By Rupesh Kumar Shah, CEO, InOpen Technologies
EVEN TODAY THE BASICS OF language and arithmetic remain the ever sturdy foundation upon which all real life pursuits draw their application, however, these have been disrupted by information and communication technologies (ICTs) in 21st century.
Together these technologies include computers, the Internet, telephones, television, radio etc ubiquitous, unassumingly stealthy are rendering us hooked, even hapless in their absence. The current mandate emerges from this reality. That is, in order to participate in or interact in processes of learning/teaching, today’s humans must acquire a working familiarity with the moving flux of its language, tools, and rules of courtesy. Furthermore, to truly seize its potential, we must transcend the realm of basic literacy, and move towards “fluency,” which relates to a scenario-responsive agility in the way that we are able to wield technology. The first step in creating a healthy learning space that affects this transformation is to demystify and hence “normalize” the existence and awareness of technology. Two ways to do this, one to teach ICT as a subject (the focus lays on computers and the Internet), and two to integrate ICT in the knowledge facilitation process. Both of these collude to provide young or new learners the exposure that is prerequisite to their fully realizing the as yet untapped wonders of technology.
As with all introductory concepts, early exposure helps to pre-empt the impending inflexibility of a mind jaded with age. Since technological knowledge has the potential to be an equalizer, in this context, the term “learners” necessarily encompasses all those involved in the existing teaching-learning matrix: learners and teacher-facilitators. That is to say, at the “beginning,” everybody needs to learn the basics of ICTs, including tomorrow’s teachers. However, what is particular to the teachers is the dual responsibility of keeping abreast with technology themselves, while also investing in acquiring or developing new methods by which to engage in the two aforementioned ways of normalizing ICTs in the lives of learners under their care.
The first way involves “teaching ICT” to new learners, done under a range of labels, such as, IT class, Computer class, Computer Science, and so on. The name may or may not necessarily convey the scope of what is to be learned. An IT class may only introduce students to the fundamentals like parts of the computers and the basics of using office application softwares. On the other hand, although “computer science” ought to describe learning that which goes beyond fundamentals, and explores the underlying principles. If we are going to take the trouble to cover the fundamentals and basic applications, why not use this opportunity to embed an exploration of the “how” and “why” behind the hardware and software? Rather than simply learning computer facts, figures and functions, a conscious curriculum engenders the development of cross-disciplinary life skills that forward the learner’s journey towards technological “fluency.”
The second way involves the integration of ICTs in the process of instruction. This can involve any other subject that is not technology-centered. Take for instance a Grade VII History class. The directive is to do a project on a chosen dynasty of medieval India. Rather than use the old chart paper and felt pens, picture ‘homework’ taking the form of a digital presentation that incorporates text, audio and videos. This way allows dual learning outcomes to be achieved: of History and of ICT preparedness! Or consider a Science class wherein the teacher-facilitator wants to introduce the idea of heat as a function of how little or a lot the atoms get agitated or “move.”For a first-timer, this is hard to conceptualize within the confines of a school science lab.
Enter digitized, interactive educational content. In the form of animated simulations, previously unperceivable phenomena can now be “observed.” ICTs do indeed possess the potential to augment a classroom in a myriad fascinating ways. Not all tactics that fall under “ICT-integration” are novel as such. There have always been teacher-facilitators with an inclination to stimulate their learners in ways alternate to chalk-and-talk. The last few generations no doubt have memories of visits to the school ‘AV room’! Or projectors for transparencies etc. We know their effective use in last few decades remained uncertain. With the advent of smart classes and a host of flashy new educational technology, anecdotal evidence shows that the excitement has extended primarily to their installation and mere presence, without sufficient focus on how best to boost the efficacy of instruction. This would require of the facilitator a thorough understanding of the core concepts, a vision for lesson planning, and most importantly a command over technology that allows it to be seamless interwoven, rather than seen as an add-on or additional work.