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Reinventing teaching can reform education

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Pedagogies become obsolete when they continue to focus on what’ they teach rather than how’. Indian education has suffered for decades on this score because the purpose of education has never envisaged fostering curiosity and creativity as being critical to education but in knowing facts and information. We teach our kids to memorize but never to understand.

Reinventing teaching can reform education

WHY DO WE TEACH?

Reforming education requires deciding what education is for. I believe that critiquing the way we teach is dependent entirely on knowing why we teach’. A time has come when this why’ itself needs to be questioned and reinvented. In other words, what we need is not doing why’ better but in finding an entirely different why’. This is because the old why is no longer relevant. Consequently, the very purpose of education needs to be rethought. Only then would education reform be revolutionized.

WHERE TO START?

To achieve this, we need to start with the teachers. The shift in mindset that they need to adjust to is that modern technology has provided students and indeed, everyone with exceptional information at the touch of a button. Rather than feel upset with this development, which is, unfortunately, the case at present with most teachers, they need to learn how they might recraft their pedagogy from information dissemination to learning and processing of information.

If we fail to do this, we would continue to harbour irrelevant teachers and consequently, an archaic education system.

This imperative shift in pedagogy needs to recognize that today’s market place requires its employees creative and critical thinking and in making complex decisions. Indeed, even classrooms have started changing. I am not speaking only of the introduction of smart boards but the way modern classrooms are currently designed. Mobile and adjustable tables and seats have replaced the earlier fixed seats where students sat in a row and the teacher was the sage on the stage. Today’s classrooms are geared towards teamwork and collaborative approach that is aimed at understanding problems before solving them. Students discuss with each other and the teacher acts as the facilitator.

This requires that education responds to dynamic needs because it is a service that is offered to society. It needs to constantly evolve if it is to provide what changing societies require. Yet, for decades, while India has dramatically changed, our education system has remained more or less static. Efforts have been made to tinker with what already exists rather than envisage how it is changed in its entirety. What we need, in other words, is a revolution in education and not just reform.

One of India’s grand challenges is education. As our population grows, the aspiration for a better life would extend from urban to rural India. Indeed, it may well be argued that to empower India, education is the key. Without education, populations would continue to be subjugated and impoverished. Rural India would continue to live under a feudal scourge where the horrific nexus of local politicians, gangsters and the bureaucracy continues as contemporary reality. Rapid urbanization would see the migration of unskilled labour into cities and huge infrastructural demand would see their employment perpetuating substandard construction. Business and industry would never be 21st century because their workforce would be the 19th century.

We are on the cusp of facing disaster unless we revolutionize our education system. This needs to be a national imperative.

posted Feb 8 in General by Chanmony

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I’m going to give you a few words, and I want you to just let images that come to your mind float there for a moment: School. Campus. Student.

Now you probably have some specific images of a schoolhouse, or sprawling university campus, or a child-aged pupil wearing a backpack, chattering away with friends…. in English.

But as you’ll hear today, teachers, administrators, and educational innovators are looking for new mediums, locations, and methods to serve all sorts of students.

We start, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the oldest public, taxpayer-supported elementary school in the country was opened in 1639.

“In the real world, you can’t really tease apart math from English from Social Science from Science. And that sort of integration of content is exactly what we need, too, in our schools as well.”

Those words of wisdom we heard from Tommy Chang, the superintendent of Boston Public Schools, who was brought into BPS 2 years ago.

“I am very proud of our instructional vision, that puts academic rigour side-by-side social and emotional learning, side-by-side what we call culturally and linguistically sustaining practices,” says Chang.

“My own personal story as an immigrant to this country, unfortunately, wasn’t one that was always affirming or always sustaining. So I often say my first day in schools in America, my cultural and linguistic identity began being suppressed.”

Chang says affirming a student’s cultural identity is critical to their success. He pointed to his first day in school as an example of what not to do to new immigrant students. So it’s from this background that Superintendent Chang looks to bolster students and create equal opportunities to ensure children from all backgrounds have access to future careers. He says it’s important to make sure students are getting the academic programming in schools that will help them in the workforce.

“For example, we are creating a pathway in one of our high schools around protective services, so cybersecurity. So what the students are learning in math class would directly apply to what they will actually be doing in terms of cybersecurity.”

Connections between private companies and Boston public schools are already materializing. Superintendent Chang says that the financial company State Street is stepping up to the plate to help make BPS students workforce-ready.

“We are working with State Street here in Boston as part of a large initiative called Boston Wins. And as part of this initiative, young people are going through high school getting the mentoring they need to prepare them for college. But more importantly, they are getting work-based experiences,” says Chang.

“And these companies, because they are so invested, they are willing to actually hire our students coming out of high school and coming out of college.”

State Street is just one of these companies and has committed to hiring 1,000 Boston Public School graduates over the next 5 years.

“Now that’s a company that is putting their money where their mouth is. But if you just think about this work our companies are investing, they understand that their job force’s future is going to be our students. They are so much more willing to redesign what education looks like.”

And when it comes to redesigning, the curriculum is just one step. According to architects Brooke Travis and David Damon of Perkins + Will, classrooms today are already being prepared for the instructional needs of the future.

“Schools were once focused on knowing—now they are focused on doing,” says Brooke, a principal architect at the firm, specializing in K-12 school design. “Schools were once teacher-centered—they are now student-centred. These are great ways to visualize the classroom. Schools were about the individual—now they are about the team.”

Some of these changes have been gradually implemented over the years—like L-shaped classrooms, natural lighting, break-out spaces. But other changes are being made in preparation for the future, where the structure of a classroom might not look quite the same.  

“When you are talking about teacher-centred versus student-centred, you are looking at a traditional stand-up-and-deliver methodology, where the teacher is at the front of the classroom and all the students are in rows,” says Brooke.

“But when you talk about student-centred, the way the classroom design looks is very different, because there is no front of the classroom. Things are done… are more varied. They are more distributed exactly around the classroom.”

What education looks like is also a focus of our next guest, Peter Stokes, Managing Director of the Huron consulting group.

“It’s difficult for institutions to grow when they’re in an urban setting,” says Peter. “And so technology is one way that institutions can start to think about expanding their capacity.”

Stokes attributes the growth of online learners to this fact, emphasizing that “Many of the institutions providing access to online education are urban institutions,” although sometimes online programs emerge with rural campuses, as well, because of the ease of access.

“So the relationship between place and reach has evolved considerably over the last several decades. And for some institutions, there’s been, I think, an assumption that eventually places won’t matter at all and that in the virtual world, the place is not so significant a barrier or an issue. And that virtual presence can do away with concerns about the campus.”

But ease of access isn’t the only reason institutions are developing online programs.

“On the other hand, we do see some very forward-thinking institutions like MIT, who are explicitly thinking about the ways in which education technology can not only expand reach globally but can also inform the experience on campus and the role of place and space, classroom space in the educational process.”

So will online learning make the campus experience moot? Peter says that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

“Out of 20 million students in the U.S. higher education, only about 15% are fully online. So that leaves 85% that are having some kind of either full campus experience or some kind of hybrid, you know campus and online. So there’s no question that the campus experience is still critical.”

But, according to Peter, it’s more critical for some students than others. The same on-campus elements that help an 18–24 year old to mature as an independent adult could keep an older, working student from pursuing a degree.

What about education that takes place outside and off-line?

That’s where Christine Cunningham, founder of Engineering is Elementary, steps in. Christine’s elementary engineering program at the Museum of Science in Boston is just one of many programs facilitating learning outside of the classroom.

“Learning doesn’t stop when the school bell rings or when the school vacation begins,” says Christine. “So we’re really excited that here we can work with students, with teachers, and with their families to create an ecosystem of learning where everybody is constantly thinking about how science and engineering constantly intersect with their lives.”

Christine says one exhibit that teachers, parents, or students can engage in is the Yawkey Charles River exhibit—where the river becomes a platform for learning about engineering and science.

“They might visit science in the park, which is one of our most beloved visits because it’s a playground. And as the kids engage in various activities of the playground, they learn more about the physics and the science underlying that. So exhibits are one way that students can interact while they’re here. They can also engage with programs. And we have a wide range of programs.”

Christine says that the school programs offer a lot of freedom because they can leave the Museum of Science to go out into the community.

“So we have a set of travelling programs that go out every day. The vans leave the museum bright and early, six-thirty, seven-o’clock. And drive to schools all over New England, to bring the museum to the schools. We also bring exhibits to people, schools, and teachers nationwide because they travel. For example, the Pixar Exhibit, which was here a couple years ago, is now on a worldwide tour through at least 2023, so that reaches a lot more students and teachers that way as well.”

Christine says that engineering doesn’t have to wait until kids are in middle or high school to introduce. The principles come very easily to kids—if you can engage them on their level. So she introduced a program called “Wee Engineer.”

“They actually start much younger, building block towers, or beds for their dolly. So we started to think about how we could harness some of those natural instincts, and have kids engaged in activities that would get them thinking a little bit more in the way that engineers would.”

Christine says that a big reason that the Museum of Science sought to develop Wee Engineer is to help children to think about themselves as scientists, mathematicians, and of course, engineers.

So while many institutions look for ways to diversify education delivery, does the brick-and-mortar campus still have a place on the educational landscape?

Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, says he thinks that brick and mortar campuses will continue to be an important part of the post-high school education experience—because it’s also a coming of age experience.

“In that case, they seek a whole living and learning community in which they can redefine themselves. Reinvent themselves. Live with people like them. They want to get out from under their parents’ roof, get out of the town where everyone knows them. They’ve seen the depiction of college, and it looks pretty darn good. Not just the studies, in fact, the things they’re probably thinking about in this case are the parties, and the football games, and the organizations, and the study abroad.”

LeBlanc says that while costs might not make the traditional 4-year college experience feasible for everyone in the future, he doesn’t think it will disappear entirely.

“It’s a remarkable experience. It’s too expensive—I’m not sure we’ll continue to believe that coming of age deserves four years of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we came to a place where we evolve to a three-year residential experience, and the fourth year might be in the work, and we can think about that in other ways.”

“So, I think it will continue for young people coming out of high school. And I would challenge anyone to show me that there is a diminished interest. There is a diminished ability to pay. But people want to send their kids, they worry about their kids off to college.”

So while the classroom is being redefined in a number of ways, most believe that at least some form of physical space will continue to be set aside in the future.

+2 votes

The future classroom needs to be radically different in order to become relevant for the new era of education. Technology will be at the centre of this metamorphosis. When our parents recall their school days, they make no big deal about a makeshift class under a tree. They were used to taking down notes from blackboard on which teachers would write using dusty chalk. With time, chalk and duster were replaced with touchscreens, audio-visual facilities, and the era of digital learning started.

However, the journey will be much more exciting in the next decade. Here are the 5 things that will not be same in the future classrooms:

 

1. Question papers and answer sheets

We have already seen some tests being conducted online. However, as technology becomes more accessible and affordable, it will largely replace pen and paper-based tests.

The rationale is simple. Online tests need lesser logistical arrangements, can be customized for different batches, and evaluated quickly and accurately using artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Imagine the time saved by future high school and 12th aspirants when they receive their board exam results within a week, thanks to online examination. They can plan the future course of their career and do not have to spend months in speculation.

 

2. Practice books

Practice makes a man perfect. All of us have heard (and practiced) it. But technology will change the way students practice.

For instance - Avocado, an app enables students to practice questions from Maths and Science. Using Avocado, student can get customized practice tests, detailed explanation for answers, and review their results with just a few taps.

What makes a digital platform for practice like Avocado unique is the insights based on test results over a period of time. This helps the students understand areas which require intervention from their teacher or parents.

Using Avocado and similar practice solutions, parents and teachers can also track the progress of their wards and make informed decisions to improve speed and accuracy. All these details are available on a smartphone- anytime, anywhere.

 

3. Computer labs

Once upon a time, computers were a rare commodity for Indian students. The weekly computer lab class was their chance to touch, feel, and see this magic box.

However, this is no more the case. With digital revolution, most middle-class families can afford a personal computer.

Moreover, about 337 million smartphones make India world’s second largest smartphone equipped population. Over the next five years, smartphones and tablets will completely transform the look and feel of computer labs in schools.

These labs will follow Bring-Your-Own-Device and Do-It-Yourself approach. Meanwhile, teachers can take the role of mentors.

There will be many innovations that trigger self-learning in computer labs. For example, Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that can teach early age learners the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands-on play.

The Cubetto Playset consists of a friendly robot made of hard-wearing wood, a physical programming board, and a set of colourful coding blocks that make up a programming language you can touch.

 

4. Textbooks

Typically, textbooks are written assuming one-size-fits-all’. The need of the hour is to customize the learning journey for every student based on speed, understanding, and interests. E-books can fill this much-needed gap.

Powered by virtual learning, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, e-books are well suited for supplementing conventional textbooks. Students also appreciate the interactive nature of E-books.

Having said that, textbooks are and will remain an important part of the education system. We will see an amalgamation of both textbooks and e-books going ahead.

 

5. Benches and desks

 

The neat rows of benches are meant to seat students in a way that they focus on the teacher delivering a lecture and demonstrating concepts on the board. But this approach will soon go out of favour.

Future classrooms will have flexible seating arrangement suited for the task that students are working on. The design will also consider comfort of the students.

Standing desks for those who find it hard to focus while sitting, accommodation for physically challenged, collaborative stations for group activities, and moving walls to make the space more adaptable are some classroom design innovations that will become the new normal.

+2 votes

According to a study by KPMG in India and Google in May 2017, Internet and smartphone penetration in India has been growing exponentially, with the number of internet and smartphone users expected to rise to 735 million and 470 million, respectively, by 2021.

The rapidly increasing access to technology has transformed the framework of education, especially in the last decade.

As such, technology is the biggest factor impacting Indian education now, with digital content and classrooms, online assessments and cloud-based platforms augmenting the academic and administrative processes of the K-12 sector.

The dynamic nature of technology development entails drastic changes in the modes of instruction, assessment systems, and even the physical makeup of the classrooms in short intervals of time.

Education becomes a more creative process with innovation in all these areas and evolves to cater to the changing requirements of future citizen and society.

The education landscape of India is changing year by year, but some of the current trends are speculated to continue their impact in the coming years owing to further developments in these fields.

According to Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO at Next Education, India's only end-to-end education solutions provider, integration of technology in education will continue at a fast pace throughout the country, promoted by the formulation of government policies such as the one against overweight school bags.

These moves have facilitated the popularity of new-age pedagogies, empowering students with self-learning abilities through e-learning tools, as well as the adoption of experiential learning solutions for a holistic learning experience.

Experiential learning techniques, the use of artificial intelligence in education, and personalised

learning techniques are some of the major edtech trends which will continue to revolutionise the Indian education system in 2019 as well.

 

Experiential learning techniques

Experiential learning is a method of learning by doing in which learners engage in direct experiences that connect with an area that they intend to develop.

Learners are actively involved in defining problems, asking questions, experimenting, analysing results and constructing meaning.

It blends conceptual learning, hands-on activities, strategic planning, collaborative efforts and self-evaluative measures to foster all-around competence.

Experiential learning is being implemented in India in the form of virtual labs, social media platforms, virtual and augmented reality tools, and gamification of learning.

Virtual and augmented reality helps in creating an immersive, real-life experience in classroom learning via graphical simulations.

Gamification of learning is an effective pedagogy which maximises student motivation and engagement by integrating game elements in learning environments.

Virtual labs are interactive environments for creating and conducting simulated experiments based on real-world phenomena so that students can interact with an experimental apparatus or other activity via a computer interface.

This eliminates the problem of accessibility as well as the lack of physical infrastructures for lab-based learning, especially in science subjects.

Social media can be used as a platform for developing 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, and creativity.

Artificial intelligence and personalised learning

Artificial intelligence is the ability of computers to mimic human cognitive functions such as learning and analysing.

AI has made considerable inroads in various fields of academia across the world, such as administration, learning, tutoring, grading, and assessments, and India, as one of the leading developing nations, is no exception.

By coupling it with data analytics, it has been possible to create adaptive learning technology, a tech-mediated way of providing every learner personalised courses based on their ability and performance.

While such technology does not aim to replace teachers, it facilitates students in managing their own learning.

One of the key challenges faced in the education sector in India is that the assessments are not streamlined across institutions. Leading experts often question whether we are truly measuring the relevant competencies of a student.

This is especially important for teachers, as they need to be aware of their students' academic interests and abilities. In order to meet this challenge, computerised adaptive tests are the best solution.

Another challenge is the 'one-size-fits-all' method of teaching because no two students learn the same way; their learning pace and style vary.

Personalised learning based on human resources is difficult to achieve in India with its high pupil-teacher ratio and lack of adequate financial resources. AI-based learning solutions can solve this problem and personalise education in India successfully.

How Next Education is helping usher in new Edtech trends

Next Education offers experiential learning with its NextLab solutions for English, Maths, Science and Robotics. It has also launched adaptive assessments for CBSE Maths and Science, and are working on similar assessments for other subjects and boards.

Apart from these, its award-winning in-house content, consisting of digital books and HD animated videos available on LearnNext and TeachNext@Home solutions, allows students to independently bridge the gaps in their learning.

In addition, the online Q&A forum for doubt clarification, practice papers and solved NCERT papers for more practice, IIT foundation courses for future attempts in medical or engineering exams and Science resource kits help provide an all-around learning opportunity to learners.

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