The National Education Policy 2020 envisions a contemporary education system that foresees to contribute directly to transform our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high quality education to all.
Right now 21st-century skills are essential for success. For example, most jobs now include interactions with some level of technology. The concept of education is not just about memorizing facts or expanding vocabularies, it is also about learning skills that will prepare students to interact with the world and be successful in the workforce. Classrooms that focus on technology ensure that students are prepared to have a bright future in the rapidly growing digital economy.
Modern technology has completely reshaped the education system. The digitally empowered classrooms over the internet have made education available to each and everyone who wants to learn across the world, anytime, any subject, and anywhere. There is no limit to the strength of the classroom. Unlike physical classrooms that are limited to a maximum of sixty students, any number of students can access the virtual classrooms. When it comes to learning, there is an unlimited amount of knowledge available at no cost to an economically viable price. The education using modern technology like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence has made learning more collaborative and of employing digital tools and resources in the classroom are being recognized by an increasing number of teachers. Online courses, virtual classrooms, software, and interactive whiteboards all have the potential to radically alter the educational experience for students and teachers alike.
During my field visits to the practice teaching schools I have observed significant number of unsung teachers using technology in their classrooms. When I visited a local school in a far flung area of Kupwara, I found it well electrified through local community support. The local community had collected funds and purchased a television set and installed free dish; there was a provision of audio-visual class in the time table and children watched educational programmes on SWAYAM PRABHA which is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting high quality educational programmes on 24*7 basis using the GSAT-5 satellites.
But there are some challenges to effective technology integration in rural schools. Equipment costs and maintenance, inadequate training for teachers, lack of electricity, attitudinal rigidity and technological stagnation were all cited as causes for concern. It is not enough to simply provide computers and internet connection to rural schools; teachers also need to be given the tools and resources they need to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. Investments in technology infrastructure and teacher training could be strategically placed to assist solve these problems and increase the usage of technology in rural schools. If, for example, schools had better internet and updated computer labs, students may be able to make better use of the resources available to them online and as a result, study more effectively in school. Continuous training and coaching on how to utilize technology effectively in the classroom may also improve teachers’ digital pedagogical skills. An offline or low-bandwidth educational platform could be a good option if you are located in a remote area with limited access to the internet. Collaborations between rural schools and local businesses and NGOs may also help expand students’ access to necessary tools and resources.
In the Kokernag area I found a local school getting the technological support from the nearby Common Service Center (CSC); an e-entrepreneurship initiative by JK Bank for the local youth. One significant benefit of integrating technology in course design is that it helps to create a more engaging learning environment for students. Technology can help teachers to present subjects in more interactive and creative ways. One of the most important aspects to a teacher’s and student’s success is how well they can connect with each other. Technology provides teachers with an opportunity to connect with their students in a new way. It allows you to open up lines of communication and use the Internet to explain curriculum material in a new way, which can be very helpful to students. Many students these days already gravitate towards the Internet, so by using these technologies in the classroom, you may increase opportunities to build community with your students.
During observing the micro-teaching lessons of the pupil teachers I found that technology allows for self-paced lessons. Students learn at different rates. However, it can be challenging for teachers to individualize lesson plans. It is much easier with technology. Almost all apps and programs allow for individualised instruction. This means students can focus on their specific needs and do it at their own pace. This also helps teachers focus their time on students who are struggling or may require more attention. This improves the classroom environment for everyone. In the BEd curriculum of our universities one of the teacher training techniques is Micro-Teaching where a pupil teacher gains mastery over the basic skills of teaching. The concerned Board of Studies at the University level while revising the syllabus should add one more skill in micro-teaching and that is “Skill of teaching in Hybrid Mode” which will equip the potential teachers with necessary digital pedagogical skills. There is a urgent need to develop a indigenous TPACK (Technological-Pedagogical and Content Knowledge Framework) model in light of NEP 2020 and introduce in our schools.
An action research was conducted in one of the practice teaching schools which demonstrated that technology results in better retention among the students. In one study, 20 eighth grade students were asked to complete a PowerPoint presentation about solar system. In the study 18 out of the 20 students remembered more facts about the solar system in their project after the presentation than students who completed the project without using PowerPoint. This study demonstrates how technology helps students to better retain what they learn.
Using technology can make a student’s least favorite subjects become more interesting to them by incorporating games, virtual lessons, videos, and other interactive teaching methods into their daily lessons. With a standard textbook, it is much more difficult to turn an otherwise boring subject into something that will capture students’ attention. While implementing technological tools into a school or classroom can be quite costly, there are programs in place with schools and manufacturers that allow schools with any budget to be able to afford the technology. For example DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure For Knowledge Sharing) is an initiative of the NCERT where students can explore quality education content free of cost. As technology continues to infiltrate every dimension of our lives, the benefits of using technology in the classroom can no longer be denied. For example, iPads and Tablets can replace bulky textbooks. In my Directorate I made a small experiment with technology. We provide printed study material to our distance learners. Each paper has 150 – 200 pages; it is very difficult for the distance learner to carry these printed books all the time, as significant distant learners are in-service. I gave a serious thought to it . I worked on a minor research project sponsored by UGC -Distance Education Council (DEC) “Preparation of Computer Assisted Self Learning Package (Summarized Version) for BEd programme and its testing” . Pilot study proved it very successful among the learners. This summarized version of study material was prepared in digital format and made mobile compatible. Later it was uploaded on the official website of the Directorate in the form of e–tutorials and shared on the respective WhatsApp group of the students. Students carried this summarized version of the study material in their mobile phones. The feedback from students revealed that these e-tutorials have proved to be excellent student-support-services to thousands of students. Smartphones can allow for quick research and access to educational apps. Social media can provide an opportunity for increased parent-teacher communication and student activities. The good news is that the research also backs this up.
A research study reveal the percentage of students who achieved an overall rating of either proficient or advanced was 47% percent higher in classrooms that are using Tablets, compared to traditional classrooms with no Tablets. Another study reveal that students using Tablets saw their math test scores increase 20% in one year compared to students using traditional textbooks. To conclude NEP 2020 has devoted two chapters to technology and online education. I have summarized recommendations from these two chapters of NEP 2020 which have great implication for our education trajectory. The National Education Technology Forum (NETF) will be setup to facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology. This Forum will provide evidence-based advice to central and state-governments on technology-based interventions.
Alternative modes of quality education should be developed when in-person education is not possible, as observed during the recent pandemic. Several interventions must be taken to ensure inclusive digital education such as: (i) developing two-way audio and video interfaces for holding online classes, (ii) creating a digital repository of coursework, learning games and simulations through virtual reality, (iii) use of other channels such as television, radio, mass media in multiple languages to ensure reach of digital content where digital infrastructure is lacking, (iv) creating virtual labs on existing e-learning platforms to provide students with hands-on experiment-based learning, and (v) training teachers on how to become high-quality online content creators.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior
Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.