Technology has made quite some noise in the K-12 education sector. And rightly so, it has the potential to be an enabler in improving learning outcomes, if used correctly. However, it is important to clarify right at the outset that technology ought to be a tool and not a learning outcome. It is easy to get all consumed by the availability of innovative technologies designed for the K-12 community in the market. But it is important not to lose focus on the aim of the learning objectives.. If the objective is to make learners future ready, the school administrators, teachers, technology pedagogues need to chalk out a plan to meet the aim, and in the process adopt the technological products that they require to meet those learning objectives.
It is quite imperative that technology tools would be an important ally to prepare students for future jobs, which in all probability do not even exist today. Now, this is the tricky part. Technology, as we know today, is going to change unrecognisably in the coming years. Some of it is going to be outdated, others would evolve to co-exist with the new technology. Therefore, how do you prepare students for the future with technology that has probably not been conceived yet?
Break Down the Goal
Education cannot be an end in itself, it should help students solve real-life problems, which is the bigger aim of professions. Therefore, the bigger goal could be broken down into smaller aims:
a. Encourage students to be research driven
b. Facilitate 24/7 learning
c. Focus on training trainers
Not too long ago, there was absolutely no way in which students would know something unless the teachers did. Times are changing. Learners need to be moulded into scholars who can seek and answer their own questions.
Project-based learning approach can be an innovative way of meeting this goal. Teachers can encourage students to work out solutions to real-life problems. For instance, they take up the project of water management in the city during summer. To look for an answer to this question, students have to understand the water cycle, a bit of economics, figure out government policies to suggest ways to prevent water misuse. Besides promoting adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach, the project would also encourage students to look beyond their textbooks. Participation in online discussion forums can be an effective way to help students develop and hone their 21st century skills - creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
It is important that we take learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. There is so much to do in the classroom complete the syllabus, engage students through activities, discussions, settle issues with students (you have to be practical), and much more. An opportunity to learn 24/7 allows students to acquire knowledge at their own pace and space and explore more about topics that interest them. If a student particularly gets interested in the Mughal Empire, they ought to have the opportunity to know more about it as the textbook might offer only limited information. Parents can choose from a vast range of self-learning solutions available in the market to push their kids' learning abilities. Shy kids often find it difficult to clarify their doubts and share their opinions in the classroom. These issues are often mitigated on online platforms.
Self-learning solutions and taking learning beyond the classroom are all great ways to prepare students for their future jobs, but these in no way do the job of a teacher. The teacher has a very crucial role to play in educating, influencing, inspiring, and guiding young minds. Thus, teacher training is of paramount importance. First thing that ought to be taken into consideration is that the task they have in hand is to mould digital natives. Technology is an integral part of this generation, however, teachers are found to be a little reluctant to use technology tools in the classroom. However, if they show a little bit of openness towards accepting technological products such as ERP and digital classroom solutions, they will be surprised to find that so many of their repetitive tasks are automated. The aim is not to make teachers just adept at handling technological tools, but train them to be learning experience designers. Only then would they be able to do justice to their job using technology to teach students.
Education is perhaps one of the best ways to bridge social gaps. It helps individuals get a respectable job and lead a decent life. Technology promises to take education to every nook and corner of the society, and usher in equity. It is essential that teachers, decision-makers and parents do their bit in helping technology and education join hands to uplift educational standards in the country.
Beas Dev Ralhan
Beas Dev Ralhan is the Chief Executive Officer of Next Education India Private Limited, a technology-driven education enterprise, headquartered in Hyderabad. Beas co-founded this educational organization in 2007 along with Raveendranath Kamath, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus. Prior to Next Education, Beas worked as an entrepreneur, investment manager and consultant for around a decade in firms such as FreshPixel India Pvt Ltd, Retort Software India Pvt Ltd, PartyGaming LLC, and Infosys. In recognition of his immense contribution to the K12 education segment, CII (Southern Regional) bestowed upon him the 'Emerging Entrepreneur' award in 2015. He also received the Indian Education Leader award at the 7th World Education Summit, 2016