The iPad Generation
It’s not just the HRD ministry going gung ho about their Aakash tablets. Various private schools across the country are thinking to make the usage of iPads compulsory for enhanced didactics. Halabol sought the reactions of some stakeholders; here is what they had to say.
If Newton saw the way his fabled fruit is fast becoming an urban legend today, he would certainly be as ecstatic as he was when he discovered gravity. This is the Apple generation. Not only humans, but orangutans, too, find it instructive to engage their grey cells with the wonderful touch on these gizmos.
We have always had two worlds in India – the one of have-nots is banking on Mr Sibal’s promise of Aakash tablets, and the results so far have been satisfactory. Those who can afford are fast warming up to the idea of iPads or other high-end tablets as part of their normal lives.
Mr Shivakumar, the principal of DPS Surat, was fascinated the world of possibilities that education applications on Apple’s App Store threw open. Initially he was taken for surprise by some mathematical applications, and when he explored more, he found out applications on human physiology and other subjects. He was quick to provide iPads to all 200 teachers at his school. Teachers routinely use them in classes and connect them to LCDs in classrooms for imparting lessons. Students have an access to iPad labs where they access the content and solve assignments. Parents are expected to help their wards solve those assignments and they don’t need to have iPads for that, since teachers set assignments in normal worksheets, which can be operated using normal computers.
Though Mr Kumar hasn’t made it mandatory for kids to have their own iPads, other schools have been faster. Secondary and higher secondary students at the Canadian International School, Bangalore, have been asked to bring their own iPads from this academic year. Over 20,000 students belonging to the schools under the Universal Educational Group have already been given access to iPads. Melanie Kells, Dean of Studies at Canadian International School thinks that textbooks are static. She encourages students to adopt a practical approach; for instance, she advises photographing flowers and trees when students learn about the kingdom Plantae in their botany classes.
A flurry of online education ventures has materialized in last few years. Learners can also access such material via DTH operators (Tata Sky, for instance). Large corporate houses, like Tata, are entering into alliances to capitalize on the emerging trend. Even smaller companies are starting their own ventures; for instance FIITJEE, an established name for IIT JEE coaching has come up with Edfora. There are many companies, such as Educomp and Everonn, which target schools with their technology-based content. NGOs, like Khan Academy that we discussed in one of our earlier articles, are doing it for philanthropic reasons.
Dr Aparna, a child psychologist, and a counselor with a Delhi-based school thinks that it a risky proposition, given the dangers involved.
Indian students have always been known for their quality. I’m sure like me, we all know of various success stories. Such trends are primitive even in countries like USA and Canada that are way ahead of us in terms of standard of life. My only concern is what if this is only a publicity gimmick. I get a lot of students who are doing not so well due to a range of addictions like facebook, TV, etc. This is going to be an add-on. I need to be prepared to deal with these things now.
Ms Latha has a different take altogether. She feels the urgent need to train teachers if such things are in the offing.
We are already reeling under the pressure of this new grading system. It took a lot of trainings for us to understand it completely. Most of the teachers – including those are very good with their teaching style – lack the knowhow of using such complicated devices. My husband gifted me a touch-phone. I find it so complicated that I use my old Nokia phone.
There are some dangers that are sure to spring up. Mr Sunil Pal is most concerned about them.
I am okay with using anything. I learnt using computers when they were a rare thing in 1990s. I am sure many will do that, given a chance. But how would you tackle the problem of children having access to ill-suited content? You know, my nephew at IIT tells me how students hoodwink authorities and access all banned websites. They download a lot of content. Same is the story at various companies. They block content but people still use proxy sites to have their way. When such big institutions cannot check the abuse, how will the schools handle it? I don’t think I will ever be in favour of iPads until strong checks and balances are in place.
Mrs Mehta, a chemistry teacher, is not too optimistic about these issues. She thinks there’s often a lack of quality checks and unnecessary focus on looks.
I had a chance to go through some of such programs last month. I won’t take the name but I was extremely disappointed with the makers. They had almost ignored the first principle for producing any education content – authenticity. The content was replete with errors. It looked good, but that was it. Many important details were skipped. I’m not going to allow any such things in my school unless I’m sure about the content. It will be so comfortable for any non-serious teacher to just ask the students to go through videos and animations.
Students are quite kicked about such developments. One of them wondered though if they would come up with non-camera versions of iPads, given that the present rules don’t even allow them mobiles in schools. We wonder, too!
The Halabol View
We are for technological reforms that can augment content delivery and fine-tune traditional pedagogical approaches. But we share the apprehensions of some teachers we talked to, though we also acknowledge that through internet and computers, students already have a wide access to all types of content.
Any move, which would aim at increasing the diffusion of such media, should have in-built precautionary measures. Role of parents would increase manifold. They can no longer be non-inclined to explore gizmos. Manpower training is another pertient issue.
Western countries, in addition to being quite liberal with usage of such tools, are also known to have solid plans on issues such as sex education, which remains a tabooed topic here. Giving kids open access to everything conceivable without educating them on cautionary themes would be nothing short of sleeping unguarded with a Frankenstein monster in the attic. Not many, we believe, would want to be in that state.
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