Technology and Learner Centric Education

As an educational professional my greatest regret is that not much of technology and the media are being used for education today. In fact, from the earlier days of our educational scenario, it was only the chalk which dominated proceedings complemented with talk, much of which students found boring much to the chagrin of the teachers. The teacher had a veritable image of the omniscient author.

When I was a student in the college and the university there was hardly any attempt to take teaching out of the class room. Once I remember one of my class mates requesting the teacher to take classes outside, in the lawns of the campus, and he replied: 'let me get used to the idea!' This shows that teachers did not want any change, nor were they capable of innovation.

The B.Ed courses which taught about using charts and flow charts in the class room remained in a confined pedagogy of books and lectures. Teachers did not think of getting feedback from students by way of questionaires or asking questions and requesting students to respond to them in a construct of formats etc. It was just plain class room talking, and no multitasking such as using different patterns, like quiz, discussion or debate.

One such opportunity to implement these ideas could have been in the boring Moral Science Lessons. I never learnt why morals was a science and how science was a moral! Here I recollect how a teacher when I was a student in St. Edmund’s School Shillong used the tape recorder or the music system by making us listen to recorded versions of a text. He was surely a progenitor of Distance and Open Education! Then again with the advent of new technology such as overhead projectors devices were hardly used profitably. They came to be used only in seminars where a gloating author would wax eloquent about his materpiece - the paper that he wrote.

All this time mind you, the radio was a repository of not only entertainment but also of education. But the school broadcasts, that is radio lessons meant for school children were invariably aired at a time when the students were in the class rooms. No one had the gumption to think that these lessons could have been broadcast when the students were in their homes, or not in the class rooms. So the hapless students had to fall back upon the Binaca Geetmala for entertainment.

The point that I am trying to make is that creative and innovative use of technology is entertainment, a mix of education and entertainment; which we call 'edutainment' today. Then, followed the UGC lectures telecast by Doordarshan; but more often than not, they were simulations of class room lecturing and not creative expressions of thinking out of the box. They turned out to be vapid lectures delivered by some renowned people. Technology was being wasted.

Thanks to the Open University System however pedagogy became more filtered and usable. The combine of the radio the television and the computer has come into great use for benefit of the working and the adult learner, but in conventional education there must be a more systemic use of the same via emails, chat, skype etc. Even social networking sites can be a worthy method, but unfortunately, both the young and the old tend to use them casually, if not actually abuse them.

My plea is that education is intrinsically technology related and the more we use it including the mobile phone the more are we on the path of massifying education. Integration of technologies (computer, radio, internet etc) can further lead to more effective dissemination of knowledge.

For example the computer is a compendium of resources. Similarly this is the case with the mobile technology. They provide for interactive interaction via the email / chat, computer broadcasting (podcasting), audio video conferencing, text chat, voice chat etc. Interaction between teacher and taught can be both synchronous and asynchronous ie, in real time simultaneously or may not be time specific. Again, optimum use of open and free software sources will help students and teachers alike to download material to their liking, free of cost. This cost effective means of education is access and equity of opportunities.

There are many online sites and journals which allows this. Teachers must guide themselves and the learners in this endeavour. The Wikipedia is a classic example of Free and Open [Source Knowledge]. Technoligizing education is the need of the hour, and radicalising the optimum use of technology for education is a must, where the spirit of ‘pleasure’ and learning co-exist. This can start from school onwards to higher education, investing the experience of education with learner autonomy, continuity and contiguity. Further, interactive discussion boards, group interaction, giving responses individually make the entire experience of education, exciting and learner centred, as opposed to a teacher centric form of pedagogy.

While technology in the form of the LCD Projector etc is being used in the class room there must be more judicious combination of online and offline technology so that the classroom situation is an extended experience, and is in the final analysis more pleasurable and holistic. Studying at home, place (work place) and pace. The ramifications are there to see – there is a multiplicity, divergence and convergence of ‘class room’ pedagogy. Also, use of multitasking devices such as the moodle which uses different formats such as quiz, discussion, lectures etc is a composite way of looking at education.

In this article above, in the first few paragraphs I mentioned how this was lacking in the traditional classroom during my generation. Further, even without technology this could have been experimented with more vigorously in school, college or the university. However, now technology simulates the classroom and uses the moodle in a multitasking format as an expression of creative pedagogy. There are many websites which use such a method simulating the classroom and having ‘lecture halls’, ‘lounge’ etc. This at its best retains the traditional modus operandi of the conventional classroom yet blending it with new technologies.

(This article was first published in Free Press Journal, Mumbai)


More by :  Ananya S Guha

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