more connected to their peers around the world through the magic of social media. Already, students go to Wikipedia and other popular websites to do the research for their projects rather than a physical library. And already, teachers are accessing and sharing videos and teaching resources with their counterparts from across the world to bring the best of resources to their classrooms. Education mimics life and today’s education, in many ways, reflects the Facebook and Twitter influenced world of today.
What has probably not caught up to the real-life in India is the educational curriculum of the schools and the expectations of both the parent and the higher education Universities as to what a good education entails. With focus still squarely on the ‘Content’ rather than skills, the educational curriculum in India and subsequently the classroom environment is still trying to catch up with today’s reality where information is available at the press of the ‘Google Search’ button. Because the Universities demand high scores on the standardized tests, the national curriculums persist with the assessments which do not test skills like critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration but on ‘cut-and-dry’ content-based tests. This, in turn, sets parental expectations on to this narrow requirement of marks, turning our schools into replicas of their 80’s brethren’s. Therefore, our classrooms are not reflections of the society outside, but a struck in a strange time warp.
As per the Centre for Curriculum Redesign, a Boston based non-governmental organization which aims to bring together jurisdictions, academic institutions, corporations and non-profit organizations to bring about a change in the way our curriculums are designed, the 21st century curriculum has to be deeply redesigned for the four dimensions of Knowledge, Skills, Character and Meta-Learning and the interplay between them.
Image Source: Center For Curriculum Design
And the curriculum, and subsequently the schools must free themselves from the tyranny of the content and be therefore be able to leverage technology for what it is able to do best –
a. Giving the ownership of the learning back to the children – With a more flexible curriculum and project-based learning, children will be able to decide and shape their learning journey which will open up the doors for a range of educational products, which allow teachers to facilitate this in a sandbox environment
b. Making learning ‘personalized’ – Technology, especially Artificial Intelligence-based adaptive learning platforms enable the learning in the classroom to be tailored to individual child’s need, level and learning style. AI will be a major game-changer in this area.
Reversing the ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ – Technology in the classroom will allow flipped classrooms to happen so that the functions of ‘Remembering’ and ‘Understanding’ which currently take 90% of the class time happens without a teacher’s intervention and therefore allows the teacher to spend time on ‘Application’, ‘Analysis’, ‘Evaluation’ and ‘Creation’.
Image Source: tips.uark.edu
Today, schools across India are present at different places on this spectrum. Since some curriculums like IB and CAIE are ahead of the curve in incorporating ‘skill-based learning’, with CBSE moving towards it in a little more meandering fashion, schools which have had more experienced teachers in these curriculums or have a more evolved training program have been able to adapt even the national curriculum into a skill-based structure. And these more experienced teachers see technology not as a competition but as a tool for changing the class dynamics by giving the ownership of learning to children and making learning more personalized.
But what is the way forward as we move towards the 22nd century?
- Age-based class groups must be replaced with capability-based cohorts which are more flexible in nature allowing students to come in and go out as and when they reach requisite learning levels
- Large spaces of time must be kept aside for children to pursue their own learning journey at their own pace without necessary adult interference
- Assessment and evaluation based on skills and application and creation through gathered knowledge
- Physical restructuring of the schools to allow children to pursue self-study or smaller group based collaborative projects
The future of technology in the classroom, therefore, is not just making the knowledge dissemination easier, but to enable a fundamental structural change in the educational thought process which will make schools a community of learners which comes together to quench their thirst for knowledge without the need of a strong hierarchical structure and regimented time schedules which are remnants of the Macaulay’s education structure.
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