Deepak Shukla

Curator @ TEDxUTMShillong, TCS


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How important is it to use technology and Internet for primary education?

With Sugata Mitra's experiment taking shape in India and UK, I'm extremely curious about understanding your perspective about the role of technology aided methods and Internet in improving the overall learning experience of primary school students?

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    Apr 28 2014: it isn't any more or less important than any other tool.

    Mitra highlights how kids can independently learn how to use a computer when you put them on a computer. This is exactly the same for any other activity and tool.

    attitudesd have been slow to change but, I find, in the people who are promoting technology they are often over-enthusiastic with a fervency that is understood but misplaced.

    Screens have an associated entertainment element - and most apps are little more than games. Some people believe that this is valuable because young students are "engaged". To a point, it is. It can aid with classroom logistics and helping keep students "on task".

    At the moment, tech and internet in schools are poorly understood and poorly used but it will improve once we weed out the hollow buzzwords and separate education from tech-company sales-pitch.

    Like any tool, it is only useful when used with a clear purpose. Tech is neither the beginning or an end, it is merely something that may or may not be used or suit a particular learning goal.

    hardest to change are attitudes and methodology/infrastructure in schools. for example, it is my belief that of all the issues within education, both imagined and real, the most pressing is that of assessment.

    while there is a lot of focus on teachers and the level of their competency/professionalism (often just part of the political games played by political parties and media) the real problems lie with assessment practice.

    let me be clear that this is not about the habits or skills of the teachers and schools but what the system expects (what it can easily and cheaply measure) and what the community expects - often a weird blend of wanting a return to how it was done in their day crossed with wanting school to be nothing like it was in their day!

    this is deeply systemic and so will be painfully slow to change. but it has begun!
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      Apr 28 2014: Scott makes a lot of great points. I have children whose teachers are just at the beginning of using the web for teaching. But how it is used seems to be a subject we don't know much about.

      Perhaps students need a class on how to best use the Internet for learning. Teachers need classes on how to construct these classes. I know these exist but not many take the time to design really well done courses.

      Many of the assignments are just click on answers and you're done. Many are just the PowerPoint slides with voiceover (yawn).

      It will become an art of its own to teach an Internet course that is engaging and forces the student into activities that will challenge them and help them to grow.
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        Apr 28 2014: for primary, i have found that using laptops, for example, is enough without even venturing onto the internet. teaching file management and general organisational skills is key to smooth management of devices.

        many kids quickly find their way around applications like Word or PowerPoint. of course, there are some kids who need support and you can always speed the learning process up by offering tips and workshops focusing in on specifics.

        the internet is a different beast altogether but i think it can be fantastic for developing critical thinking skills simply by gathering a variety of sources and comparing their statements to single out the common threads of information and identifying which is opinion.

        of course, supervision is essential because of the adult content that is out there.

        multi-media, in particular video and audio recording and editing, is what excites me most about tech in schools. literacy is now much more than reading and writing. it includes, still photography, photo-stories, comic strips, animation, video, voice recording (poetry, speeches) and music.
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      Apr 28 2014: Thanks a lot Scott for your incredibly helpful feedback on this! You've perfectly identified the most critical issue with any given educations system around us - Assessment. I really wonder is there one single way to assess the diverse range of talents, qualities and skills that students and in general, human resources possess? Can we judge/assess a group of diverse students with the same examination pattern across the year?

      And yes, technology/ internet should be suitably used in primary schools by understanding the learning goal/ exercise at hand and the appropriateness of a technology aided method for the task.

      Careful use of technology/ internet/ computers at primary school level is also very crucial, since it sets the tone of how children get influenced by these machines. In this regard, the role of a teacher is extremely important, in addition to the responsibility that parents hold while bringing in these high tech gadgets into the lives of young minds...
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        Apr 28 2014: Hi Deepak,

        i have a real problem with assessment practice because it can be the millstone around education's neck, effectively stifling change and flexibility.

        assessment practice is why we see such a heavy focus on reading, writing and maths - these are all relatively simple to assess using traditional testing.

        what bugs me is that so many of these tests that i have administered are often not relevant or valid - meaning they are out of date or simply do not assess what they claim to be assessing. they often do not pick up on subtleties in a young student's understanding or completely fail to identify some strengths altogether. highly frustrating.

        tech is slowly improving - effective software is developing slowly. some of the early classroom management stuff is appalling. some teachers balk at the use of tech, if only because they truly cannot see the need for it but plenty of teachers are embracing it despite being unsure of how to best use it.

        currently, I see a lot of potential being thwarted by traditional practice - so computers being used like really expensive paper.

        there's so much talk about providing real, authentic experiences for students but not a lot of putting it into practice - for example, I am in a band and one day, I had the kids using Powerpoint. their task was to work in pairs to create a poster advertising a gig we were playing that weekend in their town. i provided all the details, we did a quick session on what makes an effective poster and then they got to it.

        i then used the posters to advertise the gig on our band facebook page as well as printing them out and putting them up downtown. the kids LOVED it. seeing their posters on fb made them very excited.

        however, many teachers i told about thought it was a strange thing to do. maybe slightly iffy because of posting their work online. i'm not sure but it reinforced to me how hard it can be to battle against old attitudes.
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    May 1 2014: Soon the technology will be irresistible so that people will have access on almost every thing and traditional education will be outdated. Universities and faculty will find it so hard for them to track the rapidly execrating information that they have to give up. I think in the next 20 years there will be no Universities as we know them today; they will be all online run by powerful possessor that can trace and update its curricula me every minute! Online educating using computers by any shape or mean is the future.
  • Apr 30 2014: The Internet is a means of distributing information.

    The time of memorizing material is over. Information can be looked up in seconds. Now we need to teach how to look for the (right) information and how to use that information.

    Being critical of the information you are presented with is the same as it always was. You can start quoting some newspaper while most other newspapers have a different view on the same story. A difference when using the Internet is that there are many more (unverified) sources of information.

    The importance of critical evaluation of material is growing as Internet enters classrooms. Most teachers and educational systems are ill prepared to teach critical thinking. Traditionally schools mostly taught facts and somehow hoped students would think about these facts and learn how to think.

    We need educators that can teach (structured) thinking. Educators that know how to think themselves (unfortunately many educators are horrible and can do more damage then good) and that know and understand how to teach, assess students level of comprehension and progress.
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    Apr 29 2014: This was featured at Big Think today, describing a finding from research with college students that note-taking by hand is superior in terms of retention of content than notetaking using a laptop.

    In terms of your question, the research was not done on primary school students.
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      Apr 30 2014: As far as taking notes is concerened, I personally dont think that laptops or PDA's would ever be used at a primary education level. As this article rightly says that using a pen and paper approach inculcates healthy habits of listening to a speaker/ teacher, understanding and grasping the information and then noting down personal observations (notes) in addition to some interesting facts.

      As it is, our education systems are increasingly focusing on developing the creative, analytical and reasoning quotient among students so that they become "truly educaTED". Hence, the role of "understanding a lesson and digesting it" is ever more critical in making notes in a classroom.

      Also with the pervasive search engines like Google, facts are just a click away.
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    Apr 28 2014: I feel technology and Internet is not only improving the overall learning experience of primary school students; it soon will be replacing the obsolete lecture and memorization industrial age school system.
    (Facts are best remembered though use, not by repetition without context. )

    Plus like it or not technology is kids primary language, and not to teach in the language they are the most comfortable with is a disservice to them.
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      Apr 28 2014: This is so apt ! "Facts are best remembered though use, not by repetition without context." and you've summarized it so beautifully - like it or not technology is kids primary language, and not to teach in the language they are the most comfortable with is a disservice to them.
  • Steve C

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    Apr 27 2014: In a word: "zilch" - (right on-par with television).
    Send them to Gever Tulley's tinkering-school.
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      Apr 28 2014: “In a word: "zilch" - (right on-par with television).”

      The people at PBS, History, Science, Travel and other channels will be very sad to hear that they have zero educational value.
      • Apr 30 2014: Of-course there are very varying levels.
        However, as a whole, it is close-enough to zilch... if I had a button to nuke all those tvs back at the start, I think it'd be a wise choice.
        (Let us not forget this question is about primary education - kids should be experiencing dirt and reality.)
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    May 1 2014: I believe we are not doing enough in this area. I have heard that there are programs of complete primary education where students are scattered over great areas. These programs are working to all reports.
    Here in the US, we have great concerns about the safety of young children in schools. In response to these threats, schools have become educational "vaults" with armed security, scanners, lockdowns. None of this can be a warm fuzzy educational experience, To make matters worse, school systems are expending enormous sums to build new properties, hire support staffs that in many cases are more in numbers then teachers. Worse, any criticism is met with comments like "you are depriving our children.... you are not interested in children's future.." and on and on.
    Their bottom line is that there is no limit to money they can spend on children. The fact that our scholastic achievements have been on the decline for years is only a reason to fund the schools at a higher rate.
    What has this to do with technology and primary education?

    It can be done. It is possible to homeschool most all children over the internet are provide a quality learning experience. Such a program which would eliminate most school facilities reducing operations to internet service provider's with video conferencing between teachers and students. Direct interface with teacher and pupil can be
    generated and strengthen educational outcomes, plus bring educational cost down and eliminate the need for new educational "vaults".

    It won't be done. In the USA, most children come from families that are single parent or both parents working, Schools provide a supervised location for their children during the day. Some children have irresponsible parents who forget or don't want to take time to provide adequate nourishment, schools provide breakfasts and lunches, some even have weekend backpacks of food for the children over the weekend.

    Hope it gets better where you are.
  • May 1 2014: When I was 8 years old my father bought an Apple Mackintosh computer. It was one of the first ones in our country and that summer we did not go on vacation abroad. From the beginning me and my brother were allowed and encouraged to play/ work with it.

    For me it was a great learning instrument in many ways. Mastering the mouse to move the cursor on the screen was an accomplishment. Thinking abstract. Learning English (we lived in the Netherlands, speaking Dutch and there were only English computer interfaces). Writing small programs, seeing what they do and then taking that knowledge to improvise, make small programs of your own. To the best of my knowledge there was no Internet to homes in the Netherlands back then. Still, the computer was a huge teaching tool and I think it can be at any age.

    Having kids sit in front of (mind numbing) games for hours every day seems bad to me, but for a child in this age not to know how to operate a computer seems outdated. Show them how to write a letter (or email), how to print a picture they drew on the computer. Help them learn arithmetic and use spreadsheets to manipulate data, make graphs etc.

    The tools are great, internet content often is not for various reasons. Games are made to be addictive, advertisements try to influence kids to tell their parents what food (candy/ soda) to buy.

    I think children should be encouraged to use all the tools there are, but be supervised by responsible adults (just like scissors, a hammer or any other tools).

  • May 1 2014: In early primary years, I am actually opposed to it. Especially before say 10 years old as the child's brain is developing. There are concerns of addiction to the computer/internet and its effects on the young brain that may be irreversible.

    Plus, kids need to explore there world through play and activity, not just technology. Structured technology use in controlled measures is a useful tool. But that is it, technology is a tool, nothing more and nothing less.

    I would far rather see classes outside in the environment living and breathing the natural spaces and exploring than just looking at a computer screen and learning from it.

    However, technology can be useful in many ways that do not involve the student glued to a computer screen playing with the high tech toy in front of them.
  • May 1 2014: Hi Dear Deepak,I thinkinternet and technology play very important part of our nowaday lives.So how to teach students t o use technology and internet are the most important.

    And the more ridiculous,nowaday adults indulging a lot to play technology and internet but ban or even forbid children to use them.Especially in China,no mobile phone,no internet for children.LOL

    Since technology and internet developing is really very fast,so it is the right time for us to think about how to use technology and internet to help us living better.Thanks for the topic again.
  • Apr 30 2014: I honest think it depends. Technology is a tool which the educational system can use. Some schools in the US use technology to support individual education, not integrated into the classroom. Singapore used the exact opposite and has integrated into the classroom with individual student growth secondary.
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    Apr 28 2014: The Internet is a new invention compared with printing technology. Many of us who have used it for almost twenty years (or more, for some of us) swear that it is an indispensable and powerful tool for acquiring information, education and learning, and conducting and managing businesses. It is a great tool for the most part, although there are unintended consequences when it is used improperly.

    Primary school students should be guided and supervised properly by their parents and teachers in using the Internet because of the possibility of misuse and abuse.

    "The world's first known movable type printing technology was invented and developed in China by the Han Chinese printer Bi Sheng between the years 1041 and 1048. In Korea, the movable metal type printing technique was invented in the early thirteenth century during the Goryeo Dynasty. However, the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea printed Jikgi by using the similar method about 72 years earlier than Gutenberg, and Jikgi is the world's first press-printing material that is extant. In the West, the invention of an improved movable type mechanical printing technology in Europe is credited to the German printer Johannes Gutenberg in 1450."
  • Apr 27 2014: Since the Internet offers a window to "all" information I believe it is invaluable along with a guide.
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      Apr 28 2014: It is indeed! Its so exciting to see students browse and explore around various resources across internet while pondering the simplest of the questions. Internet/ technology is such an enabling factor.

      But the role of a guide is important in making this exploration process effective, efficient and joyful. Else, in most cases, researching on internet could be a time intensive exercise.
      • Apr 28 2014: You are so right Deepak and that is precisely why I said "along with a guide". I has taken me years to learn "how" to use the internet and with the proper guide the time would be shorter but as Einstein explained there is no substitute for experience. A good guide won't stop you from getting off the trail but they will help you get back on it.
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          Apr 28 2014: Yes experience is something which comes only with time and the constant will of trying out things and not being scared of making a mistake. :)