Teaching and Learning – Some Reflections

Teaching learning concepts are getting de strategized today. In fact there are cultural shifts, and the broad changes that are taking place, are in classroom contexts. The class room is being redefined, because of the use of technology for teaching, and its compulsions. Both the Central and State Governments are talking of e-everything.

Teaching is essentially creative, its impulses, its mannerisms and its intuitions can generate creativity. But the focus must be on the learner to make teaching more learner friendly and learner centric.
While technological interventions in teaching must be welcomed, as I stated before in these columns, what we must look at objectively, are realities and the availability of technology, both at home and in the interior areas. Coupled with the fact that even the bigger towns face acute electricity crisis in some states, one shudders to think of what is happening in the villages. And moreover, internet connectivity cannot be taken for granted even in the small towns and in the interior places.

In a state like Meghalaya where I live, apart from the capital city of Shillong, even the district headquarters are at best very small towns and semi urban or rural in nature. If internet connectivity is there it can be very poor. I heard someone speaking the other day that in the capital town of Aizawl in Mizoram internet connectivity is very weak.

The question is that, with all the talk of e-learning and SMART classrooms the whole predicament is in the teacher student ratio and how we can convert traditional teaching and learning into more technological and user friendly methods. However, if technology is missing or, if it is disruptive because of circumstances beyond control, such as the unavailability of electricity or electrification, I wonder how we can talk about such highfalutin things.

When I write gloriously of e-learning and wax eloquent about it, at the back of my mind are assumptions: of accessibility of computers, internet connection and keeping cities in mind. But the heart of India is rural, where in the villages the teacher plays truant and teacher absenteeism is very high. In fact, the high rate of student teacher ratio can be taken care of by technology. Yet with all this talk about e-learning and mobile learning we are still to utilize more ancient forms of technology such as the radio, which has become a powerful medium of instruction today because of the popularity of FM Stations.

Education and entertainment can be combined both in the rural and urban areas and the potential of community radio has to be explored more vigorously. I however, feel that the radio should be used for school and college broadcasts regularly like IGNOU's Gyan Vani Stations, in fact, the latter can supplement the former and vice versa.

Secondly, the television can be used in a similar manner through its local and regional units. Here too, the national educational channel the Gyan Darshan can be used as a supplementary or complementary device. Run by IGNOU this national educational channel continues 24 X 7 with a consortium of organizations such as UGC, NCERT, AICTE, IITs, IGNOU etc all being involved in imparting information and knowledge in different areas of expertise and human resources. But entertainment channels have captivated parents, students and teachers and the Gyan Darshan which is a very profitable source of education and training seems like a white elephant. However, it is not.

Over a decade back IGNOU was offering cable operators in Shillong free dish antenna to air the Gyan Darshan Channels which private cable operators willingly accepted; but the entire exercise petered out. This is not only sad, but a waste of resources and money and only, government intervention can help in these matters of crucial interest.

Reverting to the changing contexts of the classroom there must be innovation either by using LCD projectors or overhead projectors in the classroom to extend it and make it more creative. Gone are the days of chalk and talk, the teacher must pursue the interest for teaching based on innovation and creativity.

The first and simplest way of doing this would be through the radio, where lessons can be broadcast or, IGNOU's Gyan Vani stations in different parts of the country can be used profitably for learning exercises. Such a thing should be done with compulsion. We must use technology as per the level of availability and requirement. In places where we can integrate the radio, the television, the computer and the mobile telephony then let be it so.

We must remember that while talking about e-learning we cannot make comparable models with the advanced western countries. There is a big hiatus between the developed and developing nations in terms of population, technological advancement and the entire ethos and order of technology which is well facilitated; because of the lack of destructive forces, better conditions in the developed nations. Whatever paradigms we use we must fall back upon old traditions such as the radio and the television and integrate them with modernist influences and typologies of e-learning which is, electronic learning; and is inclusive of all forms of technology including the radio and, even the printed study material which distance education institutions use.

What is happening in the villages is abysmal in states like those in Central India or for that matter North East India where I live. We must set our house in order first and look at education at perceptual levels beginning from school education onwards. Even nursery and pre-nursery education can be areas where great deal of experimentation can be taken to understand a child’s basic interests which, in future could be his or her spring board of creativity.

Teaching is essentially creative, its impulses, its mannerisms and its intuitions can generate creativity. But the focus must be on the learner to make teaching more learner friendly and learner centric. Such a cultural shift can be achieved if the teacher is also a learner and there is shared knowledge between the teacher and the taught. If a teacher has an innovative model or a very interesting research paper, these must be shared with the students in a simplified manner. Then only does teaching and research become more involved and far reaching.

Can we have the temerity to do this?


More by :  Ananya S Guha

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