The need for results-based technologies in education

Such technologies can create an ecosystem of teachers, educators, researchers who can work towards furthering educational goals

We have all embraced education as the pathway to success and progress. Yet the path itself is still shrouded in ambiguity. Countless initiatives and varying methodologies of teaching in India—in fact, across the globe—have sought to define or find that path, but with mixed success at best. These well-intentioned initiatives have evolved with time, and today’s proposed solutions are anchored in this generation’s technology.

However, most researchers who have spent decades researching and developing technologies for teaching and learning understand that technology cannot be the standalone answer to the challenges faced by India’s education sector. It can be an important part of the solution, if it is used in the service of sound educational goals, developed specifically for a well-defined target audience, supported by significant professional development of teachers, and informed by what we know about how people learn.

The technology we leverage in the classroom is only as valuable as the learning outcomes of the students who use it.

The best solutions and innovations in terms of course design, modalities and offerings should be informed by research, before they are rolled out and incorporated in our schools. We must build upon existing findings and embark on new research to develop thoughtful pedagogical design, which, in turn, can lead to high-quality learning experiences with authentic hands-on learning, conceptual learning and integration of educational technologies. This process leads us to draw upon new technologies that challenge young minds in complex virtual scenarios, provide real-time feedback based on performance, engage students through games and other meaningful media, and connect learners within the classroom and around the world.

The recently launched Connected Learning Initiative-x, or CLIx—by Tata Trusts, TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)—looks at equipping students with the skills they need using a foundation built upon best practices in research and technology. The pilot programmes of such technologies have shown promise. However, the true success of this effort is not simply measured by student learning outcomes around content knowledge (they should be better at biology, for example), or even mastery of a set of complex 21st century skills (combining technology, interpersonal and intellectual skills). But we also need to consider the outcomes pertaining to teachers’ skills, changes in the school system and the capacity for further change. Results like teachers’ proficiency in teaching blended learning experiences with hands-on and active learning and education technology, and the readiness of the government and private institutions to increase education technology infrastructure available in schools to support these types of learning experiences must also be taken into account as validation of success.

Whether it be educators, students, parents, the government or private institutions, the common end goal we are all aiming for is beyond academic performance—education provided should lead to development of values, citizenship, professional skills and competencies to enable Indian youth to be successful members of the workforce and society.

This introduction of results-oriented technology in education must eventually lead to long-term change in the education space, and create an ecosystem of teachers, educators, researchers, etc, who believe in the meaningful use of technology to further educational goals.

By Eric Klopfer

The author is professor and director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program and The Education Arcade at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US. He is the co-principal investigator of the Connected Learning Initiative (CLIx), an initiative by Tata Trusts, MIT and TISS

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