For generations, education has been imparted in an instructor-led format for school students. The teacher being the centre point inside the four walls of the classroom and leading the dissemination of learning. This scenario started changing at the advent of the century with digital content getting inside the classrooms and Smart Whiteboards replacing blackboards & chalks. However, the COVID-19 pandemic really charged up the entire K-12 education driven by innovative EdTech solutions leveraging low-cost internet in India.
- Innovation: Be it hybrid, virtual or a physical classroom, innovation is the key to any technological evolution in education. The tool, programme and function will be created by tech experts but bringing it to life need a creative exploration aided by educationists. This expression of the technology determines its quality.
- Adult-scaffolding: Education enabled through technology needs adult supervision. The role of this adult in steering the efforts of the learner in a positive and fruitful direction using technology is prominent in measuring its success.
- Sensory learning: Is technology integrated only with audio and visual learning? If the answer is yes, it definitely lacks subject matter expertise. A technology driven lesson ensures that while the reception of information happens through an audio-visual mode its retention and comprehension engage the cognitive and behaviour skills.
- Affordability: In a country like ours, gadgets, and internet availability is also witnessing a revolution owing to Ed-tech. So, while the issues arising fiscally do impact its overall progress, a lot of free online learning tools have been created to combat these concerns.
Smart classrooms with digital content helped in bringing abstract concepts to life & ensured learning became fun & interactive thereby addressing partially addressing the Quality of the learning process alongside standardizing the teaching. In addition, technology ensured a level playing field to schools in Tier 2, 3 4 & beyond. Interactive learning addressed last quality teachers in these cities.
Two aspects of the K-12 education that saw disruption the most are Test Prep & Digital Literacy.
Test Prep: Test Prep for IITJEE & NEET was limited to hubs like Kota or metros cities with parents pouring their hard-earned life savings in enrolling these kids for the same. The preparation itself was driven by select ACE faculties in classrooms by chalk & talk method. EdTech thru online learning, performance tracking & continuous assessment has democratized the sector. The best of the faculties is not able to beam themselves onto thousands of screens of students in real time. Kids in every nook & corner of the country can learn without having to travel hundreds of kilometres. The costs in most cases are down by 1/10th.
Digital Literacy: EdTech has ushered in now needed skills & knowledge to the K-12 student population by introducing concepts like Coding, Robotics, STEM & Space exploration.
Each of these & more will help our current generation of kids adapt faster to the changing job market dynamics
As smart as they may sound the smart boards need an eco-system with several mandates to be useful. Even IT labs and educational apps comes with their pre-requisites. While a smartphone no more is luxury, its versions that find their way to each household have substantially been a great asset. In the initial phase mentors and students both struggled to get the act together. With time one could witness digital learning, be it interactive, recorded vidoes or even reading material reaching every home.
- Access: While digital innovations have come into play, not all schools support the infrastructure that is required to implement the programme. Logistic conditions in schools of India are very erratic. From basics like steady wall panels to physically hold the equipment to more advanced requirements like a smooth internet connection or virus-safe systems have been some challenges in several educational establishments. If one was to look at the scenario in the absence of these owing to COVID-schools moving to home have not been any better. A shared device or a weak network poses a hindrance under any circumstance. We cannot forget that its not just students that have moved the digital way but even the workforce globally. So, implying this to an average household with gadgets being shared and internet bandwidth getting choked the delivery of the lessons is there, but not seamless.
- Awareness: While technology has advanced, lack of its ‘know-how’ has deterred its execution. The empowerment required to equip the masses has not been prevalent. While techniques and strategies to efficiently use tech-tools for education have existed, the beneficiaries and users have not been adequately trained. Lack of training amongst teachers has contributed towards slowing the success of these advancements.
Having said these bits, Edtech still needs to do far more to address gaping holes in the learning outcomes. A larger focus on Test Prep & Digital Literacy with increased VC investments has led to a skewed development across kids.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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