Learning in the DIGITAL AGE

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In the times of digitisation, it is imperative for schools and educational institutions to impart new-age learning that can change face of the sector through innovative solutions, feels Sudha Gupta, Chairperson, Presidium School

Sudha Gupta, Chairperson, Presidium School

Sudha Gupta,
Chairperson, Presidium School

Recently, at an examination for admission to graduate schools in the US, the examiner announced that students can seek help in writing their name on the answer sheet. (The Q&A was objective type, and only required them to tick the answers.) The reason? At least some of the students present were not used to putting pen to paper, and had to struggle even to write their name.

Some schools abroad have the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy that lets children bring their tablets, phones and laptops to school. In parts of the developed world, books, pen and paper have already become obsolete in schools.

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Keeping Pace

Teaching and learning are fast adapting to changing technologies, and educational institutions are keeping pace. However, many educationists in India view digital technology as a threat to students, and are reluctant to embrace it. Today, every aspect of the real world has gone digital, and it is but natural that education too should follow suit. Research has already established that interactive learning boosts retention rates and exam results. True, it raises concerns about safety and security, but the merits of digital learning far outweigh the possible risks.

At Presidium, we follow the experiential learning method – as opposed to rote learning – as this helps children understand concepts better and apply what they have learnt in real life situations. Children learn by doing, and this makes learning joyful, as they learn how to apply their knowledge. We also noticed that when children are engaged with and find interest in the process of learning, they learn without even realizing that they are actively learning.

Nuances of Digitisation

While advocating digital learning, it should be noted that today most children who enter school are tech savvy, and at home with digitalSchool technology. Most of them already have a tablet, an email account and are app savvy too.

Digital technology would certainly give experiential learning a boost. It would easily provide educational experiences tailor-made for each student. As we already know, individualized learning solutions help students perform better. For instance, student A might learn better by watching an instructive video while student B grasps things faster by solving an online puzzle. It also makes subjects far more interesting. Whether one is teaching physics or literature, engagement and interactivity keeps the pupil’s mind from wandering. Further teachers are able to monitor individual progress better.

Digital learning is not about merely transferring traditional lessons onto digital screens. Neither is it just virtual classes, e-lectures and web conferences. It’s about enhancing learning making full use of technology.

For this, we may have to not only relook at the tools we employ, but the overall approach as well. How effective can a test of retention be when students have ready access to search engines? The focus, therefore, should shift from mere knowledge downloads, to applying what one has learned.

Further, the exercises, case studies and examples have to be attuned to the sensibilities of the digital generation, and something they can relate to. This calls for not mere cosmetic changes but a paradigm shift in how education is imparted.

Impart e-learning

While it would be unfair to compare the standards of developed nations to our own – India, for instance has an estimated shortage of 2,00,000 schools – it’s time we took at least a few baby steps so that the movement does not passes by us. If, as a nation, we miss the bus, a generation will struggle to catch up with their western counterparts. Today Indians occupy high positions in global organisations, and it is partly because of the high standard of education they once had. Our education system, if it delays adopting digital technology, will be stuck in the chalk and black board era. It is digital technologies that made the world flat; let’s not allow it to tilt to our disadvantage and the advances we have made slide away.

Digital learning tools will also help students prepare better for life after school, particularly those who seek higher education or career opportunities abroad. In fact, they will feel right at home at any part of the world.

It’s time all of us – educationists, schools, academicians, and the government – opened our eyes to the potential and possibilities of digital learning. It’s a revolution whose time has come.

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