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Tablets as panacea for schools

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dl-tabletsRecognizing the potential of tablets in education, the new age technologies have become an important part of classroom curricula. Sadhna Pandey, Principal, Chiranjiv Bharati School, Lucknow shares her view on the changing phase of education with Elets News Network.

How important do you think is a tablet for the curriculum in your school?

Tablets have become a common phenomenon in the digital education today. The reasons to use tablets in the 21st Century Classroom are many:

1. Digital Access to Art

In a subject like art, people might think, “How could a tablet be useful? Isn’t it about organic materials?” It is, but what about an app that helps with color matching and combination, or tools for interior design where the child can map out their project in concept before getting to work? Of course, there are fantastic drawing apps as well, and students can use a stylus for more precision. When they are done, they can share in galleries with other students for critique and encouragement.

2. Video Connections

Classrooms are their own little society and for years, teachers have aimed to broaden horizons through pen pal programs and field trips. With video chat as a standard feature on most tablets, students can watch a veterinarian perform surgery or have a Google+ hangout with a class halfway across the world.

It is an affordable way to see the world without having to actually leave the room.

3. Easy-to-Create Presentations

Gone are the days of PowerPoint presentations with little lasers. Now, tablets have fantastic apps that can be used to do real-time drawing, writing, and animation during a presentation. Students can circle, highlight, or write in points as they present their latest research or findings. When they are done, the presentation is saved and can be emailed to the teacher for grading.

4. Interactive History

History can be a difficult subject for young children who are notoriously stationed in the present day. However tablets can bring to life ancient civilizations through interactive ebooks, videos, and even games that outline the trials and hardships of the people who’ve gone before us.

5. Diverse Forms of Writing

Blogs are a great way to get students interested in writing.

The act of putting words on paper can be lonely and tedious, but with real-time responses and comments, it triggers motivation for some children. Rather than writing a book report that will get thrown into the recycling bin at home, have them journal and blog about the book they are reading, inviting feedback from their classmates.

Is a tablet the only way for the schools to help their students understand the concepts better?

The digitization of the classroom involves a paradigm shift in education. It is more than simply introducing new technology and software into the classroom. It involves a complete re-visioning of teaching and learning from the role of the teacher as facilitator and curator of knowledge to pedagogies and the learner as an independent, self-reliant but collaborative maker of meaning.

Successful technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is:

  • Routine and transparent
  • Accessible and readily available for the task at hand
  • Supporting the curricular goals, and helping the students to effectively reach their goals

What can a tablet, e-Book and e-Content not do?

Proponents of tablets say that they are supported by most teachers and students, are much lighter than print textbooks, and improve standardized test scores. They say that tablets can hold hundreds of textbooks, save the environment by lowering the amount of printing, increase student interactivity and creativity, and that digital textbooks are cheaper than print textbooks.

They also believe that they are expensive, distracting students, easy to break, and costly/time-consuming to fix. They say that tablets contribute to eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision, increase the excuses available for students not doing their homework, require costly Wi-Fi networks, and become quickly outdated as new technologies are released.

How do you evaluate, assess a tablet before selecting it for the curriculum in your school?

While evaluating  a curriculum we look into the  integration with the use of technology  which should involve the infusion of technology as a tool to enhance the learning in a content area or multidisciplinary setting. The focus in each lesson or unit should be the curriculum outcome, not the technology.

Introduction of digital tools into the classrooms has brought the narratives alive. The traditional tools of teaching are slowly losing their relevance. Do you see any inherent contradiction between the two?

Integrating technology with standard curriculum can give students a sense of power, but also allows for more advanced learning among broad topics. However, these technologies require infrastructure, continual maintenance and repair – one determining element, among many, in how these technologies can be used for curriculum purposes and whether or not they will be successful.Examples of the infrastructure required to operate and support technology integration in schools include at the basic level electricity, Internet service providers, routers, modems, and personnel to maintain the network, beyond the initial cost of the hardware and software.

Technology integration alongside standard education curriculum can provide tools for advanced learning among a broad range of topics. Integration of information and communication technology is often closely monitored and evaluated due to the current climate of accountability, outcome based education, and standardization in assessment.

Technology integration can in some instances be problematic. A high ratio of students to technological device has been shown to impede or slow learning and task completion. In some, instances dyadic peer interaction centered around integrated technology has proven to develop a more cooperative sense of social relations.

Success or failure of technology integration is largely dependent on factors beyond the technology. The availability of appropriate software for the technology being integrated is also problematic in terms of software accessibility to students and educators. Another issue identified with technology integration is the lack of long-range planning for these tools within the educative districts they are being used.

Must the e-content be regulated? There are equally good reasons for both in favour and against. What is your take?

E-learning has launched to incorporate in developing countries and is believed to have huge potential to meet growing demand for education while facing shortage of teachers. E-learning can be seen as a tool for raising the number of students who have access to higher education, especially groups in rural areas. In spite of e-learning advantages and goals, challenges are plentiful:

  • In many developing countries there is a lack of vital e-learning components such as computers, electricity and skills; the active, participative student that is required for interactive learning is also very rare in countries where the tradition is to teach in a more traditional way.
  • The introduction of IT to government institutions in developing countries bears a great deal of risk of failure. The lack of qualified personnel, lack of financial support and the lack of planning and proper justification are just few of the causes of projects failure.
  • In some ways, most technologies are designed and deployed in a developed country context and thus have a number of limitations when trying to implement in a developing country. Additionally, many developing countries still don’t have many specialists in ICT in education and rely mainly on the precious few of enthusiastic, over-worked,pioneering teachers to drive change in their schools.

Do you think that e-learning runs the risk of over exposure and doing more harm than good in the end?

If e-learning is properly integrated in the curriculum it shall work wonders for school education.

The massive open online courses (MOOCS) have brought closer the dream of digital equality in our country. However, the shallow internet density in our country is making a crisis out of an opportunity. How do you think can the Government come to seize upon the opportunity?

A number of plans can be developed to guide the pursuit of objectives:

• A plan for electronic government (system, virtual network, law and security)

• A plan for promoting ICT application in education and expanding digital skills in Iran’s manpower

• A plan for expanding ICT in higher education

• A plan for expanding ICT in health, treatment and medical education

• A plan for expanding ICT in economy, commerce and trade

• A plan for expanding the culture and knowledge of ICT and for strengthening the Persian script and language in the computer environment

• A plan for expanding active SME in ICT by creating growth centers and ICT parks.

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