By Mushtaq Ahmed Rather
Recently, social media saw numerous posts by concerned professors from various colleges with their classes empty. This is a global phenomenon. Barely anyone turns up. The classrooms look desolate, even after covid-19 is over.
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 had initially thrown the education sector out of gear due to prolonged closure of schools. No one expected such a mass scale shut down of schools. The pre-covid era usually saw minimal incorporation of technological tools in teaching–learning transactions. The concept of online classes via varied platforms during the pre-COVID era seemed to be unrealistic and unproductive partly due to least digital penetration in the rural contours of the country and the lack of technical know-how in organizing and moderating online classes by the primary stake –holders: the teachers. With every daunting challenge, unfolds a new opportunity and the same was true for the emergence of COVID-19. The epidemic of COVID-19 stimulated all the essential stakeholders, be it government or key private players to build digital infrastructure even in the remotest and non-penetrative network areas of the country.
Now, long after covid-19 lockdowns are over, are offline classes gone for good? No.
While online classes show promise, they cannot replace offline classes entirely. However, offline classes cannot ignore the digital revolution as well. The collaborative approach of online and offline classes is actually the way forward and one approach cannot have an edge over the other provided the moderator and the facilitator strikes a balancing act between the two. T
his is actually where the concept of blended mode of learning or hybrid mode of learning has actually conceptualized or materialized and offers great degree of flexibility to mitigate the learning needs of the 21st century learner.
The government’s digital interventions to upscale digital infrastructure such as National broadband mission, Digital India, Bharat net along with telecommunication driven digital revolution have made it possible to reach out to the sections of the student community which were previously inaccessible to online teaching platforms either due to non-availability of smart electronic gadgets or weak network penetration. UT level administration in general and department of Education in particular have undertaken certain desired digital interventions like establishment of sophisticated ICT labs in high and higher secondary schools with round the clock high speed internet facility. In some schools, even digital tablets have been provided to individual students and teachers to keep pace and momentum with the rest of the world in the field of information and technology. The incumbent Director school education Kashmir, Tasaduq Hussain Mir has himself on pilot basis distributed mini-laptops to the students and faculty of HSS Nanil of district Anantnag and the same needs to be replicated with other educational institutions of the division in a phased manner.
Edtech is the collaborative approach of technology-software and/or hardware to facilitate teaching learning. Smartphones loaded with Edtech apps have now become synonymous with education. Classrooms have now moved beyond bricks and mortar to clicks and portals
The emergence and rapid adoption of Edtech is largely attributed to the fast –paced digitalization of India . Between 2010 and 2022 , the number of internet users in India has increased manifold , from 92.5 million to 932.2 million. There has been a 27 times increase in the number of smartphone users in India , from 34 million in 2010 to 947 million in 2022.
Role of Edtech in facilitating teachers and students
Edtech facilitates both teachers and students by ensuring engaging pedagogical practices for teachers to complement their teaching. This includes a wide array of interactive smart boards, educational videos , virtual and augmented reality simulations. Edtech can also facilitate the process of academic administration through automated grading, classroom management tools. Automated grading through artificial intelligence tools can ensure efficient management of time and resources. Classroom management tools help create a less chaotic, more collaborative environment. Edtech can assess student skills and needs in real time, leading to provocative plans to help struggling students.
The Edtech sector witnessed unprecedented growth and funding during the COVID-induced lockdown, when online education became a necessity rather than privilege. Before COVID, technology was used to supplement education .Post COVID .Edtech has become central to the education process. India’s Edtech sector is one of the largest in the world with about 400 startups operating across its various sub-sectors.
The government of India has launched various programmes and initiatives to promote digital education, such as SWAYAM, DIKSHA and e-patshala. The recent announcement by the Finance Minister is the National Digital University (NDU), a virtual university that will offer a wide range of courses across disciplines using digital technology.
Striking a Balance
During the pandemic, the importance of using digital tools such as networks, platforms and educational apps was accentuated. Students are gradually acclimatizing to face-to-face learning. These elements of Edtech will find their use in education as complementary approaches. However, to ensure the holistic impact of Edtech, it is important to strike a balance between technology and traditional education methods. The integration of technology should not compromise the quality of education, but rather enhance it.
As per the latest statistical data, merely 10% of the Indian population speaks and comprehends English and 45% speak Hindi. This highlights that 45% of the Indian population is not conversant with Hindi or/and English. Therefore Edtech platforms need to focus on content creation in vernacular languages to ensure wide reach, utility and relevance.
One of the key objectives of NEP 2020 is holistic education. Edtech outreach initiatives must ensure that the core elements of holistic education that include environmental responsibility and sustainable development at the planet level, self –reliance and patriotism at the national level , community well being at the societal level and cultivation of human values along with righteousness and empathy at the individual level are incorporated into overall instructional design of the programmes.
Incorporation of practical work in Edtech led programmes
Edtech programmes must integrate internships/ apprenticeships as part of curriculum and program design. This will help students imbibe group dynamics, team building and interpersonal skills that are vital at the workplace. This will help them in a long way to test the knowledge and technical skills gained online on the field and thereby enhance their confidence and self-esteem when they enter the workforce.
It wouldn’t be unrealistic to imagine the future where (AI) Artificial Intelligence will create individualized learning experiences for students. The AI would also be able to curate and recommend learning activities based on the student’s progress , preferences and learning goals. It may seem scary on the part of the teacher at first, however the reality is that the teacher’s role is indispensable in the process of education –with or without technology. However in the 21st century, teachers need to emolliate the role of a facilitator in helping and guiding students develop skills beyond acquisition of knowledge. Essentially, teachers will be responsible for nurturing students to become well-rounded individuals with a high emotional quotient (EQ), Social quotient (SQ) and intelligence quotient ( IQ) . The role of educational institutions will be to provide an environment that promotes peer-to-peer learning, facilitates hands-on experience , social interactions and on demand practical opportunities . Edtech will play a complementary role through techniques , products , platforms and services that will support , enrich and enhance the teaching -learning experience for students and equip them with knowledge and future skills that are vital for success in the 21st century.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is an educator and can be reached for feedback on [email protected].
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