Can Smart Classes Replace Traditional Teaching?
Here’ a scene from a reputed Australian school. I was invited to a classroom, where about 20 students of 5th and 6th grades were doing a spelling test on their individual laptops. I took a seat along with Levin, a smart boy. The word ‘predicament’ wrongly spelt, appeared on the screen. Levin pressed the button correcting the spelling. Flash came √ on the screen. Ten minutes and fifty words later, a beaming Levin got 80% grade. A very fast Formative evaluation!
I asked the teacher who was moving around: “What about the wrong answers… How he will correct them..? She said: “He has to find out the answer on his own. We are doing PBL (Project-Based Learning)”.
Did I ask the boy: “How”? He winked at me, looked at the teacher who was moving away. He then whispered: “I will put the spell-check on or use Grammarly or Google.”
Self-learning? Search and find?Skill development? The school was practising Project Based Learning Pedagogy, a model rapidly becoming popular in US, Europe and Australia.
Now, we shift to a classroom in an engineering college in South India: The pedagogy model being practised was Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (RBT). A senior professor guided me to a classroom. The teacher was handling Industrial Engineering. I could locate the teacher at the rear end. He was merrily reading out bullet points from a PPT projected on a screen. The students were silent, obviously disinterested. The teacher was happy. He was using a modern digital tool in the class and ‘covering’
fast, all the points expected in the examination.
A switch-over to a moderate classroom in a school in Kochi, without the luxury of screen, laptops or bulletin board. The teacher had a couple of gadgets with her including a green tennis ball. A group of six students were in front of her with the rest (about 30) enthusiastically and noisily watching. She asked the six students to throw the green ball amongst them at random cautioning them to be alert to catch the ball if the ball was targeted at them. Everyone was participating and watching. She was teaching …can you guess what? (Newton’s law? Entropy? statistics? ). She called her teaching model ‘Experiential learning.
Instead of debating which of the above three models are suitable for your students, let us have a quick run through the theories involved in these modern pedagogical models and understand how technology can enhance the reach, acceptability and effectiveness of the subtle learning process involved. To start with, I will give a visual mapping on the relationship between Theories and Practice of a set of seven pedagogical models below:
1.Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT- 1948): Initiated by Benjamin Bloom, BT classifies educational goals and objectives, based on six levels of thinking behaviour that are believed important for the process of learning. The hierarchical levels are Knowledge, Comprehension, Application Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. BT is practised in many schools and some colleges in India but slowly disappearing, unable to withstand the emergence of many other modern pedagogical models, like RBT, and PBL and SOLO.
2. Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (RBT-2001).
Initiated by a former student of Benjamin Bloom, Lorin Anderson, this model upgraded BT to suit the concerns of teachers of the 21st century. It is a two-dimensional matrix -table, having cognitive dimension and sub-divided into six levels and knowledge, into four out of which Metacognition is new. In view of
the need for an outcome based education, (NCERT at School level and UGC and AICTE at College level), more institutions are switching over to this model in India.
3. Project-based and Problem-based Learning. (PBL-T, and PBL-M)
Even though I have coupled together these two pedagogy models each has separate dividing features. Both are inquiry based, collaborative and process oriented, though project-based is also product-oriented. Many schools and universities in US, Europe and Australia have chosen either one of the models or a hybrid one incorporating both features.
4. Creative Learning Process (CLP) Model
As creativity becomes the focal point of new generation learners, a few models emerged, with creativity as the hub for learning. The author as part of his research developed a model having 14 elements, triggered by creative thought process including ‘Thought experiments, Insight, Symmetry, Dichotomy, Bionics, Symmetry etc. A few engineering colleges in South India have adopted this model along with RBT, thereby, achieving good results.
5. ICT or Computer mediated instruction (Smart Class)
This term commonly refers to the usage of digital and visual media, video, email, audio or text conferencing, bulletin boards, list servers, Wiki, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) instant messaging, I-search and multi player video games as tools for assimilating and understanding cognitive domain based knowledge. The network based Virtual Classrooms have created a paradigm shift in how learning can be transformed both in classrooms and outside. Many educationists feel that a quick switch over to ICT model will make students responsible for their own learning, a lofty idea pursued by modern pedagogical concepts.
6. The SOLO Taxonomy. (The Structure of Observable Learning Outcome Taxonomy.)
Developed by Biggs and Collins (1982) this outcome based Model classifies the learning needs of students under three domains, Cognitive, Performative- (skills and abilities) and Affective (values,attitudes and emotion). It uses outcomes to scaffold learning, taking into account students’ prior knowledge and mistaken notions ( a stage of ignorance) progressing to the next two levels: Un-structural and multi-structural stages of surface learning, and then to the last two levels being Relational and Extended abstract.
There are a plethora of other learning models like Transformative Learning, Cooperative Learning (extension of PBL), Reciprocal Teaching, Flipped Learning (ICT in a different format), Conceptual
Change, Scaffolding, Coaching (.. we Indians love it. Japanese Cram schools are devoted practitioners
of this culture), Cognitive apprenticeship (modern Gurukul ?), Articulation and Reflection, Resource-based
learning, Experiential learning … the list goes on. But let us confine ourselves to the above six identified models for relating them to some of the prominent educational theories.
As a parting note, I would like to emphasize technology-based education is bound to set its root in our classrooms sooner than we anticipate. However, computerled digital revolution in classes can never replace a good teacher. The teacher will continue to have an umbilical cord attached to the emotional needs of young minds. It could be one of the means to achieve the lofty goals of learning, rather than an end in itself. The future pedagogy model will not be a one-fit-all model, due to the individual difference among students. A good teacher will always identify the best features, among the many alternative learning theories and models and choose a hybrid one, scaffolded around one frame work suitable
for the learning environment. Forced to make a choice for this framework, I will always vote for RBT, as the one on which student centred learning facets in models like PBL, CLP, STE(A)M, ICT and SOLO could be embedded to make the classrooms stimulating and rewarding, and where learning is a natural process, accessible, attainable, and enjoyable.