The National Education Policy 2020, released by the Government of India, emphasised the use of technology in education and aimed to ensure that every student has access to a digital device. Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented acceleration of adopting technology-based instruction in classrooms nationwide.
Teachers could be seen using digital tools and resources, such as multimedia, presentations, quizzes etc, with ease. However, the use of technology is banal if it is not significantly enhancing student learning outcomes. For instance, if in a traditional classroom, students were learning through a textbook, simply reading a digital version of the textbook is not the smartest or optimum way of using technology.
Smart classrooms empower classrooms with digital hardware such as computers, projectors and interactive whiteboards. Having the teachers use them to replace “offline” or paper-pen learning will not be sufficient. While using engaging presentations and embedding multimedia is definitely a step above reading from the static text, it is, indeed, just the first step in distinguishing a traditional classroom from a smart one.
Technology should aim to improve productivity in the classroom while ensuring that it empowers students with 21st-century skills. It should not act as a substitute for content but should become the vehicle or means through which students engage with content in more depth. At the same time, educators need to acknowledge that students are learning technology to access information in their classrooms.
Educators can reimagine all three aspects of instruction, content, assessments and process, with the help of technology.
Technology-driven classrooms allow educators to expand the depth and breadth of content addressed in their subject areas. Teachers can identify relevant and most updated information related to the content and include it in their instruction. They can also make their teaching engaging and student-friendly through videos. However, the best use of technology for content curation is virtual reality and virtual tours. Students can visualise scientific models, animals, and plants in 3D with the help of VR tools. The pandemic also led many historical places and museums to design free virtual tours. Teachers can use the same to take students virtually to places they would otherwise only read about in books.
Teachers can use several tools to improve the learner experience at the process level or how a teacher teaches. Jamboard, Quizzes, Padlet, Kahoot, Canva, and Nearpod – are just some of the tools that empower students to interact with their peers and teachers digitally. At the scale at which Indian classrooms operate, these tools promote easy collaboration without causing physical chaos in the classrooms. Students can respond to their classmates’ answers, give feedback, and even learn from them. It also allows teachers to personalise instruction for individual students or small groups by giving them different tasks or different material to engage with.
Finally, at the level of assessing student learning, technology allows teachers to provide immediate feedback. Online quizzing tools allow for real-time progress checking rather than waiting for students to submit notebooks. More importantly, automated feedback gives students real-time feedback as well. Tools available via Google Suite, Flipgrid, and Canva, allow for multiple means of expression. Students are no longer restricted to expressing their thoughts in a written manner. This promotes critical thinking as well and makes learning more valuable.
A smart classroom delivers a plethora of opportunities for engaging students with technology. When it comes to traditional classrooms, the differentiator lies in answering the question – is the use of technology allowing my students to engage deeper with learning? If the answer is no, educators risk the use of technology fatigue for children. This generation will continue to use technology for almost all possible tasks in their daily life. Poor use of technology in classrooms can dissuade students from seeing it as a means to expand their knowledge. This, in turn will push them to use technology when they find it engaging, i.e. social media and gaming.
Hence, schools have an important role in training their teachers first in helping them understand technology’s purposeful and wasteful use. By teaching them the use of various tools and sharpening their decision-making regarding their use, schools can ensure that classrooms are using technology for deeper learning. Eventually, classrooms will need to become a hub for students to discern when technology provides for positive learning and when “offline” or traditional learning methods serve them better.
Almost a decade ago, a common essay topic in examinations was “pros and cons of technology”. Well, in 2023, we have established that technology is useful and is here to stay. The education industry must embrace it and identify its role in building individuals responsible for a safer and responsible future for all.