Classroom learning with Concert of Technology


While we are learning courses online at Udacity (https://www.udacity.com/  ) and Coursera (http://www.coursera.org/ ),  we are supposed to be actively communicating with fellow students and the course  teams under the discussion forums. During the recent course I took this March 2014, I found out in one of the discussion forum that 10 to 13 year old students are also participating in learning management courses. Technology is allowing individuals of any age, to learn what they want and when they want. It is now possible to individualize instructions in the same way as teachers do to their pupil.

I felt that there is an opportunity to bring my corporate best practices and technology knowledge to schools where the foundation for future behavior of the students gets established.  Smart use of software can help to a large extent to transform school’s methods of teaching but this movement of redesigning classrooms to modern learning experiences needs commitment and a change in mind set  of the  authorities, teachers, parents and students of various schools.  It is a transformation for the school’s management, teachers and all the stake holders.

Education is transforming. But the way education is viewed by our younger generation is troubling. Students stay uninspired and less motivated to learn. Students prefer studies only for getting good marks.Teachers are less motivated to go beyond their comfort zones to experiment new ways of teachings.

STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math)   are necessary for students to help make their countries competitive and them to be employable.  The attitude of just studying for exams/marks is affecting the quality of students’ knowledge and job readiness. Students should move away from subject memorization to training focusing on skills in order to match what modern companies and society is looking for.

Since I worked and lived in the US for several years, I started checking the happenings in the US where STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math)   are given top priority. I found that their national science foundation is pretty serious about reforming education and even private companies are pumping millions of dollars into reforming education.  Their schools are equipped with modern technology tools and software for teaching and by 2019, industry analysts predicts that high school students will take half of their courses online.

Companies like Intel Corporation, Facebook, IBM have given Billions of dollars for reforming education sector.

Companies like Microsoft in collaboration with others are bringing learning experience to millions of children across the globe. More on this here http://www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/reporting/serving-communities/education/

Many schools in the US are adopting technology practices as their way of teaching. Some examples of schools which are forefront in using   technology to their benefit are as below

https://www.altschool.com/

http://www.minervaproject.com/

Even schools in my place (India , Rajahmundry) are pretty enthusiastic in adopting technologies, games, yoga, field trips etc  for students. But what I felt is that they are doing it more for marketing purposes  and more ad hoc  than a continues improvement process to transform the schools best practices, to be  sustainable and result oriented.

Here is what I think should be adopted by schools in shaping our students’ learning experiences, all round growth and the progress of the country’s youth to a sophisticated living with best practices for a better life in this digital century. Remember Technology is not the solution but it is a powerful tool in transforming the nation’s kids to be smart. 

First let’s separate school (Teachers, class rooms, labs and other infrastructure) and learning.

School: Children are the goal of any school.

There is a strong need for bringing some standards of how teaching is delivered irrespective of who the teacher is.  Every teacher is having his/her own style of teaching but there is a need for some guidelines of best practices so that students don’t feel uncomfortable with every new teacher that replaces earlier teacher.

Schools need to teach a new set of skills that go beyond the classroom syllabus. Modern work practices , daily life and cultural transformation of societies makes it mandatory that kids are taught spirituality, leadership skills, Reasoning capabilities, healthy lifestyles, scientific analysis, presentation skills,  yoga and meditation.

School should focus more on creating lab experiences for children (learning by doing) and based on the syllabus (state or CBSE) they should entertain students to make things in the lab. Syllabus should not be taught chapter after chapter but a holistic look at the content should be considered and  school should plan teaching subjects with all connected content so that students will get to know the big picture of the subject matter.

By teaching for many years teachers become comfortable and good at what they are teaching. But they should realize that world is moving at rapid pace and technology is changing how we live and work. There is a need to demystify technology to help them get to know how their subject knowledge is used by corporate and society and guide them to learn from fellow teachers from across the globe.

“We should not just teach what we know. we should always learn something new to teach our younger generation”.

Examples:    http://betterlesson.com/    http://www.discoveryeducation.com/teachers/     http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/    http://peeragogy.org/

http://www.mathalicious.com/lessons   http://www.kickboardforteachers.com/  http://voxy.com/blog/index.php/2011/03/hardest-languages-infographic/

Management of schools should have innovative mind set and should be ready to experiment and invite industry experts for advice in changing how they function. They should not maintain the status Quo.

Students should be encouraged to participate in global challenges to solve some of the world’s problems , that makes them realize the opportunities that exist later in their career planning. http://www.minervaproject.com/

http://www.wecanchange.com/

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/competitions/international-science-and-engineering-fair.html

http://www.coursolve.org/

Students should be encouraged to look around for problems in their own  town/city/villages are facing and should be encouraged to solve them.

Example : http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/#!about/c15vq

Teachers should help children the ability to find the information/knowledge kids need by cultivating analytic skills, curiosity and research skills.

Teachers should encourage kids to ask many questions. Their curiosity leads them to stay creative but many teachers quickly usher kids to stop asking. It’s an unfortunate habit and it’s one that threatens  creativity and innovation skills of the kid.

Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children’s_use_of_information

School management should not become complacent with their best practices because we are in a state of constant change across all fields of knowledge, practices and lifestyles. Today’s best practices become redundant within few months so it is better to stay agile and review their position.

Learning:  We live in a very dynamic world where information is rapidly changing. It is unrealistic to rely solely on text book for teaching kids. The text book can best serve as direction for planning syllabus completion for the academic year

Modern technology resources are available to reach out to what we want to learn and when we want to learn due to ubiquitous presence of internet facilities across all tech gadgets we use. School management should review what resources can be deployed for better learning experiences for teachers and students.

Some examples of resources available for Schools that won’t cost lot’s of money but keep them on the cutting edge teaching methods are as follows

https://www.remind101.com/  A safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. Free.

http://www.google.com/edu/apps/#how-it-works  Helps in assignments and other teaching resources.

Moodle : https://moodle.org/  A Complete education portel for teaching, assignments, quizzes and other cool stuff.

http://www.vincigenius.com/

There is a seismic changes happening in education sector. Companies like Google , IBM, Facebook are investing millions of dollars in reforming schools and developing cool technology tools and educational resources. Bill and Melinda gates foundation, governments, NGO’s and many enterprising individuals are reshaping school education. Schools should continuously monitor the trends and  adjust , align to modern best practices.

Example: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2014/05/06/google-developing-free-lms-as-part-of-apps-for-education.aspx

https://www.khanacademy.org/

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/US-Program/College-Ready-Education

Students should be made aware of what’s happening in other parts of the country and globally and they should be encouraged to connect with fellow students from across the globe for exchanging best practices of learning not just subject matter but also cultural differences and lifestyles of that country.

Example : http://www.newschools.org/venture/school-of-one

Schools should develop a framework of higher order thinking and skills enhancements while teaching kids.

Example of higher order thinking while a subject is taught by the teacher is as follows.

Type of thinking Encouraged Questions Posed
Memory Who invented Mobile Phone ? (Martin cooper)
Convergent thinking How has Mobile phones affected our daily lives?
Divergent thinking If there are no Mobile phones how would history have been changed?
Evaluative thinking What would you do when no mobile phone on earth works?

School assignments should help kids to discover and should be inquiry based drawing upon higher order thinking skills. Example Social studies. Ask students to play a role of a political leader and ask him/her  suggest some good policy matters that benefits millions of people.. Maths :  Using internet find 10 most innovative companies of the world, their products, their best practices and make a bar graph of the same.  Science: Design a useful product to a local merchant and demo it to them. Language: Read a book or analyse this article I wrote and put it as a comment.

Students should be taught time management skills. They should be able to allocate time for learning, yoga, meditation, sports and subject contents.

Parents should be made part of this whole process and should be engaged in all the efforts that schools is attempting,  to prepare their children for a digitally connected  world.

Ultimately I would say to school managements that “If you are not living on the edge you are  living in a crowded space of too many me too type schools”

You are all welcome to reach me thru your comments.

Thanks to kids from “Tennis Couching Centre” Rajahmundry for valuable feed back of their experiences and to the coach Laxman for the support.

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