The Smart Schools Pedagogy
Smart school pedagogy aims to make learning more meaningful. It makes teaching learning process interesting, motivating and stimulating. Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd), Principal, Birla Public School, Pilani; Manila Karvalho, Principal DPS Bangalore East and R. Srinivasa Raghavan, Principal, Bala Vidya Mandir Sr. Sec. School, Adyar, Chennai, share their views on smart schools. Excerpts.
How can you define a smart school? What merits do a “Smart School” command in delivering an effective learning model? What challenges do teachers face in delivering pedagogy in a “Smart Environment”? And how do smart schools empower learners for learning beyond a routine curriculum? These are a few questions which arise when we think of smart schools. Here, we spoke to principals of three different schools to know about their views on the same.
Q: What are the indicators of a “Smart School”? How does a smart school differ from other types of schools?
Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd): A smart school, in my opinion, is the one which constantly contend with the demands and challenges of a rapidly changing, increasingly high tech and global environment. Therefore, in addition to the academics, students are exposed to broader interdisciplinary and cultural education. It is not only the technology that’s the indicator of a smart school. Smart school pedagogy aims to make learning more meaningful. It makes teaching and learning process interesting, motivating and stimulating. A school which uses advanced educational technology, expensive resources and infrastructure does not come under the category of smart school if it fails to involve the children’s mind, spirit and body in the learning process.
Unlike other schools, the smart school teachers employ a variety of multimedia tools for enhanced learning. The curriculum and guidelines are flexible. A smart school has a student management system in place and this system automates many processes of the institution and allows the facilitators to concentrate on teaching and learning. A Smart school prepares the students to be life ready and productive world citizens.
Manila Carvalho: In my opinion, some of the indicators of a smart school are-
- School staff possessing the feeling of being smart which is essential for self-motivation.
- Having a comfortable school structure.
- Qualified and empathetic teaching as well as non-teaching staff.
- Required amount of campus area.
- Uninterrupted power supply.
- Feasible accessibility to school.
- Viable communication with the various stakeholders of the school.
- Preparing children for the future anticipating the technological advancement.
- Being eco-friendly.
- Building in the sense of globalization among the staff and the students.
- Introducing vocational courses in the curriculum.
- Minimising the staff attrition rate in the school.
- Implementing updated curriculum.
- Enforcing policies in terms of safety measures of the students.
- Organising teacher empowerment programmes from time to time.
Smart school will have a cohesive group which will look into its growth in all its directions. The thought process of the Management and the Principal will percolate down till the class IV staff of the school. All speak of the same goals and desires. They will “walk the talk” in their aspiration to succeed. Learning is made memorable and enjoyable in these types of schools. Right from the management till the attender, all are well groomed in soft skills. Smart schools welcome change for the better.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan: Schools having the smart board, projector alone cannot be called as smart schools. Effective utilization of the technology in administration, communication with stakeholders, academic transactions and providing platform for the students to interact productively with peers and academicians globally make the difference between smart schools and others. Thus, a smart school is one where:
- Students interact with other students and develop thriving online learning communities- able to access and understand the current research and developments
- Practicing collaborative learning with the rest of the world.
- Fast recovery of information & data with practically no loss of details stored.
- Learning happens outside the school hours as well.
Q: Do external resources and the technological ambience define a “Smart School”? How does it contribute if any, to smart learning practices?
Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd): Only external resources and the technological ambience doesn’t define a Smart School but yes, these play an important part. Smart Schools are supposed to use the best global practices and education administration processes so as to understand and cater to their students’ needs. The technology helps the facilitators to organize, accommodate and optimize the learning process of the students. This could include latest ideas of the flipped classroom, blended learning and even BYODs (Bring Your Own Device).
Manila Carvalho: In the present context of schooling, external resources and the technological ambience does play a major role is projecting a school as a smart school. Having said that, we cannot consider them as smart schools if the facilities are underutilised in the administration department of the school or at the contextual understanding for the pupil. In the present educational trend, it is not a luxury but a necessity for a school to have technological ambience in its campus. This enables to speed up the work in a streamlined manner. Quick access to internet is a must. This enables the students as well the teachers to get any information within a short span of time. Visual learning for the children becomes interesting and will help them retain the content in their memory for a long time. Technology helps the children to Skype with the students of other schools as well as other countries for exchange of ideas and thought processes. It acts as a ‘buddy’ to complete their project work. MOOCs help them in various online courses. Students can access for free online coursers while they are studying & this enables them to acquire the required certificates before completing their graduation. Access for looking into the credentialy of various universities will enable the students to build in their profile accordingly.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan: Certainly technological ambience define “Smart School”. However, external resources contribute a lot to the users. Smart schools should not depend only on their teachers/staff in the respective schools but should provide enough channels/guidance for the students to effectively use the existing external resources available in the web world that are even given free of charge. This saves time and money for the individual and the organization. External resources provide greater input on recent developments as well as expertise which can supplement the existing resources in the school.
Q: What merit do a “Smart School” command in delivering an effective learning model? Do such models have a better impact on learning compared to routine models?
Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd): A smart school, in my opinion, prepares students to play his role effectively in the local and global society. In smart school, students remain at the centre point in contrast to the routine model where teacher remains important. The learning remains the focus in smart school model as compared to the teaching in traditional model. In routine model, the classrooms and the teaching learning activities within, remain the concerns of its pupils. However, in Smart school it is the entire ecosystem, surrounding the learners, like the society, its people, the environment, the happenings around, remains its concern.
The Smart Learning Model caters to the Inclusive education, for the Multiple Intelligence and also the diverse social cultural and economic backgrounds of the pupils.
The entire curriculum and the learning model of the smart schools equip its pupils to face 21st century challenges and prepares him to lead from the front.
Manila Carvalho: While speaking of an effective learning model, a Smart School looks at a child centric approach. The learner is the key person around whom all the activities hover. It provides space for the learner to learn and relearn, trial and error opportunity, try and retry benefit, stop and restart facility, etc. It gives its student a wide horizon to look into various opportunities. Self-learning facilities kindle the curiosity in children. Since the children are born in the era of technology, it gives them a comfort zone to work on it for long hours without feeling bored or frustrated. Any activity done with interest will bring in the desired learning. And this learning will get accumulated in their knowledge bank. Any study material can be delivered to any number of students living in any part of the globe in a jiffy. Projection of visuals plays a great role in giving a concrete understanding of the object. Storing data is an added benefit and retrieving it as and when required works marvellously for the students. Assessments give online help in giving immediate feedback and thereby start the remediation.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan: Going by one’s own resource/ knowledge, saturation may be reached sooner and later, it is just repetitive tutoring. Engaging teachers/ students in Smart use of technological resources enhances one’s own capability and skill in understanding the concepts. Visual aids provide greater depth to the subject learnt. Blogging with right group helps the students/ teachers gain wide knowledge and perspective of the topic. This results in developing people with better professionalism.
Q: What challenges do teachers face in delivering pedagogy in a “Smart Environment”? How ‘smart’ teachers should be for a ‘change-over’ process to this new model?
Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd): Delivering of pedagogy in a smart environment, by a teacher, has drastically shifted from the mundane teaching to, facilitating. This is because the advent of technology has made the pupils to become self learners. I personally feel that a teacher has to be tech savvy and stay abreast with latest global trends in school education in order to play the role of a perfect facilitator. It is a harsh truth. There is a strong need, for the teachers, for pursuing continuous professional development on the desired lines meticulously. Teacher training needs to be redesigned incorporating the new trends and challenges of making pupils smart learners. Teachers must keep away his/herself from pre-conceived notion on traditional teaching pedagogy and should have the capacity to adapt and create innovative and creative cosmos of learning for 21st century learners.
Manila Carvalho: Classroom teaching has become a great challenge for the teachers. If a teacher is not tech savvy she is not suitable to take up the challenges that are required in the smart environment. Most of the teaching staff are not born with technology but are migrated to technology due to the need of the hour. While our students are born with the technology and are smarter in view of having a better understanding of it. Use of the technology comes in an easy manner to them. Most of our teachers who are used to the “chalk and talk” method, in spite of them being good at their content will not be able to create the impact on their students, when compared to the teacher who uses technology while teaching. Teacher must be updated about the availability of the resource material so as to guide the students accordingly rather than asking the children to search for themselves. A teacher must accept the change and should be ready to bring in that change in the classroom to make the teaching and learning process interesting and long lasting. It is inevitable for a teacher to upgrade her teaching skills to be at par with the students that she is dealing. Students adore those teachers who touch their lives in the process of teaching and learning.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan: Leaders of the organisation should provide the technology with good support system to maintain it and sustain the developments made. Adequate training should be given on the use of software and teachers to be guided on how to browse and identify good articles/information/ video from the internet rather than buying packaged educational products. When we train the teachers to browse and identify good educational resources for their transactions their understanding improves. Interacting digitally with students may bring better bonding. However, in Indian scenario, teachers should be given adequate time to do research and delivering these responsibilities instead of being given 28-35 periods per week to do the monotonous practices. Digital teaching community should be created.
Q: How do smart schools empower learners for learning beyond a routine curriculum?
Captain Alokesh Sen (Retd): Smart schools’ educational technology helps the students go beyond the routine curriculum and explore and research further on the topics discussed in classes. Smart schools integrate international learning to the curriculum which percolates to the learning objectives and learning outcomes. Smart schools ensure learner’s autonomy. Through blogging, video conferences and taking up project works in collaboration with the students of schools across the world’, they not only enrich their knowledge of academic topics but also learn to accept the diversity, respect it, develop ability to interact with people across the globe, learn to work in collaboration and understand other’s perspective on global issues. Students of smart schools prepare themselves to be useful global citizens.
Manila Carvalho: Practical learning takes place outside confines of the classroom. The learners need to be prepared to take up the challenges of the society in which they are going to lead the rest of their life. Along with academic intelligence it is essential to teach the children the essential values that are required though examples or situations than in a disciplinarian style. Smart schools organise various team building activities which will enable the students to work in teams as well as develop mutual respect. Visit to the old age home, orphanages, remand homes will create a sense of understanding and responsibility among the students. Making the students accustomed to watch TED TALKS will bring in language fluency, aspect of self –confidence, aspiration for drive towards goals and dignity of labour. Encouraging sports and fine arts while providing required support from school will help them blossom in their talent. Introducing the learner to the global world through exchange programmes or virtual visits will enable them to respect each other’s culture and plan their career. A lot of learning takes place during the school excursions and camps. Introducing NSS, NCC, Scouts and Guides bring about bountiful learning through discipline among the learners. Project work and internships too bring about a high degree of learning. Children are made to think and ask questions.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan: Certainly smart learning will develop good researchers and professionals in their own field as they connect well with the rest of the world. Smart students will be able to develop right attitude and be able to bring things better than their best.
Capt. (IN) Alokesh Sen, Principal, Birla Public School, Pilani, has been in the field of education since last 32 years. Since last fifteen years, he has been the Principal of prestigious schools like Sainik School, Tamil Nadu; the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpeth and currently he is the Principal of Vidya Niketan Birla Public School, Pilani, Rajasthan since December 2010. He regularly writes for various leading education magazines in the country.
Manila Carvalho is currently the Principal at DPS Bangalore East. She has been felicitated with CBSE Mentor Award 2014. A Master in Psychology and a Master in Education, Manila is a vibrant leader. She has a teaching & administrative experience of more than 26 years. Her zeal for Inclusive Education has led to the accommodation of many differently challenged students into the main stream. She is a Research Scholar from Annamali University.
R. Srinivasa Raghavan is currently working as Principal, Bala Vidya Mandir Sr. Sec. School, Adyar, Chennai. He has 24 years experience as School educator, Professor & Principal. He has taught Physics in CBSE, IB, Edexcel, Cambridge curriculums and worked as professor in Modern College of Business & Science, Oman affiliated to Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis, USA. He also served as a counsellor at IGNOU. Raghavan has done research and published several papers in the field of spectroscopic investigation and quantum computational analysis on immuno viral compounds.