Saying 'Yes' to Technology in Education

Abbyshek Chandra, Founder, By leveraging quality content and technology, delivers personalized learning solutions that make learning accessible, affordable and tailor made for everyone.

Education providers (Universities, Schools, Teachers, and others), especially in India, have long been using conventional methods of teaching. Most of them have not invested in technology or have invested just for the heck of it because of one or more of the following reasons:
(a) They are of the view that conventional methods are better and have a proven track record.
(b) They think using digital devices hampers the brain development of a child.
(c) They fear students getting exposed to objectionable content, rather than the intended content.
(d) Unavailability of high speed internet, especially in Tier-2 cities, villages and other remote locations, which makes online learning an irritating experience.
(e) Through the use of technology, students have a world of information at their fingertips and can ask questions which not even their teachers can answer. So, the schools and their teachers play it safe by asking students to stay away from digital media and stick to the books prescribed by the school. From a student’s point of view, with so much information available at the touch of a finger, choosing the relevant or the best content becomes a challenge.
(f) They assume that increased use of technology and dependence of students on it for their independent learning will reduce the education provider’s utility and wipe off its existence creating unemployment.
(g) They do not have proper training on the hardware/software.
(h) They are not sure which hardware/software will suit their needs the best.
(i) High cost of smart devices needed for teaching/learning.

During my visits to schools (especially those affiliated to ICSE, CBSE and State Boards), I am pained to see that most of their students are conceptually very weak. They can solve questions but they do not understand the underlying concepts. The situation is a bit different with IGCSE and IB schools where students have a better understanding of subjects. What brought about such a difference? Yes, technology on which the IGCSE and IB schools rely heavily.

True that conventional methods have a proven track record, but unless one gives technology a chance to prove its effectiveness, how will
it create a successful track record? I also agree that use of digital devices can hamper the brain development of a child, but not if one regulates the digital content that children see (parents and teachers need to play a big role in ensuring that). Regarding children getting exposed to objectionable content, technology is evolving and there are a number of ways to restrict what content a child watches on a device (for example - using parental control software, saving browsing history on the cloud, and others). Think a little harder and you will realize that just like emailing and messaging through mobile phones extends our work hours, technology can extend our children’s learning hours.

Ridding education providers of the apprehensions and ignorance about the use of technology requires a lot of effort from the technology solution providers

With the launch of Digital India campaign, low cost, high speed internet is now being made available to Tier-2 cities and the remotest of villages. Also, a number of EdTech companies also have offline digital learning solutions which do not require internet connectivity.

Technology alone cannot exist and be effective, it needs to be weaved into the conventional methods of teaching by education providers. The education providers must realize that technology will enable and empower them, rather than restrict or replace them. The concept of flipped classroom learning or use of animations (which are more engaging than books) to teach will take a huge burden off their head and save a lot of their time so that they can focus on deeper learning, both theirs and their students’. This means they will be in a better position to answer any kind of question a student poses to them because if students can have access to loads of information through technology, they can too. In fact, the teachers can prove indispensable to students by guiding them to the most relevant content amidst the humongous ocean of information available on the cloud. Technology also empowers the education providers to have a global reach in terms of students and establish their brand, thus increasing their revenues rather than eliminating them from the value chain.

An added advantage of using technology in education is that the education providers do not need to have physical infrastructure at any location to cater to the audience there. This reduces their cost which in turn reduces the price charged from the consumers. Ridding education providers of the apprehensions and ignorance about the use of technology requires a lot of effort from the technology solution providers who I urge should provide training and information sessions to them through social media, webinars, and in-person interactions. Needless to mention, the education providers should be open to such sessions. Coming to the cost of smart devices, it has come down drastically and with flexible payment plans, they have never been more affordable.

Final Words
All of this means that through technology, even a poor child (whose family cannot afford to send him to school) or a child in a remote location (where there is scarcity of resources) can get access to high quality educators across the globe making education location agnostic and affordable. In a similar context, a student in India can easily afford outrageously expensive offline programs offered by topmost foreign universities through their much cheaper online distance learning programs.

With technologies like online tutoring and augmented reality expected to enter education in a big way, the digital tsunami can wipe out the education providers who have undermined the importance of investing their time and money in technology. If they do not strategize and plan for adopting technology now, they are actually strategizing and planning to fail in the long run.

The marriage of education to technology is inevitable and it will eventually prove to be a blessing. Trust me,it will prove to be a blessing much sooner if both, education providers and education consumers, embrace technology with open arms.