Plugging schools in to the information age

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In the past decade, the easy access to nearly any piece of information imaginable has become an expected part of our daily life. We’ve been Googled and YouTubed and iPodded so completely that such names have seared into our cerebral cortex, even becoming verbs. Don’t we face  questions like “Did you Google it”?

Even after so much fever with the technology advancement, what happens with our schools? Not much. They continued to plod on gamely, passing out paper-based textbook after paper-based textbook, keeping their rooms and halls nearly free of the technology saturating the students’ lives.

Imagine watching the visuals of world history while flipping through the pages of your book. The Computer Aided Learning programme under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme of Government of India, the Smart Class programme launched by e-Learning companies in India promises all this and much more. There is a shift in the schooling process required now, as these programmes for the digital classrooms have been designed for interactive learning. Schools which support students’ learning and thinking skills with programmes, infrastructure, tools, teachers and management aided by information and communication technologies automatically enable children to acquire abilities of constructing knowledge from available information. These abilities are crucial to a learning society.
ICT is not about the computers or the educational CDs or the Internet or the specific device or medium we use. It is really about a different process that we deploy for the purpose of enhancing the quality of education. It is about providing alternative learning experiences to the children who currently do not have options other than text book as a learning tool.

In the environment of ICT usage in K-12 segment, the skills and abilities will lead to a perceptible shift from didactic classroom teaching to participatory, decentralised, interactive group learning, traditional learning environment to a climate that encourages exploration, problem-solving and decision-making.

There are many who are fortunate to be able to use new technologies in schools. Sadly there is still a very large digital divide in our country. According to one study which is featured in the cover story of this issue- while there is a relatively better availability of older technologies like the TVs or RCPs, in Indian schools; newer technological products like Multi-media Projectors, Laptops and PDAs, which make learning more student-centric, are scarce.

Schools should not shun the seemingly endless variety of technology options available for integrating to the classroom scenarios, but should instead see them as new sources of inspiration for their teaching learning affairs. The major constraining factor being the change of mindset of all stakeholders, keeping track of technology change and ensuring one is on the right path. Let’s hope it is not too late. We use technology for entertainment. Let’s now hear it for academic progress, and innovation, in schools. Let’s hear and see it for teachers, for students, for schools, as its time to see technology all around, in meaningful ways.

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