Saturday, August 22, 2009

Simplifying ELearning...

I am often amused by educators who wish to "upgrade" themselves by venturing into elearning and using tools that will take their offerings to the next level. With all their good intentions, they start thinking about various ways of achieving this:

1. Teaching Aids: Right from a projector to a sophisticated writing board that prints, saves and replays what the teacher wrote on it.

2. Animations and Interactive Tools: Intended to deliver better understanding of a concept by doing something that can't be otherwise easily achieved in a verbal and on-the-board version.

3. Recording and Replaying Content: To achieve scale and ensure consistency of quality across time and place.

4. Online synchronous training: The ultimate goal of delivering training to multiple locations with the closest to real-life classroom experience.

There are virtually thousands of products available in each of the above categories, ranging in price, quality and complexity. And the last variable worries teachers the most. The most frequent and impulsive response to any new technology intervention is "how will I find time to do this". Again assuming good intentions, I believe any decision-maker should strive to answer this critical question.

The teachers' response is due to their non-teaching activities- mostly clerical and administrative. I found the teachers in a well-known school bogged down by filling up student attendance sheets and evaluating answer attempts. If they could find any time out of these, they were busy in doing some more "useful" work for the school, such as, making arrangements for the next board meeting, or the next school event.

I completely understand the tight-fistedness of a school administration to ensure they squeeze the last available minute of a teachers' time. But it seems to be conflicting big-time with the good old intention of making "teaching" better.

In that sense, the teachers should be relieved of these activities by outsourcing them to a BPO. I am sure we will be able to get more efficient by this simple activity. And the teachers will be free to use their brains where they are supposed to.

Now that the 'where will I get time for this" is taken care of, the teachers (specially the non-tech-friendly ones) should be carefully initiated into the lowest of such tech initiatives. I believe teachers today should be encouraged to logon to the popular social networking sites like facebook, twitter and orkut. They need to be up-to-date with the technologies that their students use, even if it is only for a limited time. This will help them relate to their students much better.

The easiest technological intervention for the teachers could be to just record a few short teaching sessions on a mobile camera, and put it on youtube (or better still, teachertube). The sheer excitement in these adults on seeing their own activity on the web could remove that first critical hurdle.

More of the simplification in my next post...