Can we afford to miss emerging technologies that impact classrooms?


G. Balasubramanian is currently the editor-in-chief of ‘The Progressive School’ magazine. He joined the Central Board of Secondary Education as a Joint Secretary and has worked in several capacities in Academics, Examination, Confidential and Administration branches of CBSE. He has also held the additional charge of the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Board. He has been instrumental to the introduction of several innovations in curriculum of CBSE which include frontline curriculum, Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Information Technology, Alternatives to Homework, etc.
 
In this article, Mr. G. Balasubramanian speaks of inculcating emerging technologies in the classrooms, and the positive impact it will have on children.

In the year 1980 when I had the fortune of handling a computer – a HCL workhorse level-2 machine with a speed of 256 KB alongside a DM printer – I felt I was accompanying Yuri Gagarin on a trip to moon and had a safe landing! When the computer displayed a few multiplication tables on the screen, I was feeling that I was seeing the Milky way from the moon! - an AHA experience! Today I am like a nursery child looking at the current technologies and singing a nursery rhyme “Ba Ba Black sheep”!
 
Technology has moved by leaps and bounds!
 
When I entered a classroom to teach the students of computer science of class 11, with just six months of training on handling a computer and with the knowledge of the BASIC language, I felt I was alien from a different soil bringing newer mythologies to the Earth! Today, I feel I am an alien living in a different soil! I sit by the side of a student of Primary class and learn how the newer technologies operate, Thank you my child!
 
When I attended the first International Conference on Computer Aided Learning in Britain and saw the presentations, I felt that we would take another fifty years to reach their standards! Today India is an almost World- Guru in technology innovation. if not within the country, outside – holding the Indian flag!
 
When I went to Leeds in 1984 to learn about software programing for content development, I thought I was taking a few strides in the world of computer. Then I learnt, if you can do something without a computer better do it! Humans need to control technology and not vice versa!
 
When I wanted to introduce C++ language as an official in the Board, I was demoralized by the eminent professor of a renowned institute of learning when he said, “Students should come to my class with a clean slate of mind and not with wrong concepts taught in a school.” Today I feel the students in schools have trying to scale peaks of excellence using current technologies!” Learning doesn’t stop because somebody likes it or not!
 
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are making fast headways! The curriculum design for Machine Learning is as much a hot topic as the curriculum for human learning!
 
Technology has traveled in leaps and bounds! To envisage an academic world without intervention of technology in future classrooms appears unwise!
 
The advent of Augmented Realities has added another feather in technological evolution! I think a meaningful and responsible integration of this technology would transform the entire paradigm of teaching – learning processes in classrooms.
 
1.     Concept clarification
One of the major challenges in our classrooms is inadequacy of clarification of concepts. In many cases, it is dealt quite superficially for two reasons – one, the inability of the teachers to grasp the concepts adequately and even if they do, their inability to communicate it adequately. Secondly, the absence of adequate tools to explain these concepts. Augmented reality could certainly pave to solve this problem
 
a.     Facilitating a visual complement to explain the situation
b.     Providing a 3 D perspective of the concepts
c.     Demystifying the abstractness that engulfs its meaning
d.     An exciting opportunity to look at the concept from different angle
 
2.     Pedagogical support
The quality of pedagogical support it could give is immense. Teachers who were struggling to explain the inner architecture latent in systems, machines, instruments and appliances could give a presentation that would provide the insight into systems and seeing the functionalities in action rather than at imaginary levels. A visual of an atomic structure, the function of an internal combustion machine, the working of a digestive system, the flow of current in an inverter, the scope of a perspective drawing, the vision of a moving cyclonic eye and the like – one cannot imagine the millions of opportunities it can open to make learning both purposeful focused and entertaining! We cannot afford to lose the opportunities of refreshed and reinforced learning with such kind of interventions.
 
3.     Empowering Thinking skills
After all, what is the use of such interventions unless they show some value addition. Yes! It can have extensive value addition to learning systems.
  1. To examine systems in near real-time situations
  2. To investigate processes from closer and inner perspectives
  3. To analyze their functionalities to seek improvement/modifications
  4. To critically evaluate the concepts and re-engineer them wherever necessary
  5. To acquire adequate conceptual skills to handle them in practical situations
4.     Research & innovation
If I see the structure of a molecule today, my understanding of the component and its properties is bound to change. It offers more scope for questioning, research, intervention and engagement. A heart that could be projected on a table, the neural networks on a laboratory stage that would help to reclaim the lost memory and the demography of a population in its minuscular model would help to solve problems yet unforeseen. The scope and quality of research, the tools of problem solving and crisis management are likely to undergo fundamental changes.
 
5.     Reforming the value of Higher Education
The quality of higher education has certainly been under deep stress. Certification needs have overridden the need for actual and factual learning. Augmented realities might help repositioning the concept of machine shops workstations, the understanding and applications of electrical and electronic engineering systems to the larger section of learners. Studies on meteorology, marine engineering, bio-technology, interventional medicines can all be reviewed if the newer technologies are in position to operate. 
 
6.     What are the likely paradigm shifts?
  1. Shift from learner centric to learning centric situations
  2. Shift from rote learning to skill based learning
  3. Facility for thought navigation
  4. More effective classrooms enabling reach for visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners
  5. Interactive and engaged classrooms.       
       What could be some misgivings?
a.     It may be conceived as a technology for intellectually vibrant – it is not true. It is more important for those who are mediocre and those who are otherwise distracted. It is bound to improve cognitive learning.
b.     It may be considered as a rich man’s technology – as such it might be initially a little high priced because of its volume consumptions, but should soon become a common man’s tool. We have earlier evidences for universal acceptance of technologies by the communities, negating cost barriers.
c.     It is not curriculum oriented – As such it must fit into any curriculum, because the objective is to deal with concepts and not syllabi. Hence a right mix of these visuals can be meaningfully integrated into classrooms.
d.     Can schools do without this technology? – Of course, yes, Schools can do without any kind of technology. But the emerging global dynamics indicate the dominance of augmented reality in all fields of activity immaterial of the disciplines of learning or work.  
       
From Agriculture to Economics, from hospitality to classical dances, from engineering to medicine, from ecology to edutainment, the role of augmented reality and other emerging technologies is going to be invasive. Let us be ready to face this reality!
The sooner we invest, the better – Early birds will catch the worm!

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