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Classrooms of the future

| by Victor Cherubim

( January 30, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) “A good teacher is a good teacher, with or without technology. No amount of technological gadgetry is going to make a bad teacher any better. Technology is not the key to student success. What is more important is student engagement and effort both in and out of class. A good instructor can nurture that engagement and increase student motivation,” This is the studied view of Professor Adam Falk, President of Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, a Liberal Arts College, voted the Top U.S. Best University, ahead of Harvard.

Education once viewed as a “public good with equal access to all,” is now up for sale according to some others, with “just in case learning” versus technological innovative education, called “just in time learning”.

There is a raging argument brewing among educationists in U.K. Schooling has always been for learning, but there now is a difference. Those advocating, in fact, promoting a revolution in education, compare education in the traditional sense of “knowledge for knowledge sake,” as opposed to integrating educational technology into teaching, for living in today’s world.

The arguments can be summarised as follows:
1. “Deeply ingrained in the structure of schooling, is a mass production notion of uniform
learning. The belief is that everyone should learn the same things, at the same time”.
But, the great advantage of technology is, learning through experience, “or learning
at each one’s pace, according to each one’s interest”. Is there a dichotomy?

2 “As knowledge has grown exponentially, curricula have become –a mile wide and an inch
deep. Given the explosion of knowledge, students cannot learn in school all they will need
to know, so they need to learn, how to learn and how to find the information and
resources they need.” Technology encourages students to go at their own direction, with
or even without tutors. Has teaching been wasted on the many for the few?

3. Embedded in the culture of schooling is the notion that students should learn a large body of facts, concepts, procedures, theories, and accumulate it over time”. In contrast, technology fosters education in a more hands on approach, “learning by doing”.

Web based learning

Learning and using spreadsheets, word processing; using and integrating database, graphics tools, research and reference tools to support specific content; using multi-media packages, virtual reality and other tools, to review what a student has learned, is all essential, not only in
Schools and universities, but also in Distance Education, where “hot and cold” data is encountered.

There is no doubt, that all this technology is fun and interesting, for those who maintain that traditional teaching is too slow and too boring. Admittedly, technologies have transformed the way we work, communicate, bank, shop and play.

Professor Richard Noss, of the Institute of Education, University of London, states, “Schools need to engage the X box generation. They need to be able to take advantage of the innovative technology methods and flexible learning environments that technology enhanced learning offers”.

Are apps and/or technological innovations infallible?

We need to remember how to control rampaging technology, if we accept everything that is written in a program, or an app, as innovation, we may be disillusioned. We have seen over the years how small innovators of technology have been bought over by multi-national technologies to suit their trading patterns. Acquisition and mergers of innovators is seen”. Autonomy”, a British software business, was sold to Hewlett Packard in 2011 for $11.1 billion and integrated into their core structure. Last year, Nick D’Alosio sold his “Summly”; an App which summarises news stories from media websites, to Yahoo, in a deal worth $30 million. No one knows what has happened since the takeover. “Deep Mind Technologies” – a machine learning system and tools to tackle some of society’s toughest problems, including neuroscience research, was sold to Google for £400 million. According to reports in the The Times, “Google’s drive to build futurist technologies – a search engine that can predict the needs of users as well as robots that can move and interact like humans,” is contemplated.

Soon machines can provide speech recognition technology. We have biometric data, finger
printing, we have DNA testing and as technology takes over, many of the functions now performed by the human mind, may be lost or made redundant? Where are we going? Are machines taking over Man?

Village Education in Sri Lanka

Developing and evaluating technology in conjunction with teaching in Village schools in Sri Lanka has been suggested by some educators, as a leap forward. But is it real?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, having recently stressed the elimination of the historical injustice caused to village students, has carefully avoided the pitfalls of putting all our eggs in one basket, by not only relying on technology to solve all our educational needs. Providing all facilities only to urban schools, depriving the students in village schools the opportunities of obtaining education in the field of science, is not falling head over heels with technology.

Mahindodaya Technology laboratories are being established in one thousand secondary schools, but at the same time, the idea of free education will never be sacrificed.

Learning is a discipline; it is a lifestyle changing process. It has never been government policy to pay for education at point of source. Making education and the best of teachers available to impart this education, is the aim of Mahinda Chintanya Future Vision. This way Sri Lanka will stand out among the crowd of nations, balancing and enhancing learning using both traditional learning combined with the best of educational technology in teaching.