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Deciding Between Cool Videos & Holistic Tech-Integrated Learning With increased mobile tech, we have more flexibility, reach and personalization and accordingly, the role of the teacher needs to evolve to be more effective in providing personalized education

By Vivek Varshney

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While there was a time when video tutorials were perceived as a cool and accessible means of learning, opinion is finally shifting as the world witnesses an overwhelming rise in the number of children between 12-15 who lack discipline in stepping away from their phone screens. Mindless, passive video-based learning actually does more damage than good – and, yes, the numbers are in.

Researchers Aishworiya Ramkumar and Evelyn Law from the National University Hospital's Child Development Unit have indicated that synaptic connections are often halted when a child spends too much time focusing on one sole activity, such as being glued to their phone watching videos. This damage is often irreversible and executive function skills are reduced. As Dr Law further pointed out, "Neuroscience research shows us that children learn best when there are two-way conversations or communication."

The Problem With Ed-Tech

Although lots of money is being pumped into ed-tech startups, the truth is they are yet to transform learning in a substantial manner. In fact, they still are trying to figure out "how to make things work" and break-even. The truth is although technology is an incredible accelerator; it STILL requires teachers to harness its power as a tool in education.

Lots of content accessible on a mobile device with flexibility does NOT mean automatic learning. Putting things out there in the open does not miraculously enable people to learn effectively – one must know how to use a tool in the right manner. Most ed-tech interventions are addressing the issues of access and flexibility, but fail to address learning gaps.

The Problem with Traditional Lectures

According to research conducted by biologist Scott Freeman of the University of Washington (Seattle) and a team of colleagues, teaching methods that empower students to become active participants rather than passive listeners improve exam scores. In fact, this is a consensus among many researchers – students who only have access to traditional lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students engaging in active, stimulating learning methods.

The Way Forward - A Holistic, Tech-Integrated Hybrid Approach

The most effective way to approach learning is to draw from the strengths of each medium to create a hybrid model that reinforces different skills through different means.

Technology + Teacher + Pen & Paper = Holistic Learning

The role of teachers has been greatly undermined in today's mobile learning purgatory. The truth is a real human being with expertise in a particular subject matter and understanding of education as a science is necessary for guiding students to tap into their full potential.

Teachers make sure students practice till they master techniques. They can gauge and address learning gaps. In short, teachers are different from ed-tech products in their ability to focus on the actual needs of students rather than the perceived needs.

While technology enables the right connections and can be used to build upon fundamentals and concepts and for communication, it cannot be our teacher, mentor, peer and challenger. A one-size-fits-all mentality of technology-based learning is futile as learning needs to be customized. Technology is simply a powerful add-on learning tool. And, teachers/tutors should be trained to use technology and deliver personalized education to each student in the most effective manner possible for best results.

Hurdles In Promoting Hybrid Learning In India

Although in India schools there is much willingness to add technology to their pedagogy, the behavioural change will take place at a slow rate. Until the benefits of hybrid learning aren't proven in Metro cities (where technology infrastructure is already integrated into teaching practices to some extent), tier-two cities will not jump onto the bandwagon and invest in necessary.

Another key challenge is funding to train teachers to harness technology as an educational add-on tool to supplement lectures and pen-paper learning models. Most online ed-tech tools are being marketed in a manner that teachers are not needed for learning, which is extremely misleading. Most students do not even have the discipline necessary for self-learning. The mentality of teacher versus apps is destructive.

Looking Into The Future

When the printer was invented, we thought it would change education – instead, it gave us more books. When the computer arrived, it gave us more power analytics and engagement. Now with increased mobile tech, we have more flexibility, reach and personalization. And accordingly, the role of the teacher needs to evolve to be more effective in providing personalized education.

Vivek Varshney

Founder and CEO - SpeedLabs


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