4 Linking technology, skills and learning purpose

It is likely that, in the future, access to the internet, and to computers and other electronic devices, will improve. Also, an increasing number of teachers and students will have access to technology outside school. Your role as school leader will be to ensure that teachers and students in your school have access to technology that is required for you to collectively achieve your educational goals.

A common mistake is to focus on the technology rather than on what you intend to do with it, and to underestimate the practical difficulties of maintaining computer equipment. Being clear about your educational priorities will enable you to select the technology that is most likely to help you meet those priorities.

Case Study 5: Mr Agarwal is frustrated

Mr Agarwal has recently started work in a new school. He was posted there by the District Education Officer and had been told that the school was well-equipped with computers.

I was very excited to be starting work at a new school. I was told that they had 25 laptop computers that students can use in lessons! When I arrived, however, I found that the laptops were in a locked cupboard and that no one had used them for some time. There was only one key to the cupboard, which was in the school leader’s office. If the school leader was away from school, no one could get the key.

The computers were old and slow. Some of them had no mouse, or damaged key boards, or the chargers had been lost. The ones that worked had Word, Excel and PowerPoint and a CD drive. There were some CD-ROMs with educational software, but the computers were not networked – so the CD-ROM would have to be loaded on each machine separately. Some of the licence code numbers had been lost, so the contents of the CD-ROMs could not be opened. Some of the older children could remember using the laptops, but they told me that they had not learnt much, because the teacher did not really understand how to use the computer.

This is perhaps not too uncommon a situation: not enough thought had gone into planning the maintenance and support of the computers in school. The equipment does not look after itself and users do not automatically know how to use it. See Resource 4 for further advice on maintenance and support.

Activity 5: Linking technology to learning

Working with a colleague, complete Table 1 below. The purpose of this exercise is to encourage you to focus on the educational benefits of technology rather than on the technology itself.

Table 1 Identifying the benefits of technology in your school.
Educational outcome How can technology help? What technology would be needed?
Teachers develop more participatory approaches in their lessons
Teachers see themselves as facilitators of learning, guiding and supporting students on their learning journey
Teachers see themselves as learners, keen to take control of their own professional development
Students learn the basics about computers: turning it on, file management, creating documents and presentations
Students learn how to search the internet, find information and store it for future use
Students learn how to send email messages and engage with social media
Teachers have access to educational software such as simulations
Teachers have access to resources that will enliven their lessons, such as YouTube videos, film clips, news reports or photographs.

Case Study 6: Mrs Nagaraju receives a donation

Mrs Nagaraju is the school leader of a small rural secondary school. A past pupil has recently returned to the village, having made money by running a successful business. He has come to see Mrs Nagaraju.

Last week I had a visit from a past student. He told me about what he had done since leaving school: he had set up a business that had recently been taken over by a large chain and he has made a lot of money. He was keen to give something back to the school and came with the offer to set up a dedicated computer room, with 20 computers for students to use.

I did not want to appear ungrateful, but my heart sank. I only have eight teachers and I know that no one has the knowledge or skills to look after a room like that, and some of them would not be able to use a computer themselves. We don’t have the resources to buy educational software and if we did, to make good use of it, we would need the computers to be properly networked together. I would much prefer to have some laptops, projectors and a wifi connection, but he was keen to establish a technology room in the school that could be named after him – ‘The Lal Tawney Computer Room’.

I thanked him for his offer and invited him back the next day. I told him that I needed to think about the logistics and to tell the teachers about his extraordinary offer. Mr Chadha teaches Class IX and I know that he uses the internet when he is in town, on his phone. I have a laptop. I found Mr Chadha and we made a plan. Mr Chadha was teaching the structure of the atom, so we went into town in the evening to the house of a friend of his who had a wifi connection. We downloaded a film from a website called ‘Powers of Ten’, which helps students to understand the relative sizes of an atom and the nucleus.

The next day, when Mr Chadha was teaching Class IX, he used my laptop to show the film. The students were amazed and delighted! They had to sit on the floor, but most could see – there was a real ‘buzz’ in the room. I took Lal into the room and he was impressed. It enabled me to explain that what I would really like would be a laptop for each teacher, a projector and a wifi connection, or a set of tablets that we could pre-load with educational applications. Rather than spend all his money at once, I suggested that he spent some on the equipment and then agreed to pay for the wifi connection for five years. I suggested that we put a plaque near the entrance to the school, thanking him for his generous donation to the school.

Activity 5 and Case Study 6 will have highlighted the fact that it is important that the technology you choose depends on the educational outcomes you wish to achieve. Sometimes, a simple option such as a single laptop and a projector can actually have more impact on more students than being able to provide a set of laptops to a class. As tablets come down in price, they may provide many benefits. Also, local initiatives can produce usable technology at relatively low cost.

Activity 6: Lectures on the internet

For this activity, you need access to the internet so that you can watch a presentation by Vinay Venkatraman about digital inclusion (http://www.ted.com/ talks/ vinay_venkatraman_technology_crafts_for_the_digitally_underserved [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ). Resources on the TED website are examples of open content that you can use for your own development or for training purposes, or even with students, to extend thinking and develop new perspectives. TED talks are generally deliberately inspiring and provocative, and therefore provide much food for thought.

Pause for thought

What is your response to the video in Activity 6? Thinking about your local community, is there anyone who could help you in developing simple solutions to some of the issues around ICT?

You can read more about the BRCK here: https://www.kickstarter.com/ projects/ 1776324009/ brck-your-backup-generator-for-the-internet

The final case study highlights some of the educational benefits of technology, as well as the role of teachers in realising those benefits.

Case Study 7: Local content development in three schools

This project was set up in November 2005. Students from Class V, VI and VII were given the opportunity to make a computer-based video presentation on a topic of their choice.

Teachers acted as the facilitator of the task, assisting each group as necessary. The students also had a ‘mentor’ for each local content development project – an expert from the community. Learning committees were set up in school with the idea of involving the village people in the endeavour. Where available, a Young India Fellow (YIF) was also involved in assisting the teams. Each group had access to a webcam and applications such as MS Paint and PowerPoint.

The students designed the format, collected the required information and prepared the text on the computer.

The project was carried out in three schools. It was much more successful in one school, mainly because:

  • the students were given a genuine choice and followed topics of their own choosing
  • the teachers acted as facilitators, guiding and encouraging rather than telling
  • the students received some coaching in effective groupwork, including the importance of people having distinct roles and responsibilities
  • the learning committee was proactive, meeting regularly with the teams to receive a report on progress.

In one of the schools, the topics chosen were from the textbooks and the information presented did not extend greatly beyond the textbooks.

Overall, the project was deemed to have been successful and highly motivating for students. The presentations will be available for other students – fulfilling one of the aims of NCF 2005, that students should be involved in knowledge creation.

However, one conclusion was that the teachers and the learning committee needed guidance to help them facilitate the efforts of the children without actually dominating them and stifling their curiosity and creativity.

(You can read a detailed account of this project here: http://www.azimpremjifoundation.org/ pdf/ LocalContent.pdf.)

3 Supporting teachers in the use of technology

5 Developing a strategic approach to ICT