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June 08, 2021 Tuesday 10:48:11 AM IST

Appropriate Pedagogy of the Digital Natives

Rajagiri Round Table

The transition from in-class learning to online learning following the pandemic outbreak in March 2020 was made possible with digital technologies, connectivity and mobile and web applications. Even as the teachers and parents initially struggled to get to terms with virtual learning, the young children could easily adapt to it because they were digital natives. They were born seeing mobile gadgets and devices and learn to swipe even before they write their first letters.

Several major players have emerged in the Edtech space such as Byju’s Apps, Unacademy, upGrad etc providing various solutions and their market valuation has seen a sudden spurt while National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), SCERTs at the state level and Google and Microsoft providing value-added services free as well.

However, there are a set of major questions that go unattended in this digital transition of education. What will be the nature of the life and workspaces to tomorrow? It is said that nearly 50%  of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree becomes outdated by the time students’ complete graduation. And 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that do not yet exist! The future careers and workspaces are expected to turn Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous or simply VUCA! Hence, it requires absolute preparedness and flexibility to be able to take up the unheard-of jobs and services emerging on a global platform.

In this context, the 71stRajagiri Round Table Conference was held on the topic Appropriate Pedagogy of the Digital Nativeson Zoom Meet on May 19 Wednesday, 6-8 PM and attended by experts from Edtech, Information Communication Technology (ICT), school leadership, educators, among others.

Digital or online learning has gone through continuous upgradation and refinement incorporating 21st-century skills in the transition towards a hybrid model of learning. Language and technology barriers are being overcome with innovation that not only involves technology but efficient utilization of resources.

Even as Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics may make many existing jobs redundant, new job opportunities thrown up by the innovations will require socio-emotional skills along with technical skills, according to Dr Vinnie Jauhari,Director, Education Advocacy, Microsoft in Education. “Our focus was on providing personalized learning experiences, accessibility and enabling voice of students. We did not confine ourselves to teacher training alone but created communities of learning,” she said.

Engagement

Engaging students online can be challenging hence content in various forms are created including text, images and video, according to Revathi Sundaram, Next Education.  “Quizzes, fun games, scrabbles, memory games are used to engage children through interactive mechanisms. Assessments have to be continuous and feedback has to be accurate, timely and meaningful, ” she said.  Every lesson has a learning outcome based on which assessments are done. It has to begin with a simple quiz before the course begins.  Assessments have to test competency rather than memory and lower order skills to higher-order skills.

Lawrence Varghese, Headmaster, Boys Middle School, International Indian School of Dammam in Saudi Arabia said that extra-curricular activities, fun-based learning and intelligent use of Kahoot can help in enriching the learning experience for the child.

Innovations

Many students were not fortunate to have access to broadband or digital devices but many schools were innovative enough to overcome challenges. Ajith Sen, Associate Director of ESAF Bank in Dumka, Jharkhand talked about how they sent lessons in pen drives to far off villages to enable teaching. “Electricity hasn’t reached our villages and our volunteers took LED televisions powered by batteries and learning material loaded in a pen drive to teach children in villages,” he said. Even lessons were played through loudspeakers so that all the children sitting at home can listen and learn. With a lack of trained teachers who know Hindi and the local language, such innovative thinking was part of ESAF strategy even before the pandemic, Ajith Sen said.

Mothi George Jacob, Director and Principal of Tashi Namgyal Academy in Sikkim said that teachers were sent to far-flung areas to teach children as a community service.  “The challenge before digital platform providers is to develop content and learning delivery services that require the least bandwidth,” he said. One way of keeping children exposed to too much TV or computer time is to scatter the class hours with a break from morning till evening, Mothi Jacob said.

KrupaliSanghvi, TGT in Computer Science, UdghamSchool for Children, Ahmedabad said that ICT tools and pedagogy have to go hand in hand in digital learning and not in isolation. She talked about her experience of using Mixed Reality to bring the solar system alive with all the planets and stars in the online classroom using just a small paper cube and some printouts taken from the art classes.

Multi-Disciplinary 

Digital natives will be part of Industry 4.0 with the kits relevant for this age. This includes cognitive flexibility, adaptive thinking, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving, the ability to manage different teams, work with diversity and inclusion and entrepreneurial skills, according to Smitha Annie Mathew, Academic  Co-ordinator at DY Patil Deemed to be University, Navi Mumbai.  “The kids of today have to be life-long learners and hence teacher-centric- pedagogy has to give way to andragogy. The disciplinary boundaries will break out once the student moves from university to the workspaces where it will be multidisciplinary.

Vestige of Industrial Age


C Balagopal, ex-IAS,  Entrepreneur, Author and Investor said that the present school and university system was a product of the industrial revolution with an underlying principle of standardization to create mass human resources for industry.  It does not look at the individual propensities or talents and creativity. Hence the system is in deep crisis because of its inability to change.

Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor at Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET) said pedagogic approaches changed according to the changes in technology and industrial age focused on skill development to solve perennial problems while in the digital age intelligent machines are going to take over human work.  “We have exhausted the objectives in Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is no more sufficient today that learners remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate or create! They are supposed “to venture”! A pedagogy that equips the new generation learners to venture may be called an Entrepreneurial Pedagogy, shall empower the digital natives to cope with the uncertainties in their life and career, keeping them venture-ready.”

Manan G Choksi, Director of Udgam Consultancy, Ahmedabad pointed out that many children get scared of maths when they are taught the tables but if a calculator is allowed to be used, children may lose that fear. Schools still teach cursive writing skills when much of the content is created on the keyboard.

“The world doesn’t require teaching ingraining them with fears that last a lifetime. We need to teach timeless skills. Parents themselves have to become tech-savvy and schools have to educate parents with various measures such as the use of apps and online.

When children encounter difficulty in learning or come up with a wrong answer, there has to be an effort to find out how they arrived at the solution, according to Arjun Hari, Co-Founder ofEdu-Wudi DatatechPvt Ltd. “The reason an answer went wrong may be due to a deviation in the path and hence it might be interesting to analyse and help the student rather than blaming the child for not finding the right solution,” he added.

Entrepreneurial Learning

Anupama Ramachandra, Principal, Delhi Public School, Electronic City, Bangalore recalled a few examples where students showed entrepreneurial skills. “A student from Bihar who had taken admission in our school was angry with us because he and his father had to visit the school thrice- once to take the entrance exam, then for admission and to pay fees. Then we asked him how children from other states can apply easily without coming to Bangalore. He came up with an online solution with monetary support from the school. Now right from the admission to payment of fees can be done online.” Another student bought energy bars from the canteen taking money from the wallet of his parent and sold it at a profit to junior students who didn’t have access to the canteen. “Although he was reprimanded by parents and school, the school leadership had to sit back and think whether children have entrepreneurship in them or whether we have to teach, recognize or promote it,” she added.

Pallikkutam iSchool made a presentation on entrepreneurial learning which goes through the five stages of creation, celebration, challenge, collaboration and campaign in a joyful manner.

Thomas George, Corporate Trainer spoke of the need to sensitize students on global issues, the emerging water crisis and lamented that the children and youth are too much in social media not exposed to the ground realities.

Recommendations


1) Schools should teach entrepreneurial learning to equip students to be innovative, to deal with uncertainties in career and life.

2) Schools should have a rethink on teaching outdated skills or topics and focus on futuristic skills.

3)In online learning equal importance has to be given to ICT as well as pedagogy.

4) Socio-emotional skills have to be given prime importance as such skills will be required along with technical skills for future jobs

5) There has to be a shift from pedagogy to andragogy to facilitate lifelong learning

6) Academic silos should be dismantled and learning should become multi-disciplinary going beyond applications to the synthesis

7) Involve children in decision making for not only school-level activities but also issues of global concern including climate change, environment, racism, child bullying etc

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