The past decade has been all about thinking beyond the textbook and challenging the capabilities of the students by making the classroom training more holistic, taking it outside books.
The integration of technology is no longer a debatable issue in the classroom and in fact, many schools have started to leverage technology in the form of computers and mobile devices to broaden the mindset of the students.
Computer application has evolved beyond being a technical subject or a practice program. It has become a medium of knowledge sharing, allowing teachers to prepare students for the real-world beyond the textbook information. Computers and mobile devices allow for presentation, interaction and even as collaboration tools to co-create projects.
Learning is best delivered when through interactive mediums and audio visuals are being increasingly used in classroom interactions and presentations. Earlier, “practical” would refer to a technical or hands-on exam which would hold a certain weightage in the final exams for the students. Today, the classroom study is aimed at hands-on learning. Traditional classrooms are now virtual spaces to learn through open expression and knowledge transfer, whether that be in-person or digital. Teachers are now incorporating many software applications to help students understand the course material better – word processors and database programs enable teachers to also prepare the students for their graduate programs not only through software know-how but also through research skills.
A teacher’s perspective
The dynamics between students and teachers have drastically changed over the years. Now the student has been made well-aware of the learning opportunities and resources outside of the traditional modes of training. This has made the students more informed and independent in their approach to learning. From “is this the right thing to do?” the questions they pose to teachers are more on the lines of “why isn’t this the right approach to take?” Teachers may come across students who have already acquired software knowledge and computer skills, which can make it easier for the teacher to incorporate computers and other technology into the course curriculum.
Studies show that sensing, sequential and reflective learners tended to have a more meaningful learning experience with intuitive, global and active learners. (Choi, I., Lee, S.J. & Jung, J.W., 2008).
A student’s perspective
The internet itself has unlocked a world of endless opportunities for students. Ideas that were restricted to the library and the knowledge of teachers are now just a click away, and in fact there’s more to learn and explore. Collaboration opportunities are plenty, not just with peers and teachers but with educators across the world. In fact, historical records and social organizations are accessible, providing a wealth of information for further research and reference. There is abundance of communities and resources online that aim to help students master a certain subject or even absorb soft skills for that matter.
However, the digital world comes with the risk of students interacting with potentially dangerous and anonymous individuals and websites. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that instead of a passive entity, a student has now become an active informational architect, procuring, processing and sharing information which may or may not be relevant or important.
Distractions and risks that come with technology are plenty, which may divert the focus of any subject or experiential learning. This brings in the vital need for learning outside of the technological scope as well.
As the role of the instructor has drastically evolved, while retaining their subject-matter expertise they are now involved in less of presentations and teaching per se and more of facilitating, coaching and observing. Even though the new classroom experience may not be the same as e-learning, the role of technology is still key. So rather than regressing how the role of experiential learning and technology may dilute the whole idea of a classroom, the need of the hour is to enhance the classroom.
Here are a few ideas around what the classroom can become – a lot of which is already thriving in many classrooms – just by thinking about learning from a learner’s perspective:
A laboratory: The classroom can be a place of experimentation and discovery, where new approaches are pursued and failure becomes an opportunity to grow. Techniques such as simulation can be leveraged. Videos can be used to capture the experiments and that can serve as a repository for other batches or similar projects.
A think tank: Crowdsourcing ideas is the next big thing in the corporate world, so imaging bringing that concept to the classroom! Bringing people together to solve a problem can play a key role in creating a rapport between the learners as well as providing value to the institute. Brainstorming and troubleshooting are the approaches that are leveraged in such a setup.
A game room: This could be the most-favorite learning option for students as it would need them to use games and simulations through a host of gaming tools, and in fact a low-tech approach can be equally worthwhile if the design is effective.
Group learning: While social media can bring people together, a face-to-face event can build better bonds and a heightened sense of understanding. Through networking events such as live polling, small group discussions around what could be a science or math problem as well as a historical debate, could be fun and enable the learners to absorb and think through concepts and scenarios better.
Reviews post such activities can be embedded in blogs and other software tools that the students have access to at least in the classroom. These resources can be valuable in improving the classroom experience.
It’s important to remember that technology and experiential learning in classrooms will not transform education itself, but rather enable innovation in education in a broad sense. In a nutshell, any new approaches to learning need to aim at encouraging collaboration, connectivity, access to information from across the globe and repository building for the current as well as future batches.
A comprehensive educational platform on the lines of a learning management system must be capable of connecting the various groups that are part of the learning community – different classes and teams, batches, alumni and teachers, so everyone can contribute to the learning process at any given point in time and can continue to learn within and beyond the classroom.