GADGETS GO TO SCHOOL
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” – John Dewey
In this age of multiple gadgetry, the way and the rate at which children gather ‘knowledge’ may well baffle older generations. From every glaring screen and interface – from television to laptop, from Star World to Youtube – they collect information, record impressions, learn ways of talking, grammar, content, diction; in short, about norms and practices of a ‘universal’ humanity of which they are an integral part.
Yet, despite the many shortcomings that come with this digital invasion, it seems that one cannot be too prohibitive either – by cutting off all electronic devices in house or in school, for example – given that sooner or later this is the kind of world and society the children will inevitably enter. Are parents and schools then to support this gadget fetishism? For many educational institutions, knowing the shift is inevitable, the answer is affirmative: endorse the technologies, but direct them to be used in a way that is relevant to educational functions.
“This is not so much a problem for our school, rather it is the reality of the world and the onus is on us, as educators, to rise to the challenge,” said Liam Hammer, Secondary School Vice Principal of Global Jaya International School.
“In the past, education was about text books and a teacher-centered view of the learning process. But embracing electronic devices and using them in appropriate ways can enhance learning. When used effectively, technology can help children focus their attention while attracting and maintaining their interest,” he pointed out.
Technology can engage learners, assisting to organize information, by recording and demonstrating processes and can help to enrich a learning experience, Liam added. “Mobile phones can be used to record work on the board, to list reminders or record the day’s homework, smart phones can be an instant research centre, calculator and GPS,” he said.
The school also routinely uses iPads and laptops in almost every classroom – a practice that is also proliferating in other parts of the globe, and has sparked considerable debate, as the iPads are much more than just a supplementary tool, like a computer lab. Given to each student, they serve as an integral learning organ itself, replacing textbooks (in several schools, they use iPad’s apps to teach history, biology, music, mathematics and other lessons) and notebooks, pens and papers – a complete departure from traditional concept of education as one knows it.
“Our school has also debated a number of times the value of becoming a one-to-one laptop school, or the poorer cousin, a one-to-one iPad school. But for now, we encourage students to bring whatever electronic devices that they have and prefer to use them in classes regularly. They use them in a number of ways, as note-taking tools, instead of writing on pen and paper,” Liam continued.
The entire school is also a Wi-Fi zone, so students are able to use laptops and connect to the Internet whenever required. But the implementation comes with its own problems. Liam pointed out that complete Wi-Fi zone tempts students to misuse the Internet, chatting to friends, downloading music, playing games or reading Facebook when they are supposed to be working in class.
“However, a vigilant teacher will be moving around throughout their classes, monitoring what students are doing, and a well planned and effectively delivered lesson will negate the need for students to feel bored and surf aimlessly. Of course, we also try and prevent students from misusing the Internet by blocking the social media such as Facebook during school time. In summary, a quote by John Dewey best illustrates our approach to electronic devices in the school: ‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.’”