In 2008, I went to University of Cambridge Judge Business School for my PhD and had my daughter admitted into their state school, at the primary level - Grade 1. While there, each of my daughter’s classes had a digital screen facing the room, equipped with all the necessary teacher’s notes, videos as well as much of the main teaching materials, in soft form. Therefore, during class, the students would sit and listen to the teacher but in a very participant-centered environment where the students were encouraged to take part in class discussions and engaged in the learning process through the use of multimedia platforms.
The biggest advantage of this was that students would be involved with the teacher, the technology and all learnings would take place in the classroom, with close to no work taken home. Along with this, group work was also encouraged in the classroom, while using pedagogical tools that allowed the teacher to help students to work together. Though technology was used in the class, this was a setting where the student was not asked to use any form of digital device for work, rather it was available for use by the teacher, to aid her engagement and discussion process in class. If the quality of the class is good, children do not need homework and there should not be any at the primary level.
I am a firm believer of the fact that at primary school, a student should never be handed a technological device as the main learning tool but once moved to secondary school, can and should be exposed to laptops and tablets where they do their work in class as well as at home. The process remains the same, the only difference being that some activities start taking place on the digital space instead.
This is a blended learning model, where you combine paper-based work as well as technology-based work together in the same classroom setting, while adjusting it for student ages/class levels. EDTechWorx's DIP (Digital Interactive Platform) is designed to enhance blended leanring experience.
Now the question arises, is there need for exposing young children to digital tools, to encourage them to use technology, when you can just make the entire classroom effective? The answer is that no, you do not. While primary education levels do need to digitize their classrooms, but only to increase a teacher’s quality and ensure that students can get engaged in a class. This is the most effective resource without any need for exposing students to any kind of personal digital device.
It is important to note that when talking about primary level education, this specific model of learning need only to focus on four subjects: English, Urdu, Science and Mathematics. Subjects other than this should all be activity based and excluded from being integrated into the formal learning procedure.
As for student assessments, they also do not necessarily have to take place, rather a fortnightly experience of simulation to the student can be used to measure their learning outcomes and understanding of the topics. And that can be a done in a computer lab.
The secondary level of education is when, I believe, you can start exposing students to digital devices because of the increase in their workload and to enhance their critical learning skills. It also allows the class environment to be more interactive, with the help of laptops and mobile phones.
This proves that the entire though process behind a need for exposing small children to digital devices as well as the excuse of a lack of funds to supply these resources, is perhaps not needed at the moment and can easily be avoided. Why should we push this idea when we can take another route?
Even in a situation where primary schools find need to use this in their classrooms, constant interaction with technology isn’t needed. What can be adopted is gamification resources, used once a week in a classroom, which would be a lot better and acceptable than having them completely shift their class work online.
But none of this will work or be of any help if we don’t establish a model to begin with, one that that allows schools to be empowered and encourages them to digitize themselves first, while letting children study and enjoy themselves in a natural setting.
This blind love for technology; the need to embed technology at all points in our education, won’t work at all. We need to strategize, plan, and learn from the experience of other successful economies who have very clear models. This planning and strategizing then trickles down to the students who, once allowed to experience a balanced non-digital/digital environment, will learn as well as retain a lot more.
We need to decide, are we doing digitization just for the heck of it, or as a part of some sort of strategy, with the strategy in question specifically being the need to develop students who, by the end of their school years, are well-equipped with analytical, critical and decision-making skills.
About the Author
Dr. Farrah Arif
With a PhD from University of Cambridge and a distinguished career as educationist, corporate trainer, strategic thinker and marketing consultant, Dr. Farrah Arif, Founder & CEO EDTechWorx and LUMS Executive in Residence, has helped many organizations optimize their business strategy to drive sustainable revenue growth and profits. Her areas of specialty are Business Digital Transformation Strategy, Marketing in the Digital Age, Consumer Data Analytics and Simulation, and Design Thinking.