Bridging the gaps between Technology, Teacher training and child-centric Learning
Many teachers who finished their mainstream education before the birth of the Internet are teaching kids born with smartphones, tablets, and virtual reality headsets. The kids entering school now fall under Generation Alpha, who will be the first generation to see the 22nd century in large numbers. The education system has become complex and will continue to be in the future. The more complex the education system gets; the more creative it needs to become.
Arijit Ghosh enlightened Brainfeed in a detailed interview on how to bridge the current disparity in K-12 Education.
- Teachers of 90s are teaching the next leaders of the 21st How can this generation gap be tackled by the teachers? What is the role of teacher training in this process?
The kids entering school now fall under Generation Alpha – the ones who have seen this planet after 2010. They will also be the first generation to see the 22nd century in large numbers. So, no doubt that many teachers who finished their mainstream education before the birth of the Internet are teaching kids born with smartphones, tablets, and virtual reality headsets. The education system has become complex and will continue to be in the future. The more complex the education system gets; more creative it needs to become. Teachers of 90s have grown up at a time when compliance and processes were pivotal. Though these are still very important to drive policies, but creativity needs to be at the core to understand and achieve success in the current context.
Unlike other professionals, teachers entering the classrooms are expected to excel from day 1. There is limited or practically no provision to slip. To live up to the expectation, teachers need to find support from their peers who have already or currently facing the same situation or challenges. They need to work collaboratively to infuse creativity in their work. They need to be activators of thinking. Knowledge is free-flowing in today’s times; teachers need to create opportunities of learning for students. It is important that they give the much needed confidence to the students to make mistakes and learn from them. There is no point to attend school if students don’t make mistakes! Each institution must also provide the opportunity to its teachers to become explorers; there must be a provision to work or shadow another teacher in a different school, preferably a different city to understand diversity of context. India is fortunate to have an extremely diverse canvas – more than 50 educational boards, 230 million students, rural and urban spread. Much needs to be done to enable cross linkages in learning. Teachers and the administration also need to try and find a mechanism of providing feedback to teachers at regular levels. Professional development or teacher training can definitely help to set minimum benchmarks but an individual’s growth needs to be mapped by his/her needs. A proper feedback mechanism for every teacher will make them reflective practitioners and certainly equip the teachers of 90s to prepare the students of 21st century for the 22nd one.
- What are the different aspects on which a teacher should be trained? Is there a requirement of training on a regular basis (in how many intervals must they receive training session)?
Before we address thetraining aspect, we need to first find out his/her needs. Teaching fraternity, unfortunately, suffers from the lack of ownership. Professional development is seen as an activity or event, driven largely by senior management. This needs to change! Teachers need to be responsible for their own professional development. Just like one-size-fits-all approach is not conducive for learner development, similarly one professional development intervention for all teachers is not going to benefit them. Each teacher has got a different need. One might require support in the integration of technology, while another teacher might want to figure out ways of collaboration. A third one might require support on effective utilization of resources and so on. So an assessment of the needs should be the first step before investing in any sort of professional development activity.
Research has proved that a one-time intervention in the form of a seminar or a workshop does not result any change in a teacher’s behaviour or competency in the classroom. Any professional development initiative needs to be planned in phases with new learnings and reinforcement of previous learnings done in every phase. Also, every training or workshop must have an element of action planning, which will enable the participants to find relevance within their day-to-day work. Intervention in their own workspace, noting down the findings, engaging in a discussion with peers and modifying the elements of the action plan (if required) on the basis of feedback will reap the maximum benefit out of the professional development endeavor. At the end, there must be a reflection session, both with close peers as well as the expert from whom initial inputs were received to discuss what went well, and what could have been done differently. The end will prepare the ground for the next professional development journey, and that’s how the C (continuing) of CPD will become meaningful.
- How can the schools use technology to change and alleviate the educational scenario in India?
Technology needs to be engaging and support decision making. So schools need to focus more on the effective use of technology in the classrooms. Thanks to the emerging 2D and 3D technology, digital content has gone beyond videos and animations and now, due to its interactive nature, is also easy to grasp. Students are able to understand and retain concepts better. In the near future, we would see a proliferation of content using Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies. In terms of pedagogy, technology can help adoption of flipped learning to great effect. Rather than teaching core concepts in the classrooms, it can serve as zones for discussion, for critical thinking, evaluating evidences, collaborating, and peer learning. Technology also has the power to revolutionize the assessment system. It can help in creating a culture for adaptive assessments. Adaptive assessments will bring with it adaptive learning, where the learning journey will be personalized for each learner based on interactions and observations.
Big Data, in coming years, is going to play a massive role to alleviate the educational scenario in India. Intelligent use of data and interpreting the same as per your focus area will help in solving some of the major challenges which the industry is facing today. From access to quality in classrooms, big data has the power to address all issues. Big data will help in monitoring behavioural indicators and plot specific learning styles for the students. Sooner than later the plague of rote learning can be eradicated with the help of technology. However, it will be on the part of teachers and other educators to embrace this powerful tool with an open mind.
- What changes have you observed till date in the educational sector? How is technology helping the educational sector?
Over the past two decades in particular there has been unprecedented changes in the classrooms. Increased focus on technology has resulted in the introduction of smart boards in majority of the private schools. Government schools are slowly realizing the importance and putting in smart boards in government schools as well, which is a welcoming change. However, research says that a single device does not make appreciable changes to the learning standards. Some schools have started providing individual tablets to improve learning standards. The key is to investigate the engagement level of children while using technology. As an organization, we do a lot of classroom observations. Unfortunately, we find a fraction of teachers able to engage children meaningfully while using technology in the classrooms. Technology usage does not only mean playing a video or an animation – it is what happens next after the video / animation is played. What kind of questions are asked by the students, what is the level of discussion that happens post the viewing, are something that require a strong focus.
Apart from technology, focus has increased on the need of skill-based education. 21st century skills or soft skills have been on the discussion agenda at several educational conferences and research documents. There has recently been a strong focus on Sustainable Development Goals and schools are encouraging students to work towards sustainability, which is a fantastic development. This will help in raising responsible citizens for a sustainable future.
- What are the changes required in the current educational curriculum? Share some personal experiences.
There has been a talk that the NCERT syllabus will be reduced by half from the 2019 academic session. We perhaps are so focused with the syllabus that we fail to understand the importance of the curriculum. Syllabus and curriculum are different and sooner the education stakeholders understand this, the better. Why do we have to focus on the syllabus when learning can be so much enjoyable if we go by the fluidness of the curriculum? The biggest change which I would like to see is banishing the system of rote learning. Currently the education system suffers from ‘teaching-to-the-test’ syndrome. We teach keeping in mind the examination,focusing more on the topics or questions which are so called ‘important’ under the conventional examination system. This needs to change. Though it may sound utopian, but the examination system also needs overhauling.
There must be enough provisions in the curriculum that will encourage students to ask questions and not only answer them. Education needs to progress from the knowledge and understanding levels to application, analysis and creation levels of the Bloom’s Taxonomy. During training workshops with teachers across the country, the single biggest wish which I captured from them is the need tohave same respect towards various streams of education, while moving to higher education. Teachers also desire a variety of streams for students to choose and opt for, on the basis of their interest and potential. In my past work responsibility, I was responsible for leading two curriculum mapping exercises – first on CBSE life skills and international dimensions and then on 21st century skills. The teachers, while designing lessons to map scholastic and co-scholastic aspects, came up with brilliant implementation ideas which had curriculum at the core, resulting in highly engaging students and achievement of learning outcomes.
- How to make education more child-centric?
Over the past decade or so, we are hearing a lot on ‘child-centric education’; ‘the need for personalized learning’, ‘leave no child behind’, and so on. The first step towards making education more child-centric is to bridge the gap between parents and the teachers (schools). The Indian schools need to take pro-active initiatives to improve the trust-quotient with the parents. The conventional parent-teacher meetings need to graduate out from blame-games to productive discussions on the child’s learning journey.
Educators need to work towards explicitly mentioning success criteria to their students; and that is not just academic marks! The teacher should be equipped to know exactly from where each child is starting and explain the success criteria at the end of each level. Imagine it like a video game; it always shows you your achievements at the previous level with the level where you need to go! The key to establish this system is to make use of the available data in a much scientific manner than it is being currently used. Each child when he/she enters a new academic year, brings along an enormous trail of data points – behavioural indicators, learning levels, learning styles, academic achievements, co-scholastic interests, dislikes, etc. In the age of technology, there has to be an effort to make use of these data points and to understand each child;thereby defining their individual success criteria explicitly in accordance with the parents.
- What are the basic fundamentals that determine the quality of an educational institution?
Happiness. If a child wakes up in the morning and yearns to go to school, it’s a high quality educational institution. Once you have a minimum infrastructure, it’s the teachers that define quality of a school. A school needs to be vibrant and happening; it must be a source of excitement for everyone associated with the institution. A close bond between the stakeholders – management, teachers, students, parents and the community and a common will to do something productive will result in a high quality institution.
Unfortunate as it is, several premium private schools while advertising before an academic session lists down AC classrooms, size of swimming pool, number of playgrounds, smart classes, and other similar infrastructure-related points as salient features. Does this mean that all schools who don’t have these tangible infrastructures are all providing low quality education? Don’t we have a single high quality educational institute in the rural villages of our country? Physiological and safety needs are important and that’s the first two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchical Needs. But you move to the top of the pyramid when you achieve self-actualization.A high quality institution is one which prepares students not only for academic examinations but for a bigger examination called life where questions on physics, language, social science, mathematics are not asked subject-wise but as one problem statement.
Schools need to overcome the trap of rat race and marks and make students better citizens. An institution will be judged on its quality by the impact it has on human life!
- How can they improve the quality without stressing on the school finance or hampering the cost efficiency?
As I said earlier, quality improvement is not just infrastructural improvement. Schools need to positively impact value systems of their students. The school and its teachers need to follow the Goldilocks principle – set realistic challenges to each of its students and work tirelessly and create an environment of deliberate practice to attain such challenges. Attainment of a goal or a milestone gives contentment, satisfaction and happiness. It makes you stronger and injects a belief that you can do it. It gives the assurance that you are not alone; we are all there to support you in this journey.
To address ‘how’ in absolute tangible terms, schools need to invest in their teachers in terms of providing individual support. It is high time that we start getting smarter by usage of data. The schools need to ensure that teachers collaborate and become critical friends of their counterparts. Schools need to consciously embrace windows of opportunities keeping in mind the benefit of their students and not only for the sake of advertising.
- HRD Ministry of India has introduced a 70-point grading index to assess the quality of school education. How efficient and future-ready will this assessment be?
This will primarily depend on the indicators. Having a playground or air-conditioned classrooms will only project one-kind of a picture of Indian schools. Number of teacher vacancies, teacher-student ratio, provision of technology in classrooms, though relevant still has its limitations when you think about quality. The real issue is to assess what is happening inside the classrooms with the resources (including human resources) that are already available. A school is as good as its teachers. Hence, a lot of focus should be provided to the quality of teaching-learning happening inside the classrooms and beyond it. Any form of assessment or audit needs to not only highlight the positives and the areas to be improved, but also should comment on the roadmap or recommendations to enable them to rectify or improve themselves. Just agrading index will be difficult to evaluate and improved upon – the system should be able to balance between a quantitative as well as a qualitative report with measures of intervention clearly listed out. Enough inputs should be provided to the schools to initiate a culture of change in them. State administration and HRD ministry can top up the initiatives by funding and other support in terms of training and infrastructure-related measures if required.
There are global school assessment systems which are looked as governing bodies and lack institutional collaboration. With 1.53 million schools in this country, there are undoubtedly pockets of excellence spread across. The real challenge for the HRD Ministry and State administrators will be to identify good work, acknowledge and create a collaborating environment where states can benefit from sharing of best practices and support each other in the journey of improvement. Also, the success of this initiative will largely depend on its transparency and clarity of achievement index.
- Corruption and bribing can be used to tamper with the grading index. How can the system become authentic and transparent? What steps does the government need to take?
In order to avoid corruption and bribing towards making the system ineffective, the government should think of adopting a PPP model. There must be a focus on developing an independent body comprising credible private organizations working towards improvement of the system. Independent experts can also add value in such consortium. To allow authenticity, there must be a portal to capture data collection through pictures / short videos, apart from other modes of responses.
The success of any big initiative lies in its implementation plan. The government should chalk out the on-ground implementation plan with clear objectives in mind. It is very easy to divert to access to education, knowing the scale of our country. But if the focus is on quality, the steps need to be pragmatic enough to do justice to the vision. Partnership with private schools will go a long way to address the government verses private debate. We all need to join hands for the betterment of education in this country. Transparency and mutual trust will automatically result in the success of such a massive initiative.