E-LEARNING Education

Breaking barriers, virtually

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A geography lesson comes alive, thanks to Twitter.

Gone are the days when education meant spending six or more hours of the day in a classroom, traditionally equipped with a blackboard, some chalks, benches, textbooks, and ink pens. The 21st century Indian school is the product of a technologically evolving education system, where digital facilities coupled with tech-savvy teachers help students explore beyond the four walls of their classroom.

To further illustrate what I mean, let me tell you about a short activity that we recently conducted as part of the class VIII science curriculum. Teachers and students from India collaborated with those in South Korea to explore, identify, and understand the different types of soils used for plantation in the East Asian geography. By using the social media platform Twitter, teachers in South Korea shared their data and interacted with students in the Indian classroom, paving the way for an experiential and interactive learning practice over a three-week period.

Students not only understood the scientific composition and geographical differences between the soils in India and South Korea, but also learned how to convey their thoughts in a crisp manner to fit the 140-character limit of Twitter.

Furthermore, as kids were very curious about the data gathering methodologies used by the South Korean school, we conducted a Skype call so that students could exchange information about the procedure of the experiment.

This was our first rendezvous with social media in a classroom. The practice caught on quickly in other classes, due to the general popularity of social media among students and its efficiency in bridging gaps between theoretical concepts and practical application. In this way, the inclusion of social media in classrooms had not only exposed students in India to newer cultures, but had also diminished distance barriers drastically, allowing learning to become more engaging as well as student-centric.

Easy replication

Such practices can be replicated and implemented in schools across the country, since they require minimal investments to facilitate projectors, computer laboratories, and Internet facilities. While most schools are equipped with basic computer lab facilities, one of the fundamental challenges they face is familiarising teachers with technology. Thus, having an expert or a technological co-ordinator for teacher orientation can elevate the quality of education to meet global standards, with group-based social media modules for peer learning, social media-enabled feedback mechanisms and student collaboration across geographies and borders.

Social media has its own sets of pros and cons. However, in the field of education, social media has more advantages than disadvantages, provided there are necessary measures to prevent student abuse, such as e-mail tethered Internet surfing, blocking of irrelevant or abusive websites and installation of cybersecurity software. Helping students understand the right and the wrong ways of using social media can not only throw open a new gamut of learning for their holistic growth, but also guard them against cyber crimes and e-bullying.

Additionally, such practices can help students become aware about global issues, national problems and updates about the fields of their interest, so that they are able to pursue their hobbies, careers and professions as sharper netizens and responsible citizens belonging to a smarter India.

Husien Dohadwalla is the Academic Director for middle, secondary and high school at the Fazlani L’Academie Globale, Mumbai.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:38:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/breaking-barriers-virtually/article19697724.ece

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