Sunday, November 18, 2018

Getting our students "future ready"

On November 17th 2018, TREE brought together 75 educators from a range of different schools across Chennai to talk about how technology is changing the role of the teacher, and how as educators we need to adapt our teaching to stay relevant. Topics addressed included technology integration, digital citizenship, cyber security and skills for the future.

Panel Discussion: How to use technology effectively in education

Thoughtful Panelists: Nirmala Sankaran, Gowri Sivashanker, Andrew Hoover

We were fortunate to have three excellent panellists, all of whom are stalwarts in the area of integrating technology into the learning sphere.

 Nirmala Sankaran co-founder of Hey Math! started her online learning platform in 2000, when a technology like this was unheard of in schools and classrooms.

Gowri Sivashankar, the Principal of the Chettinad Harishree Vidhyalayam, stresses the importance of using technology judiciously to make learning relevant and engaging.

Andrew Hoover, head of the American International school Chennai, has been developing and implementing technologies and technological systems in schools since 1994.

Teachers as Learners in a changing world

The Panel discussion revolved around the primary question of how to equip teachers to develop necessary future skills in students and prepare them for a world where they would have to be comfortable with the idea of constant change.

The discussion with the panelists and the audience revealed many areas to consider while using technology. With the volume of information available online,  a content or knowledge driven curriculum is no longer sufficient. There is a pressing need to build new age skills for students. In order to be future ready, students need to be able to evaluate online information, they need to understand  security concerns in the virtual domain, and they need to consider ethical questions in this new space.

Teachers need to see themselves as learners, and they need to be open to learning about and experimenting with new technologies.  It is fast becoming necessary for schools to know the technologies available and to use them wisely.  

That said, all the panelists emphasised the idea of "pedagogy at the center." Technology is a tool to enhance how you teach and what you teach; it allows you to reach different learners in different ways. But as a teacher, you first need to consider your learning outcomes, your students needs, and how best to reach your students. 

Technology in the Classroom: "Create and Consume"

Andrew Hoover talked about the two central ways in which we use technology: we can consume it or we can use it to create. 

Our students can use digital tools to create a wide range of exciting products that can demonstrate learning -- a video/movie, a blog, a presentation, a song, a podcast, a website, an animation ... the list is endless. 

If we're giving students digital content to "consume," then we first need to make sure that the content is relevant to learning. We need to use only relevant, pre-filtered content that advances learning.

Educators enjoying the discussion!

Safety Concerns in a Digital World

Participants brought up the question of safety. As one participant said,"technology allows one to transcend physical boundaries and this leads to a new age of perhaps being physically safe but mentally unsafe." This is the space where educators have an important role, in building socio-emotional skills, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills and collaboration and communication skills in students. Parents also need to be a part of this change and understand and be involved in educating their kids on tech usage. Children need to be sensitized on issues like Cyber security, Cyber bullying, plagiarism, etc.

Perhaps schools need to play a larger part in educating parents about how to help their children use technology safely and carefully at home.

Educators as designers of a skill-based course to get students future ready
Educators hard at work! Engaging in a discussion of the key skills for the future.

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