Teacher + technology = learning

Amrita Prasad
Tuesday, 4 September 2018

On Teacher’s Day, two players in the online education space, tell us why technology-aided education is the way forward for Indian students

Rohan’s grandfather Girish Kulkarni is furious at him because he spends a lot of time staring at the tablet given to him by his parents. One afternoon, when the old gentleman questioned his son and daughter-in-law why they gave a gadget to the 10-year-old who stays glued to the screen when he is supposed to study. They explained to him that Rohan isn’t wasting his time, instead he is seeking help from online tutors and e-learning platforms to understand the difficult concepts in Mathematics and Chemistry. 

For senior Kulkarni, this was an alien concept, that never existed when he or his son attended school. He wondered if there is a possibility of  ‘learning’ in the absence of a teacher. While it is natural for senior citizens like Kulkarni to doubt e-learning educational websites and apps, today, both the popularity and demand for such platforms are huge. Apart from classroom studies, e-learning platforms have become a natural source of knowledge and information for both school and college going students. AI-powered learning apps, interactive interface are coming to the aid of students who find it convenient to study online.

Talking about the efficiency and growing demand for AI and technology in the field of education, Divya Gokulnath, teacher and co-founder, Byju’s — The Learning App, says these platforms really help students understand their lessons. “India has the largest school going population with 260 million students. However, students are still getting trained to solve questions and not encouraged to find problems or ask questions. Learning is driven by the fear of exams rather than the love of learning. The focus has been on spoon-feeding and rote memorisation, rather than encouraging children to learn on their own. The challenge has always been around changing the perception about how children should learn. The current challenges can easily be addressed by using technology. As our country gets more tech savvy, technology-enabled education will change the way learning is approached by students,” says Gokulnath. She asserts that online learning is not just offline learning taken online by digitising content; technology is used extensively to make learning better and more effective online. “Technology has helped us innovate the way subjects are being taught, and also personalise it based on the capability of the student.  At Byju’s, we are constantly working on making learning accessible, engaging, effective, meaningful and personalised for everyone. In conventional classroom learning, access to quality teachers, personalisation of learning has always been an issue as it takes a very exam focused approach. Integrating technology in education not only increases engagement but also simplifies the way students learn. It makes the whole learning process way more interesting with visuals and real-life examples,” she argues.

Technology for teachers

Teachers too have access to varied technology tools to make learning more interesting and impactful for students. “Data and technology are the backbones of the programme that we offer in Cuemath, as they define each student’s learning trajectory and instruct our teacher partners on exactly what to teach and how to teach the topic. A combination of workbooks, math box, puzzle cards and a tab, Cuemath offers the best of both worlds (technology and personal teaching),” says Manan Khurma, CEO, Cuemath, an e-learning platform.

In Cuemath’s upcoming workshop, it is going to train teachers on how to efficiently teach using technology. When asked how do they aim to make learning fun, interesting and enriching for students and teachers through their platform, Khurma says that according to a recent research, classroom environment and student teacher relationships are the biggest factors that affect student motivation and growth. “Every Cuemath teacher is encouraged to effectively engage students in the classroom and positively impact student learning and behaviour. The code of conduct for the Cuemath classroom, SPACE, helps our teacher partners structure their efforts towards fulfilling their role of ensuring learning outcomes.” 

Gokulnath adds that integrating technology in teaching not only increases engagement but also simplifies the way students learn. “At Byju’s, technology offers our teachers a combination of tools, mediums and interactive formats to deliver concepts in the most personalised format. For example, explaining ‘How sound waves are created?’ is very easy when a teacher explains the concept with the help of interactive tools made possible by technology. The movement of the string of a guitar can be shown to explain the concept contextually, while a slinky is used to show it visually. This ensures that a student is learning the concept in a way that s/he will never forget,” she says.   

Teaching, says Gokulnath, is one of the most creative and powerful jobs and teachers have a very significant and lifelong impact on children. “We look for teachers who are passionate about the subject, have strong subject matter expertise, are enthusiastic and also have strong screen presence to deliver the lesson in a format which students like and can relate to. It is also important for the teacher to be a real motivator who believes that innovative teaching can create better and more personalised learning experiences for children,” says Gokulnath. The role of a teacher at Byju’s is more of a ‘performer’ than just delivering a lesson the conventional way, she says and adds, “One of our focus areas has been to use game design principles that are about fundamental human psychology and behaviour.”   

Talking about how they make education fun and interesting for students, Khurma says that teachers share their best practices as well as challenging situations from the classroom through Cuemath’s interactive sessions. “We also have a consultant neuropsychologist who is helping us create tools, strategies and training to promote positive behaviours like concentration, comfort and confidence in the class. Last year, on Children’s Day, we launched a first-of-its kind ‘Mathematical Universe’ for students across K-8 to engage them better in order to strengthen their foundation in the subject. This has been done after carefully analysing the students’ responses to content across media like storybooks, puzzles, games, apps and televised programmes,” he adds.  

But people are apprehensive if technology will replace conventional ways of classroom teaching. Khurma says that technology cannot be the only driving factor to enhance/ improve our quality of education. “It is an enabler, teachers are the facilitators and students are the true drivers for their learning process. Hence, we need to engage them in a holistic and self-paced learning programme. We have chosen to use an offline and online approach to help our students understand mathematical concepts. This form of integrated education helps the child learn offline at their Cuemath centres while getting feedback and constant progress reports from the teacher online,” he concludes.

“The sudden demand in e-learning apps and websites is a result of lack of teachers with sufficient in-depth knowledge, tuition culture and their exorbitant charges. Such apps are convenient as they can be accessed from home, time is no longer a constraint and things get flexible. 

For younger children, both methods —  technology and classroom teaching are complemntary, while for the elder ones, technology can substitute classroom. I feel with these apps, one can gain knowledge without a teacher too. But this is a personal choice and preference. Most teachers lend the required personal touch, but this touch is not always guaranteed in a classroom teaching. Usually, students are scared of their teachers, hence they are afraid to ask questions or get their doubts clarified.”

~ Shampa Ghosh, headmistress, 
Loyola Convent School, Ranchi

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