What makes a school really smart?
Dr. Priyadarshi Nayak
Principal, Prelude Public School, Agra
Today’s generation is already tech savvy right from childhood, through exposure to smart phones and tablets in the household. Continuing this tech savvy atmosphere in the classroom will be advantageous as the child is already accustomed to it at home. Here the learner can access such a vast storehouse of information that his knowledge will definitely exceed that of the regular school curriculum.
A ‘Smart school’ would be different from regular schools, as we know them, in various ways. I still remember receiving my first ‘Smart phone’ and comparing it with my regular traditional mobile, which I used to make and receive phone calls, and sometimes SMS. Using the connotation ‘traditional type of school’ would bring to the mind a school with minimum use of technology.
As most of us have experienced, once we acquire a smart phone we first need to learn how to use it. We spend time pouring over it, trying the different apps, widgets, locating settings, the camera, the volume, the phone book and what not. After a couple of days we tend to become more confident in using it, but often we are amazed to find new uses and functions which we did not know about. And so the learning goes on, till one day we wonder how we were able to work without this gadget in our lives. In much the same way, simply procuring the set up for a smart school, will not be enough unless a concerted effort is made to understand the processes and techniques and how to tailor its features to suit the classroom needs.
What is a smart school?
A Smart School would be making maximum use of smart and active technology in the process of implementation of the entire curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, teaching-learning material and school management in order to prepare students for the age of information in which we are living. Smart school classes can be technology-driven and learner centric with the teacher as a facilitator. Teachers have better teaching tools to effectively engage learners. Virtual classrooms allow students more freedom to crease, experiment, explore and steer the class.
When can a school become a Smart School?
- Schools no longer need to maintain ledgers and cumbersome paperwork as smart school software now helps maintain all records for the school in one place.
- Pens and notebooks will be replaced by tablets and computers.
- Being a smart school allows the educators to reach out to students all over the world and develop thriving online learning communities.
- Students in a smart school are exposed to students from other parts of the world via online meetings and collaborations.
- Smart school softwares include functionalities of an ERP and LMS making it really simple for any school to run and maintain processes.
- Schools can store all their data on the cloud and stop worrying about lost data and the time consumed to retrieve it.
How it works?
As far as achieving smart learning practices goes, it must be understood that the teacher will still play a key role in the classroom, even though he is using digital instruction. Digital activities and conventional human-facilitated activities will represent parallel and interdependent instructional strategies. The computer will not replace the role of the human teacher, but the students will not be dependent on the teacher or textbook alone to enhance their knowledge. They will learn to explore the internet and find new ways of learning. Also, the use of readymade teaching learning software complete with learning outcome testing techniques will definitely contribute to smart learning practices. After taking the first step, the sky would be the limit!
Are smart schools better?
The question as to whether a smart school model would have a better impact on learners as compared to routine models needs to be addressed cautiously. The role of the teacher in a student’s life needs to be first understood before a blanket statement in favour of smart school model can be made.
A teacher has high expectations from students not only as regards their standard of learning but also their behaviour and value inculcation, and motivates their students to meet those expectations. Teachers understand individual differences among their students and teach accordingly. They also understand that students learn best if their particular culture, background and abilities are acknowledged by the teacher in the way they teach. Using a range of pedagogies, teachers use techniques that best serve the learning needs of their students. This may include the use of technology, by referring to the internet and encouraging their students to do so. And above all, teachers inspire in their students a love of learning.
Besides teachers, students often learn on their own as well as with and from others. They exchange knowledge and take help from a peer who has a better understanding of the subject matter than them.
So, merits of a smart school would be:
- Access to online resources in the classroom.
- Notes will be in digital medium such as presentations, videos etc. and student would not write down anything, instead receive it on mail or in a pen drive.
- The absentees would find it advantageous to make up lost classes.
- Difficult topics can be better understood with the help of multimedia rather than chalk and talk.
- Learning would become more enjoyable, especially for the visual learner.
- Better understanding would lead to better performance by the student.
- The possibility of video conferencing with expert teachers in the classroom will be a welcome move.
How ‘smart’ teachers should be for a ‘change-over’ process to this new model?
A smart classroom would involve using a smart board or white board instead of the traditional blackboard with its chalk and talk. Whiteboards allow many different forms of media such as photos, illustrations, maps, graphs, games, and video, to be displayed.
- Teachers would have to familiarize themselves with all these resources such as knowledge databases, online video and news items to reinforce their lessons and be constantly online to ensure that they are up to date.
- Teachers would have to learn about Technology Integration, for example, how to attach tools such as microscopes, document cameras, cameras or video cameras to a whiteboard to aid in instruction and how to integrate the interactive learning tools with a wide range of software applications
- They would have to keep track of Online learning software, e learning tutorials, online multimedia lessons, educational websites, online training, online two way conversation, online video chatting, high speed internet speed etc.
It is therefore necessary to train the resource persons; such as school teachers, academic and administrative staff.
How smart schools empower learners for learning beyond a routine curriculum?
A Smart School environment helps to democratise education. The Smart School programme provides equal access to learning opportunities. It may increase creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning. It may improve communication and collaboration. It teaches new tools for working such as ICT and information literacy. It will teach skills for life and career, and personal and social responsibility.
Having said that, on second thought it seems that this has always been the goal of education and it is not necessarily linked to smart teaching learning methods. The main difference through smart schools could be to deliver these goals to a wider range of learners rather than to a small social elite class.
If the nation requires a well-educated workforce, education has to be delivered to more people and this can happen through education technology. Once students realize that they can play a major role in their own learning without the constant guidance of teachers or tutors, they will explore new avenues; they may become entrepreneurs, inventors, think out of the box, develop critical thinking skills, learn to compare and contrast, analyse, develop curiosity to learn more and more and definitely be tech savvy.
Dr. Priyadarshi Nayak, Principal, Prelude Public School, Agra, is an accomplished Educationist. He is the Master Trainer and Resource person of CBSE. He has worked as Principal in Delhi Public School, Sagar and as Principal of St. Xavier’s Senior Secondary School, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. He is the founder Chairman of a teachers and principals forum named “Research for Adult & Child Education (RACE), in Odisha ” and the founder of Principal forum All Intellectuals Eduleaders Forum.