The effectiveness of new tech tools in education

We are living in a digital age where no aspect in and around our lives remains untouched by technology.

New technologies have the potential to fundamentally transform how, when and what students will learn in their daily lives

Ranu Kawatra

We are living in a digital age where no aspect in and around our lives remains untouched by technology. Beginning from basic communication amongst us to the method through which information is shared, technology has seeped into all facets of our lives and is becoming part of the core infrastructure. Education as a need is only second to food, clothing and shelter in our country, hence one can only put a guesstimate to the number of lives it impacts and changes. This space also does not remain untouched by technology and is undergoing a revolution too. The global landscape of teaching and learning has experienced a sea change with the penetration and implementation of technology, new ideas and sustained developments in the ways of learning. More specific to the technology-led education businesses, declining cost of devices is making digital technologies accessible to nearly all brackets of society in the nation and at an impressive pace.

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This technology breakthrough offers opportunities to India as it sets out to tackle the challenge of spreading education far and wide while retaining quality at reasonable costs. This is complimented by the changing dynamics of the learner that has created an increased need for the ecosystem to change. In India, digital infrastructure has made headway in the K-12 segment, with whiteboards and myriad digital content making an entry into classrooms. The most recent being the foray of tablet-based education solutions that is a platform that allows greater number of school children the access to more effective, personalised and collaborative digital learning.

Higher education, while comparatively slower, is soon embracing similar methods. The Indian higher education system has emerged as one of the largest in the world, with 14.6 million students enrolled in more than 31,000 institutions, according to an Ernst & Young report on education. Over the past decade, the number of universities in the country has increased at a CAGR of 7.5% (from 272 to 556) while the number of colleges has grown at a CAGR of 11% (from 11,146 to 31,324). However, given the massive ground that this segment of education covers, it demands serious investments from both government and the private sector to make quality technology infrastructure available to all the 250 million children in the 6-14 age group. In order to keep these children in schools and in a formal education system till the time they develop significant skills to support themselves, dedicated investments are critical. While digital mediums are contemporary and rather futuristic, they also offer advantages for those with special needs.

While technology makes the future of educational footprint look promising, there remain several bottlenecks. A research conducted by IMRB for Pearson, in the Indian K-12 segment while almost 38,000 classrooms have installed whiteboards, less than 52% of the classrooms are able to use them due to mismatched content with the textbook. The costs associated with classroom upgrades, lack of compatibility between the textbook and digital support, infrastructure maintenance, instructor training are just to name a few.

While each one of us would like to propagate and deliver on the commitment of right-to-education for all, the true success of this will be determined only on how we leverage technology and effectively exercise public-private partnerships in laying out its blueprint.

Despite the challenges, it is inevitable that technology will play a key role in expanding the reach and scope of education to many more individuals around the globe and will allow greater specialisation in curriculum and teaching methodologies than was possible before. Learning-based companies strive to ensure that students and learners have access to the same quality of learning irrespective of their geographical location and economic disparity.

Digital learning in the true sense will go beyond all barriers and will offer a high and flat standard of education for all. Similar to the innovations in biotechnology that made the Green Revolution in agriculture a reality, the new digital technologies are gradually but steadily gearing up for a ?learning revolution? in education.

The author is president & CEO, Pearson Education, India

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First published on: 04-02-2013 at 01:47 IST