Breaking down Traditional Barriers

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is, pictures convey information more efficiently and effectively than words. This also means that a difficult concept or an idea can be ea...

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. That is, pictures convey information more efficiently and effectively than words. This also means that a difficult concept or an idea can be easily conveyed by a single image. This is the communicative potential of one picture. What about a small video clip or an animation of few minutes having thousands of such pictures in it, and what about embedding voice in the clip and adding various colorful pictures? This is what the modern day technology, particularly the Information and communication technologies (ICT), offer to our education system. The use of ICT in education is emerging as a creative tool as it offers great potential for knowledge dissemination, open-ended learning and search for new knowledge that lies outside the purview of textbooks.
Recently a National Seminar was held at Amar Singh College, Srinagar on "Professional Development of teachers in higher education". As many as 27 research papers were presented during the day long proceedings. I also presented a paper "ICTs and Teachers Professional Development" using power point presentation. Most of my slides were based on animations, models and analogies. I discussed tangible and practicable things rather than the abstract, hypothetical and boring ideas which we usually come across in academic gatherings.
Education is a process of learning with understanding, acquiring knowledge through self-discovery, conceptualization and exploring the world around us. It is not about rote learning or cramming the stuff and recalling and reproducing it in the exam hall. And qualifying prestigious exams using rote learning method is not the hallmark of a genius. It is a widely accepted fact that the spirit of learning and creative thought is always lost in strict rot learning. While rote learning is learning by repetition without proper understanding, the memorization does not necessarily mean learning by rote. Memorizing and concentrating on the facts and concepts can build strong foundations for critical thinking and analysis. But the sad part is that our intuitions, schools, colleges and even universities continue encouraging students to cram facts and figures, directly or indirectly.
The digital revolution is sweeping the whole world and it is transforming every aspect of our existence. The way it has transformed our lives socially, politically, scientifically and economically in a short span of 50 years is simply amazing. The real time communication, the exchange of information, breakdown of space and time concepts and the creation of global village – this all is due to the revolution in information and communication technology (ICT). ICT may be described as the pivot of the central nervous system of a complex society in today's world. Many developed and developing countries are using ICT as a tool for quality education and to fill the gap between traditional methods and new methods of teaching and learning.
We can also use ICT to standardize our education system. The ICT based education will be an effective media for communicating things and concepts that cannot be explained in words. It can bring abstract and difficult curriculum concepts to life and can improve teaching effectiveness. The teaching process can become interactive, exciting, joyful, stimulus and lively which will attract greater participation of students. The use of ICT in classrooms can reduce the length of period to just 1/3rd of time, making the curriculum very short, leaving the teacher nearly with 2/3rd of time for more exploration and emphases on other areas. The technology can give teacher the flexibility of bringing a virtual laboratory right into the classroom. The use of simulations, models, graphic calculators, animations,3D images, DVDs and video clips on the smart board can bring alive and animate certain phenomenon or concepts in addition to chalk and talk methods of teaching, thus retaining the social interaction as well.
The demand for supplementing the pedagogy has precipitated a worldwide concern for teacher's professional development in ICT. The effective integration of ICT depends to a large extent on teacher's familiarity and ability with the ICT tools and learning environment. But the sad part is that most of our teachers are not too enthusiastic and proficient about the use of technology whether at the institutions or at their residences. Though the lack of required facilities and resources for these activities are the main constraints, but in many cases ICT tools are remaining as showpieces in our intuitions. In many cases teachers are aware of the existence of these tools in their institutions but are clueless on how to use them. As a result, teachers lack confidence in using existing technology in their teaching.
The system of education abroad and in other parts of the country is experiencing a seismic change. In today's world, the quality of education can be enhanced only if the teachers are equipped with the core competency skills of the ICT technology. It is high time that we should prepare a policy or roadmap on the use of ICT in our education. We need to create state-of-the-art infrastructure along with networking and internet connectivity and well equipped laboratories and other facilities and promote computer literacy and capacity building of teachers in ICT skills. The teachers have to set aside time to make technology a part of their teaching and they have to explore opportunities to learn new ways to effectively incorporate new things into their teaching. Let us wake up and smell the coffee.
(Dr. Muhammad Amin Malik is Associate Professor and Head, Dept of Physics, Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at amin_malik_ku@hotmail.com)

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