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Adapting to technology driven learning

– Vinod Malhotra, chairman, Academic Council, Saamarthya Teachers Training Academy of Research ( STTAR ).

The phrase “Technology-driven education” has acquired a ubiquitous status today. Suddenly, online delivery of classes, assignments, assessments and extra-curricular activities have become buzzwords amongst all stakeholders of the education landscape. A good look at the entire ecosystem of education reveals that this is not a new or a novel paradigm. It always existed in a variety of formats such as distance learning which was leveraged by several institutions,  including higher education, for those who either wanted to add another degree, pursue a postgraduate specialisation or were simultaneously engaged in another occupation.

The global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic combined with its unrelenting impact in all areas of human endeavour, has indeed forced all nations to transmigrate to a system that allows all activities to achieve a near normal status.  Technology does provide the answer. The mandates and rigour of social distancing ensure that physical contact between humans is limited. So the only viable way to stay connected with each other is virtually.

Living in the virtual realm has become the norm, at least during the past six months, for most of us. Future seems uncertain, atleast till there is a significant breakthrough in the development of the most cost-effective vaccine and a durable cure for this deadly virus.

We need to analyse the situation, and evolve a consensus on the measures that need to be taken to drive education in an unhindered manner. Surely, this cannot wait and the problem is further compounded by the fact, that every year the number of aspirants seeking formal education is on the rise.

Technology has reinvented itself to the changing needs of delivering education, with diverse and a broad-basedcontent on a remote methodology.We have seen proliferation of some very robust and smart platforms, that facilitate a seamless and an interactive ways of establishing connect between the school and the students.

It is indeed heartening to note that several schools especially in the urban conglomerates, have taken up on-line teaching with remarkable ease like a fish to the water, after a few initial hiccups. But these are early days and we must wait for the final verdict on the long-term suitability of this model of teaching. Already, some voices of concern are being heard from the parents, social activists and even teachers about both the physical and emotional strain the new paradigm is causing. We have to take note of that and take appropriate corrective measure before it is too late.

Another important area that all educationist, managements and other stakeholders need to reflect upon, pertains to the quality of education, assessment and a whole lot of other scholastic and co-scholastic activities children used to remain engaged in while at school. Home environment, however warm and loving it may be, cannot be a substitute to the learning that takes place in a school.

Let us go back to the education practices of ancient times. If home was the right place for education, Kings and Emperors of the yore would not have sent their wards to Ashrams and Gurukuls. The rich people today, would have opted for getting the best coaches in all subjects for their children at home. That did not happen during earlier days and is not happening now. There is something about an organized school system, the open grounds, away from the disapproving eyes of the parents, discipline, peer connect, sports, music, dance, annual events, parties that hold an inexplicable fascination for the children and also ensures sound learning.

We will therefore have to devise and create a middle ground. Without sacrificing the imperatives of security and health issues, we will have to allow a hybrid system to evolve that continues to get students on a selective and rotational basis to the school, and complement their studies through home assignment, project work and access to some high quality links on a variety of subjects.

We are also witnessing a perceptible shift in the Indian Education paradigm, from rote learning to project-based learning that is practical and hands on. Experimentations, laboratories, Libraries and similar facilities in a school system shall have to reorient themselves to be delivered and shared in an experiential mode.

In this context, it is extremely important that our teaching community is sensitised and trained regularly to adapt to the needs and challenges of the online learning ecosystem. In a continuously evolving situation, solutions will be found and many new challenges will also emerge. It is therefore absolutely essential that we create training and research institutions that continue to address these needs, and adequately equip teachers to adapt, and deliver quality education. Saamarthya Teachers Training Academy of Research (STTAR), a training institute of repute, was founded essentially with this objective. In a short period of its existence, it has delivered some top quality training modules that have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Its website can be visited for further information.

The education sector is dynamic, ever evolving, and so is technology. The two will need to continue to adapt and match each other’s requirements. Stakeholders of the education system will have to project the demand, and technology will have to provide acceptable and sustainable solutions.

This is the best way forward.

Also read: MHRD issues guidelines for online classes by schools

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