Author - ComstarISA | Apr 13 2018 05:00
In the developing world, improving access to education for marginalized communities becomes increasingly challenging due to the unavailability of competent teachers in such areas. Often, the teacher, having been educated in the poorly resourced local system, has the low subject content knowledge, and no training in transferring that knowledge successfully to students. Thus, he or she usually resorts to encouraging memorizing without understanding, learning in the classroom. While teacher training can help overcome some of these issues, it is a time consuming and costly exercise; also, its success is dependent on the teacher’s willingness to implement the training in the classroom.
One relatively cost-effective remedy, fast becoming popular, is to not rely solely on the teacher for imparting learning but to use him/her as a facilitator and let technological initiatives take the lead: for instance, using video lessons installed in tablets, with built-in assessments which track student learning. Besides the obvious advantage of engaging the student successfully by replacing routine textbook/blackboard teaching with videos that are attractive and succinct, any gaps in the teacher’s content knowledge or methodology are also taken care of. Moreover, the shift from textbook to tablet works wonders in enhancing student interest and improving class attendance!
Developments in Literacy, a Pakistani NGO, recently ran a pilot project in several schools to gauge the impact of using tablets for learning: grade 6 students were the target group and the subjects focused on were Math, English, Science, and Urdu. While a complete evaluation of the impact is still in the process using data from baseline and end of limited scale effort (pilot), assessments initial findings are very promising: teachers report increased attendance in these classes and complete engagement of student attention.
However, it must be kept in mind that even with the technological interventions, the teacher’s role remains significant: simply using mobile technology in the classroom does not guarantee increased learning; how the teacher builds upon the video lesson and complements its content with follow up activities, is extremely important for a successful outcome. This necessitates training the teacher on how to optimize the benefit of the video content and integrate it into a comprehensive lesson plan for increased student comprehension. Another factor impacting results may be that student response may vary between low-income communities and ones with a better socioeconomic status whose children may already have access to technological aids. In such cases, the students’ fascination for a new device, which helps retain their attention, will be absent.