Tryst with ICTs
June 2007

Tryst with ICTs

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  1. Vishwa Bharati Women’s Welfare Society was formed in 1951, in Srinagar, Kashmir, when some concerned members of the society came together and resolved to dedicate their services towards nation building through uplifting of the status of Women in the post Independent India. Starting from a one room cottage today the Society is successfully running a chain of institutions in different parts of the country. Vishwa Bharati Public School, Noida was started in 1988 and since then has grown to become one of the most reputed schools in NOIDA. Rashmi Kakroo  (rashmikakroo@rediffmail.com), the Headmistress of the middle school, shares more about the school engagements with ICTs.

Schools have often had a love-hate relationship with the use of ICTs, though things are changing even as I write this. The Central Board of School Education, India has made it mandatory for schools to have computer education taught in classes. The pattern of assessment has also seen a drastic change, with no exams but a system of continual assessment till 9th grade. These decisions coupled with the fact that everyone is understanding the importance and the ease of using ICTs, the school has adopted innovative ICT practices and tools to get teachers and students alike acquainted with such usage and more importantly to make things simple!

ICTs in academics…

All this started really with a small computer lab, where BASIC was the only language taught. As the curriculum allowed for further computer education to be introduced, several computer labs and courses were initiated. The school boasts of computer labs for pre-primary, primary, middle and senior school students. Several courses are taught and students are encouraged to use computers for their regular assignments as well. The assessment system has also brought in new type of report cards, wherein the student performance is gauged periodically, and computerised graphs are used to show progress of the student individually or with respect to other students in the class. This helps parents also to monitor the progress chart of their children closely.  Capacity building of the staff as well as the students for these processes is also ensured. Apart from this the whole school has LAN connectivity with every class being connected to the main server. A central announcement system has been installed to pass on the necessary information to all students and staff at any given point of the day

Going on the Web…

The school recently also got a website – www.vbps.info which though still in the nascent stages, has been made in-house and would simplify a lot of procedures by making genera; information, application forms, syllabi, etc. available for students and teachers online. Though, most of the school’s staff tends to believe that the manual system works fine, they also agree that the website does have the potential to change things- making them efficient and easy to use. Net connectivity is available at certain a number of systems in the school, though students are given little or restricted access to the Internet within school. This is mainly due to the surge in the number of students spending time on social networking sites and downloading materials which are far from academic. An attempt has been made to provide enough offline materials to students to work with.

For the teacher was talking too…

An innovative use of ICT has been seen in the usage of finger print identification for marking teacher’s attendance in the school. Like several software companies, the teachers have to mark their attendance by putting their finger across a system, which recognises them and marks the time of their attendance. This system makes sure that if a teacher is late, the accurate time recorded notices that, and the teacher can be marked absent. Punctuality has seen a drastic improvement and it has been noticed that teachers tend to spend less time talking to each other; often, they are seen rushing to their classes!

In the pipeline…

The school is planning to change the classrooms into smart classes wherein plasma screens will be installed and computer-aided education will be imparted to students. This would be a follow up on the connectivity, which has been brought to every class. A study centre will also be established wherein the teachers will work on the study material for the smart classes will be developed.

Things-they-are-a-changing…

The world’s changing with the Internet boom and the sudden inflow of knowledge which was initially thought of being erudite or for people of a higher stature. Things which were so difficult and out of reach are now taken as matter-of-fact. The changes in students who are exposed to all this are also tremendous. Though, all the knowledge and new technologies have also resulted in some common cases of improper usage on the part of the school community. Thus all this, has to be taken with a pinch of salt and a bit of caution. On the positive front though, things have become easy and the school community definitely more knowledgeable. Things seemingly common only for tech-savvy people are now normal for everyone around. Things have changed, sometimes making it tough to believe that this is the same school which I joined thirty years back!

Teaching Science with ICT

Most of the students today are found to be lacking in creativity, analytical and critical thinking, as the traditional approaches do not encourage students for analytical and critical thinking. Evidence from a number of disciplines suggests that oral presentations to large groups of passive students contribute very little to real learning. In physics, standard lectures do not help most students to develop conceptual understanding of fundamental processes such as electromagnetism, mechanics, etc.

It is difficult to imagine learning about science without practical demonstration. Labs are wonderful settings for teaching and learning science. They provide opportunities to the students to think about, discuss, and solve real problems. ICT (Information Communication Technology) can be used to enhance teaching and learning in the school curriculum. It refers to the use of a wide range of computer workstations and display facilities, software, specialist hardware, still and animated images, graphic calculators, etc.

Students can access a large range of information that included assessment materials from CD-ROMs, from the Internet and from resources prepared by their teachers. They can use these materials to carry out and test how well they understood, and could visualise a number of key scientific ideas. Using ICT, students could archive a high levels of motivation. This motivation provides a climate in raising students’ attainment in coursework. ICT can be an essential part of teaching, which improves students’ understanding of subject. Using ICT, students can simulate experiments and visualise the processes, which are otherwise abstract. Used as a follow-up to a real experiment, ICT is a great step forward in the teaching of science. It is amazing how many different experiments can be tried in a short span of time. There are some experiments, which, are too dangerous for pupils and yet they really ought to do, e.g. in Acid-Base Titration, they can experiment with a wide range of acids and bases more efficiently using ICT. Students’ achievement in a number of aspects of physics and mathematics can be promoted with the effective use of ICT. For example, diffraction, interference, beats and the Doppler effect, hard to demonstrate on blackboard, become so easy using multimedia animations. Similarly ICT grabs students’ attention in Biology for understanding some abstract concepts of cell biology and biomedical techniques.

Physics can be more innovative using multimedia as well as real life problems. Physics is a highly visual subject, and many concepts of physics can be best covered graphically. Figures do far more than algebra-based physics- often the graphics bear the main burden of the description. For example, in physics certain microscopic phenomenon such as double slit experiment for interference in which due to variation in wavelength the fringe width also varies, physically, it doesn’t seem feasible to represent this process in the class room but multimedia based teaching can show it more effectively.

Multimedia based physics teaching develops the interest of the students in the subject and help them to imagine a world governed by the fundamental laws of physics. Einstein has mentioned, “Imagination is more important than the knowledge”.

One of the most common methods to learn is by comparing and contrasting. Learning of diffraction, another important phenomenon, which is generally given with black and white image, can be more effective by using colour images.

Since physics applies to everything in nature, so it is quite reasonable to point out the applications of physics with the real world. Angle of a talus slope is determined with the help of static friction, ultrasound as an application of sound waves; water drops can be used as convex lens, thermograms, i.e., photographs made with infrared radiations, provides a useful method for measuring temperature as warm portion appears reddish whereas cold portion appears bluish.

Chemistry is the subject in which students try to understand natural phenomena systematically. Students often develop scientific understandings as a result of self-observations but this approach is problematic when the phenomena are unable to observe directly. Molecular phenomena are mainly shown in 2-dimension, but that can be explained more effectively by providing 3-dimensional view using multimedia. Multimedia-based chemistry teaching can help students to overcome the difficulties in understanding chemical phenomena.

Biology is the study of all spheres of life, related to our body and our surrounding. It is difficult to observe many biological processes such as internal structure of leaf, circulation of blood and DNA structure in the classroom scenario, but multimedia allows the students to observe these experiments in action.

With the continuously developed and improved web-based resources, teachers will have an opportunity to produce tailor made resources, at no cost, which will match the curriculum and the needs of the students. The resource can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Make the learning experience more interactive
  • Permit ‘virtual science’ experiments to be carried out in interactive Internet sessions
  • Allow teachers to freely share resources with colleagues and students at other institutions
  • Create more opportunities for students to learn independently
  • Make course documentation freely available to students and their parents
  • Explore, describe and explain number patterns
  • Apply and Practice number of interactive exercises to assess and consolidate their knowledge
  • Develop their vocabulary, logical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Provide opportunities for students and ex-students to contribute directly (by producing web pages) and therefore to feel some sense of ownership and involvement
  • Develop their ability to think flexibly and innovativelySupport educational management more effectively.

ICT is not just about computers, it includes using tape recorders and video and digital cameras, these resources will prove invaluable in teaching and learning. For students with major physical impairments, severe dyslexia or impaired cognitive development, an on-screen grid can help them to communicate better. Having auditory feedback where the word processor ‘speaks’ each letter or word can enable improved access for many students. Development of information technology in education can be utilised in an exciting way to enhance teaching methodology and to move towards the familiar future from the remote past. Moreover, ICT provides professional and personal growth to the teachers.

Learning Curves

Free tool to create animations

Scratch is a new programming tool that allows anyone to create their own animated stories, video games and interactive artworks has been developed. Primarily aimed at children, Scratch does not require prior knowledge of complex computer languages. Instead, it uses a simple graphical interface that allows programs to be assembled like building blocks. The digital toolkit, developed in the US at MIT’s Media Lab, allows people to blend images, sound and video. Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, with financial support from the National Science Foundation, Intel Foundation, and MIT Media Lab research consortia. Scratch is now available to download for free and works with both Apple Macs and Windows PCs. A version of the tool is also currently being developed for the XO laptop, designed by the One Laptop Per Child Project. It is free to download from: http://scratch.mit.edu/download

Star rating for Malaysian school ICT usage

The Information Communication Technology (ICT) division of the Education Ministry in Malaysia will grade government schools on their usage of ICT with a star rating system similar to hotels.
Five-star rating would be accorded to schools where students used 80% of the computers and equipment installed during curriculum and extra-curricular activities. This is one approach of the division to measure the effectiveness of ICT in schools.

Out-of-school youths can still get high school diplomas

Four agencies opened the “E-Skewela: Ang Kwelang Eskwela Training Center” at the Tejero Elementary School to give out-of-school youths in Philippines a second chance at getting a high school diploma. E-Skwela is a project to bring technology to out-of-school youths as a way of intervening the vicious cycle of poverty. The E-Skwela training center in Tejero is the fourth in the country and the first in the region. Other E-Skwela training centers could be found in Cagayan de Oro City, Quezon City, and Bulacan. There are 20 computers with headsets at the E-Skwela Center in Tejero. The center caters to out-of-school youths and adults in four barangays but the people in other places can still enroll as long as they are out-of-school, regardless of their age. Screening of students, supervising the center, and overseeing the students’ performances will be done rigorously by DepEd personnel.

Tech-voc education in 140 Philippine schools

The Department of Education is set to implement technical-vocational education in selected 140 technical-vocational and trade schools in Philippines starting this coming school year. The strengthened technical-vocational education programme is a competency-based high school curricula for 18 priority subject areas jointly developed by the DepEd and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). In connection with this, some 1,539 Technical Vocational Teachers (TVE) in the country are now participating in a three-week related training being conducted at various regional training centers of TESDA starting last May 21 to June 8. By school year 2009-2010, the DepEd expects that the number of tech-voc schools in the country implementing this strengthened tech-voc education programme will increase to about 261 tech-voc schools.

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