Imagine the outcomes. No more mind-numbing lessons from teachers, some of whom who dont really want to be there in the first place. One could easily pursue a topic by chasing all the resources available right across the world of internet. Then, while it is all still new, opening up discussion on it so that what started off as information gathered can easily transform into learnt knowledge and later even wisdom.
This concept is called as the flipped classroom concept, being pioneered by several apex schools in Australia and the UK and nicely blurring the edges between traditional schooling and the techniques of distance or digital learning.
The educational advantages of using the internet resources as a personal library of information, focussing on it as the main source of stimulating a youngsters spirit of enquiry, are yet to be fully tested. The key to it is the discussion the morning after, which allows the learning from the night before to be embedded. Instead of traditional homework, trying to dig deeper into what the teacher taught, the flipped classroom features day work, crystallizing the learning.
So far, this is mainly being used at secondary school level, although some are experimenting with younger groups aged from 7 to 10. Such youngsters are already technically savvy, anyway, so proponents are asking why not direct their attention from the earliest ages to the wealth of interesting and wholesome information available, courtesy of Google
If the idea works, there will be challenges to both traditional educational patterns and to distance learning, which is well used and understood in India.
In traditional schools, teachers would have to change both their lesson plans (if they have them) and their mental approach as to why they are in the classroom in the first place. They are not going to be information givers, they are going to need to become knowledge stimulators. Their job will be to help the youngster transform the information into learnt knowledge, which will mean they will need to better understand than many of them currently do the psychological workings of their young charges. Teachers will have to bring forth (Latin: educare) the knowing from the information which the youngster has imbibed via the Web.
Critics might say they thought teachers were supposed to do this anyway. Ideally the response is yes, but with huge class sizes and impossible teaching schedules, many teachers have thought it is enough to work through the text books and hope for the best.
If the flipped classroom concept does catch on, distance or digital learning providers will also be affected. Most distance learning is at tertiary level, or involving a specialist topic. Youngsters at school brought up to talk about the following day what they learnt via the Web the night before may not take so easily to the solitude of distance learning at university level, sacrificing the personal interface of debate and discussion. Distance learning providers will also have to ensure their technology is more adaptive to individual learning styles and paces and may have to work harder to ensure that on-line communities, which are emerging, are also given a chance to physically meet somewhere. The Facebook generation of learners is recognising that their worlds are too often faceless. Blending the two approaches, as the flipped classroom does, could capture their imagination.
The Right to Education Act is daunting heavy burdens on schools and teachers. It is critical for India that it does not fail. Perhaps the flipped classroom concept gives a radical way out. The Modi government could unleash an IT infrastructure programme reaching into the poorest parts of India, aiming to give access to on-line learning resources for every child. It could then build, not traditional schools, but Learning Hubs, based on the traditional Gurukul, where teachers could facilitate dialogue on what has been learnt. Vast numbers of children could attend for just a few hours every day and individual teachers could reach out to hundreds more children than the current system allows. These Learning Hubs dont need to be in fancy buildings. They could even be held under a tree.
As an educationalist, I admire greatly the challenge the Modi government has inherited and is determined to take on. I want the Gurukul idea to live again through modern technology which would be harnessing the best from the past and amalgamating it with the present scenario. This will transform the future for thousands of children and would be a flip from what they are currently experiencing
By David Boddy, Principal Partner, ASIS.