Digital Learning Resources and Initiatives

Pedagogical Gears for Bridging the Digital Divide
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Representational Image groconsult [Creative Commons]

This age of education leveraged technology to be exposed, all-encompassing and reachable. The COVID-19 pandemic entailed a swing towards the digital medium of education.

Digital initiatives taken during that time are now being established, reinforced and institutionalized. A lively digital ecosystem in education is escalating learning prospects for students, stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship in the education sector.

However, the 2017-18 National Sample Survey suggested that less than 15% of rural Indians have Internet as opposed to 42% of their urban equals and in an ongoing National level study, it has been observed that a little number of Parents, teachers and students are unaware about the digital initiatives taken by central and State Govt. to enhance and transform learning.

But Global studies have revealed that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can lead to enhanced student learning and improved teaching methods. 

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education is the mode of education to support, augment, and optimize the transfer of information & knowledge. ICT is the tool in education and the ministry launched a web portal named “SAKSHAT” a ‘One Stop Education Portal.' The high-quality e-content once developed will be uploaded on SAKSHAT in all disciplines and subjects. 

The National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) has been envisaged to influence the scope of ICT, in the teaching and learning process for the benefit of all learners in any time anywhere mode.

The National Mission on Education through ICT has, under its aegis, created Virtual Labs, Open Source and Access Tools, Virtual Conference Tools, Talk to Teacher programs, a Non-Invasive Blood Glucometer and also for simulated lab experiments, a Di. Electric frequency shift application development of resonator for low-cost oscillators. 

NMEICT covers all the five rudiments of NEP2020; access, equity, quality, accountability and affordability by providing connectivity to all colleges and universities, providing low-cost and affordable access-cum-computing devices to students and teachers and providing high-quality e-content free of cost to all learners in the country.

NMEICT aims to outspread computer infrastructure and connectivity to over 18000 colleges as a part of its motto to provide connectivity up to the last mile. Therefore, the Mission, in addition to utilizing the connectivity network of BSNL/MTNL and other providers, shall explore the possibility to provide connectivity utilizing Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT), Very Personal Network (VPN) and EduSat channels. It seeks to bridge the digital divide, i.e., the gap in the skills to use computing devices for teaching and learning among urban and rural teachers/learners.

Besides NCERT took major initiatives for making education accessible to all including children belonging to Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups SEDG, recognized in NEP 2020:

E-pathshala, a mobile app and portal serves as a platform to provide free access to the NCERT books, dedicated material and e-Contents for students, teachers and parents. 

Barkhaa Series is a supplementary ‘Graded Reading Series’ framed as a pedagogic tool aimed at helping the children of Classes I and II in learning to read with meaning and to arouse in them the urge to read more and more. 

Indian Sign Language-based Teaching learning resources have been developed for hearing-impaired students. A variety of possibilities are settled that are compatible with the competencies of these students to create new content daily. 

The textbooks in audio format, using drama and sound of animals, picture description etc are developed to enhance accessibility for CWSN and also for realizing the need for anytime and anywhere access. 

The comic book named “Priya -The Accessibility Warrior” carries the message of accessibility and is available on DIKSHA Portal, E-Pathshala, and NCERT website for everyone to access and read the comic book with embedded ISL video and audio in flipbook, pdf and ePub.

This initiative of Bhasha Sangam promotes day-to-day communication in 22 scheduled Indian languages and Indian Sign Language. Through this initiative, cultural and language inclusion is attempted and a Bhasha Sangam App compatible with iOS and android is created. The app has 100+ sentences, designed on different themes that allow people to learn basic conversation in 22 Indian languages, test themselves and generate online certificates. 

PM eVidya is an innovative and unique initiative to sustain education by using ICT. The major components of PMeVIDYA include 12 DTH channels (one class, one channel), community radio stations, content for Divyangs (CWSNs), podcasts, etc. 

DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for knowledge sharing) One nation one digital platform, is a state-of-the-art platform built using open-source technology it hosts digital curriculum content and hosts continuous professional development (CPD).

SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have previously endured the virginal of the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy. All the courses under SWAYAM MOOC are interactive, prepared by the best teachers in the country and are available, free of cost to any learner. More than 1,000 specially chosen faculty and teachers from across the country have participated in preparing these courses. 

NISHTHA (National Mission to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level) is a capacity-building programme for "Improving Quality of School Education through Integrated Teacher Training". It intends to build competencies among all the teachers and school principals. NISHTHA is the world's largest teachers' training programme of its kind, wherein standardized training modules are developed at the national level for all States and UTs. 

The e-Pathshala AR (Augmented Reality) App is an initiative aiming to energize textbooks and augment child-to-child, teacher-to-teacher, and child-to-adult interaction. This App aims to empower the learner to go beyond textbooks and the four walls of the classroom. To invoke curiosity and intrigue in the students because of the augmented interaction, the students will henceforth be able to learn concepts by directly experimenting rather than only through reading and memorization. This effort intends to be a revolutionary effort to change the majority of the student community from passive listeners to active learners. 

The Tactile Map Book uses the latest state-of-the-art techniques to produce embossed (tactile) maps that are easy to comprehend via touch. This book contains 7 tactile maps covering the physical, geo-political and environmental representations of India along with their description in Braille.

Virtual Labs project is a conglomerate action of twelve sharing institutes and IIT Delhi is the coordinating institute. It is a paradigm shift in ICT-based education. For the first time, such an initiative has been taken up in remote experimentation. Under the Virtual Labs project, over 100 Virtual Labs consisting of approximately 700+ web-enabled experiments were designed for remote operation and viewing. 

Virtual Labs do not require any additional infrastructural setup for conducting experiments at user premises. The simulations-based experiments can be accessed remotely via the internet. Vlabs provide space for students to recurrently test, observe, and revise their comprehension to expand their scientific mastery. These are complete learning management solutions in their way with web resources, quizzes, video lectures and so on. A learner can use these labs at their own suitable time, at their own pace and content their inquisitiveness in various subjects. 

The OLabs is one such kind. These Olabs can also be made available to students with no access to physical labs or where equipment is not available owing to being scarce or costly. This helps them compete with students in better-equipped schools and bridges the digital divide and geographical distances. The virtual Labs include Content aligned to NCERT/CBSE and State Board Syllabus, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology Labs from Class 9 to Class 12. English and Math lessons for Class 9 and 10, Interactive simulations, animations and lab videos, the concepts and understanding of the experiment, the ability to perform, record and learn experiments - anywhere, anytime, and individualized practice in all areas of experimentation.Around 100 virtual labs are in operation today. About 35 remote-triggered labs are under development. 

A-VIEW is an E-Learning platform, developed by Amrita University's E-Learning Research Lab, and is available for free to all educational institutes across India. 

Digital Transformation of education provides an interactive space for students to explore the concepts embedded in different phenomena and thus allows learners to go through a virtual process and enable them to engage in core scientific practices, especially on phenomena that cannot be easily observed or investigated in real-life situations. 

Digital learning tools and technology fill the gaps where traditional classroom teaching falls behind and has a kind of openness; to adopt an open-ended inquiry approach and take control of their learning. Some of the competencies such tools bring are simply unparalleled by traditional learning techniques.

From going paperless for sustainability or cutting costs, maximising resources and heightening both reach and impact for students and educators alike. Awareness and use of digital resources are the best opportunity for all of us. And exploiting and leveraging these tools can augment the probabilities of blended learning.

The author is Head, Department of Education Communication Technology Computer Science at J&K SCERT

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.

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