Towards a student- centred learning experience…


Dr. Mithlesh Agrawal
C.P. Group of Schools, Farrukhabad

Today’s age of 21st Century is also the age of information and technology (IT). All aspects of life are related to science and technology. Huge flow of information is emerging in all fields throughout the world. Now information and technology is popularly used in educational field for making teaching and learning process successful and interesting for both students and teachers. In 1998, UNESCO World Education report says that student and teachers must have sufficient access to digital technology and the internet in their classroom, schools, and educational institutions.

No generation is more at ease with online, collaborative technologies than today’s young people — “digital natives”, who have grown up in an immersive computing environment. Where a notebook and pen may have formed the tool kit of prior generations, today’s students come to class armed with smart phones, laptops and iPads. The conduct of education in this 21st century has been witnessed with a paradigm shift from face-to-face teaching environment to a more technology-based learning environment. The advancement of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has influenced the development of education. For example, interactive multimedia learning applications were introduced to the classrooms; blended learning and distance learning which involve web-based learning were also implemented. With these new applications and learning platform, students are exposed to a more student-centered learning experience.

Ins and outs of conventional learning process…

In the process of conventional learning, emphasis was given on contents. It follows the particular course structure/syllabus for many years. Accordingly the subject wise textbooks & reference books have been written. By using relevant material to the subject, teachers were supposed to teach through lectures and presentation. Teachers used their lesson plans, tutorials, different way of assessment to evaluate student performance etc.

Traditional classes are typically teacher driven and teacher centric. Traditional teaching tools are used, such as lecture notes, charts, blackboard writing, showing physical models, laboratory experiments, etc. Learning environment can be dull and fun in class is kept to minimum to avoid disciplinary issues.

In traditional classes, the teacher and students collaborate in physical classroom. It’s hard to address the needs of different levels of learners in a single class. If there aren’t additional resources available for groups such as slower or gifted students, they often have to make do with a one size fit all average class. Usually one teacher per class is available and guest teacher or specialized teacher on a particular topic is difficult due to time and travel constraint and usually single subject learning is possible due to space and scheduling constraint.

Besides, in traditional classes, evaluation involves taking tests, and handling in manually- graded assignments. Result processing and analyzing the result is slow process.

In traditional classes, classes are held, and if you forget to note something down or can’t attend, the chance is missed and can’t be repeated.

From a teacher centered learning to competency based learning

Use of ICT in education affects the way of students learning. Smart class was launched by Educomp in 2004. In the initial stages a soft launch across a few select geographic confirmed the phenomenal acceptance amongst private schools of all categories. At the very initial stage of launch, many Indian reputed schools like Takshila, DPS Pitampura in Delhi and Cambridge chain of schools were the first to adopt the programme. Gradually, it gained the momentum and it has now been adopted by 1000 schools across India and helps in a rapid transformation of moving technology into classrooms in India.

Concept model of smart classroom

The smart classroom is a highly technological concept where presentation of content is optimal, interactive, and convenient with access of learning resources. It is also helpful for contextual awareness, classroom layout and management. It may be summarized as Showing, Manageable, Accessible, Real-time Interactive and Testing, which nicknames “S.M.A.R.T”.

The five dimensions just embody the wisdom of a smart classroom feature, which can be referred to as “SMART” concept model. ‘Showing dimension’ represents teaching information presentation capabilities of the classroom, which requires not only showing the contents that can be clearly visible, but also showing content suitable for learners’ cognitive characteristics, to enhance the learners’ learning materials understanding and processing.

‘Manageable’ dimension represents diverse layouts and the convenience of management of the Smart classroom. The equipment, systems, resources of Smart classroom should be easy managed, including layout of the classroom management, equipment management, physical environment management, electrical safety management, network management etc. The layout of the Smart classroom should be flexible, diverse, supporting a variety of teaching and learning activities, giving full consideration to the placement of various devices to improve the space utilization efficiency; the design of desks and chairs should consider the material, structure, colour and other factors.

‘Accessible’ dimension represents convenience of resources acquisition and equipment access in the Smart classroom, which involves resource selection, content distribution and access speed. The Smart classroom should be able to provide teaching resources to support teaching and learning activities, which include computers, tablet PCs, smart phones, wireless projectors, interactive whiteboards. In content distribution, curriculum, lesson plans, teaching content, teaching tools should be able to facilitate distributed learning terminal. The speed of resource access and terminal access should not affect the teaching and learning activities.

‘Real-time Interactive’ dimension represents the ability to support the teaching interaction and human-computer interaction of the Smart classroom, which involves convenient operation, smooth interaction and interactive tracking. In convenient operation, the Smart classroom should be able to support the natural interaction between man and machine, interactive equipment and interface with a simple, full-featured, clear navigation, consistent with the operating habits and characteristics, touch, visual and voice interaction can improve the interaction between man and machine, the interaction tends to be more natural.

While, ‘Testing’ dimension represents perception of the physical environment and learning behaviour in Smart classroom. The physical environment factors, including air, temperature, light, sound, colour, odours etc, affect the physical and mental activities of teachers and students. In nature every teacher and every class is different, and that space can be adapted to their needs, the concept of smart classrooms includes the principle of adaptability to the type and needs of teacher and of each student.

Characteristics of smart classrooms:

Adaptive learning: Any classroom will always have students of different types of learning abilities in it which often makes it difficult for teachers to make sure that all of them understand the concepts. The modern approach of adaptive learning gives students the freedom to learn at their own pace and in the way they are most comfortable with.

Collaborative learning: Learning through collaboration is one of the most effective forms of learning. Teaching and learning in isolation are very restrictive and hinder progress. Learning in groups enhances the scope of learning and develops critical thinking. Collaborative learning activities include collaborative writing, group projects, joint problem solving, debates and more. Collaborative learning redefines traditional student-teacher relationship in the classroom.

Computing devices: Computers are readily available in modern classrooms, since they are essential tools for 21st century students and replace the utilities of pen and paper. They give teachers the opportunity to enhance their lessons and assist them.

Mutual respect: Teachers and students should always have respect for each other. As now the role of teachers is no longer to be the sage on the stage, students should not forget their value as they will always receive guidance from them. Also, teachers should encourage students to speak with confidence and value their opinions.

Performance-based assessments: Regular performance-based assessments are carried out by teachers through various methods which are not restricted to tests. These can also assess performance by conducting quizzes and polls.

Student-centric: In Smart classrooms, teachers play the role of facilitators. They help students think critically. Students discover and master new concepts. Student-centric classroom environments put students’ interests first and are focused on each student’s needs, abilities and learning styles.

Students take responsibility of their learning: As students are encouraged to actively participate in their own learning, they become responsible for their learning.

Students understand and follow the rules and procedures: The learning environment is carefully planned and well-organized. Class rules, procedures, and notices of upcoming activities are posted in convenient places to help students stay on track. Students are constantly encouraged to remind them of their goals and responsibilities. They follow class routines and understand what they are expected to achieve each day and how they are to go about it.

Objective of Smart Class Room

The following are some objectives for a Smart Class Room application:

  • To help teachers to meet new challenges and developing students’ abilities and performance.
  • To enable teachers to access multimedia content and information that can be used for teaching students more effectively, pedagogically sound and visually rich curriculum resources.
  • To enable teachers to express their views and ensures that every child is understanding the undertaken concept which ultimately affects his achievement.
  • To make possible for the concepts to be understood clearly (make abstract concepts real).
  • To have interactive and live teaching to elaborate and compare different objects and perceptions towards the particular concepts.
  • To design a module of smart class which allows a student to visualize the concept much better than static images, visuals and animations that students will never forget.
  • To move a step towards development where students’ achievement is highlighted.
  • To makes learning an enjoyable experience for students. Activities and games to make learning process easy.
  • To make effective blending of technology with the classroom, and to inform the teachers of classroom events.
  • To simultaneously instruct remote and local students.
  • To improve creative thinking in learning process to visualize the concepts and practices with model and demonstrations.
  • To optimize the use of e-resources wise e-books, e-journals, protocols, lecture notes, documentaries and so on.
  • Customized content as per the school’s scheme of work and to provide facility to update the content.

Enhancing teachers’skills…

Many teachers are reluctant to use ICTs, especially computers and the internet. Some of the reasons for this reluctance include poor software design, skepticism about the effectiveness of computers in improving learning outcomes, lack of administrative support, increased time and effort needed to learn the technology and how to use it for teaching, and the fear of losing their authority in the classroom as it becomes more learner-centered and quality of internet services in the region. In terms of using internet and other ICT as a resource for lesson preparation, the number of teachers using it is very less in comparison to non-users. The teachers particularly felt that they had both access and training inadequacy and hence were unable to utilize internet and other facilities. The quality of internet service in the region is also a factor. More teachers were comfortable however, with using computers as an individual than as a teacher. A positive find is that all those teachers who are not well versed with the computer and other technology, expressed keen interest in undergoing training for the same. They felt that if trained, they would be in a position to make use of resources available in the school. Support of school administrators and, in some cases, the community, is critical if ICTs are to be used effectively. In addition, teachers must have adequate access to functioning computers (or other technologies) and sufficient technical support. Shifting pedagogies, redesigning curriculum and assessment tools, and providing more autonomy to local schools all contribute to the optimal use of ICTs in education. Very few strong examples of integration of ICT into classroom teaching learning is visible, though some schools do use the audio visual aids and integrate teaching of some lessons.

On a concluding note…

The concept of e-learning in India is yet in its early stages and may not exactly be spreading like wild fire in many parts of rural India. However, as a mode of teaching and learning, it has seen an increasing use in educational institutions in cities. Here computers and audio visuals are extensively being used to get the children better versed with the lessons taught in the classroom or for that matter even while learning at home. More and more schools are realizing the importance of e-learning for school kids. They know how this will greatly assist teachers in their tireless endeavors of preparing gifted beings and thus doing justice to the great intelligence of the little ones but, there is a strong need to train the teachers for adopting smart classroom in their teaching – learning process.

Dr. Mithlesh Agrawal, an eminent industrialist, educationist, philanthropist and political stalwart, guided the C.P. Group of Schools as trusted symbols of quality and excellence in the region’s educational landscape. Her forays in the field of education exhibited the meticulous planning, concern for detail and flawless execution that are her hallmark throughout the life. Each of the institutions set up by her become a success by creating a family-like environment through her personal touch, dedication and a shared vision of excellence. Dr. Mithlesh Agrawal has been actively associated with several social, cultural and professional bodies, and held responsible positions reflecting her versatility, leadership and standing in industry, education and social circles. C.P. Group of School comprise of five schools: C.P. Vidya Niketan, Kaimganj; C.P. Vidya Niketan Inter College, Kaimganj; Sri Ram Agrawal Higher Secondary School (Hindi Medium), Parauli; Sri Ram Agrawal Higher Secondary School (English Medium), Parauli and C.P. International School, Farrukhabad.