Friday, July 13, 2007

ICT in Education

A couple of months back, I visited my daughter's school. They had called me when they heard that I had "something to do with eLearning". The group I had to address was a mix of enthusiastic teachers on one hand, and reluctant participants on the other. But one heartening aspect was that they all were eager to listen to whatever I had to say.

At one point of time, I was introduced to the school Math teachers as a professor, and I had to immediately disown the honour bestowed. I explained to them that I was keen to teach the teachers (and hence their students) how to use the internet resources in their regular classes. Over the years, I had gained some expertise in tapping the resources.

During the few interactions I had with the school teachers, I realized the vast gap in the intent and actual usage of technology. For me, technology didn't mean using fancy hi-tech gear like an electronic whiteboards and wi-fi campuses. These could come later. First, we should be able to use the internet for knowledge access. So, these teachers would need to know how to tap into it. My task in the first such interaction in this school was to show them an internet-enabled lesson. So, I just took up the topic fractions, and typed "teaching fractions" in Google search. Some million-odd pages figured in the result. I told the teachers that whatever lesson material they would have ever seen in books would be there in the first two pages of this search. So, that covered what they had seen in print. The next step was to show what else was there on the net. So, I tried "fractions applet" and got a bunch of results that showed "hands-on" results. The teachers could use these applets to give a "visual" appeal to their lessons. Some teachers rightly pointed out that these would need some investments in every classroom for installing a projector at the minimum.

Now, ICT is not all about using applets and flash animations. I explained that internet is now more of a communication platform. On another search for "math teacher forum", we could visit a few more sites where teachers from far-off places interacted with each other to share teaching ideas. We found out that this school could benefit from an interaction with another school in USA. At a later stage, the children from the two geographies could also start interacting to gain knowledge from each other. The ideas now started flowing in the same room that had reluctant observers some time back.

That is the power of ideas. Internet has become one such great idea, though its inventors wouldn't have imagined such implications at that time!

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