Information and Communication Technology and Smart Education

Information and Communication Technology and Smart Education

Information-and-Communication-Technology-and-Smart-Education Information Technology

Information and Communication Technology and Smart Education

Information-and-Communication-Technology-and-Smart-Education

What challenges do we encounter as a teacher?

As a teacher I have to face several challenges in the context of the education system in India where the classrooms are filled with heterogeneous learners and one of them is to get going the passive, non-interactive, non-performing learners. The heterogeneous learners in India are composed of multi-lingual and multi-cultural students who belong to diverse social categories such as gender, religion, and caste, and also to different economic strata. They hail from a curious mix of different and sometimes largely uneven educative institutional cultures. Further, they display varying levels of competence in language communication in general, and English language communication in specific. Altogether, they reflect and embody the complex differential phenomenological histories within the ambit of education.

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The Problem at Hand

Due to the varying intensities of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the teaching-learning mechanism at that time was being conducted in the virtual mode through the usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based tools. Apart from immediate challenges that threatened continuous seamless teaching-learning process, such as, the digital divide, disparate and incommensurate life conditions at homes, I have faced daunting tasks of being unable to reach out and communicate with a group of students who remained inert during the class sessions. The conventional strategies of attempting to ensure their participation in most of the learning, assessment, and evaluation procedures proved futile. This compelled me to ponder and introspect on the practical pedagogical formulations which interacts heavily and regularly with the domain of ICT. It appeared that the philosophical-theoretical debates on the role of ICT in education and the practical-pedagogical challenges involved therein have hitherto remained focused on motivated learners. The passive, non-interactive, and non-performing learners (our target learners) in the classroom have remained discursively excluded. Thus, the immediate challenge for me is to make attempts at involving the target learners’ in the institutional educative process.

Developing Metacognition through ICT Based Education

At my university, I offer courses in Linguistics and Communicative English. In the Communicative English classes what I observed is that I have always received feeble responses from the target learners in a number of task based activities. It was a “story-telling task” that struck chords with the learners. During the “story-telling task” (assessing coherence and cohesion of ideas among the learners) that was conducted twice – without and with ICT tools – it was noted that during the former, the target learners showed memory failure, difficulties in mapping contexts & events, lack of comprehension about the text generated by the previous participants, and that culminated in the overall failure to understand the text narrative. However, later when the same task was executed with image cards, and power point presentation over a Learning Management System (LMS) platform, the target learners could successfully fulfill the assigned tasks. During self-assessment, they unanimously chose visual perception as a stimulus that facilitated in understanding, remembering, analyzing, applying, and creating their knowledge level. It was the first time that the learners not only participated in the activity, but also were actively engaged in self-assessment and evaluation processed. They finally opened up and started regularly articulating themselves in the teaching-learning sessions. The above instance and the outcomes that it generated actually led me to furthermore dwell on the relational aspects of ICT tools in inducing the metacognitive faculties of the target learners. It has been found that ICT based language teaching meta-cognitively empowers the target learners, offers them alternative strategies to claim their space within the educational fold, articulate their self and aspirations.   

Information and Communication Technology Based Education and Enhancement of Critical Thinking

With rapid strides in the global technical and digital advancements, newer ways, avenues, and modes of learning have emerged. ICT services and tools have assumed the formal incorporation into what is understood to be Smart Education that thrives on modern existing & emergent technologies of customized learning. The new smart technology enables education to be more learner-centric, where the learner can exercise principal choices in the elaborate knowledge acquisition procedure, and secure autonomy to take responsibility of the learning process. As a result, the learner emerges as a key agent in the field of education. Through the meeting of individuated requirements or customized formations, smart technology provides several alternatives in terms of knowledge sources for prospective learners to engage in learning activities. Consequently, it increases the learners’ participation, and also promises ample scope for the learners and the learning process to be interactive. Thus, ICT based smart education has transformed the landscape of education by replacing the erstwhile lecture based and teacher-centric process of knowledge exchange. With the sole focus on the learner, smart education seems to provide the former with increased motivation. Two contrasting features appear to operate simultaneously in this field – one, fragmentation of knowledge & atomized individualization of the learner, and two, assembly of fragmented knowledge to generate an impression of a ‘holistic’ view of knowledge content, and cultivation of academic solidarity of the learners within crystallized communities. ICT as a support for smart education provides several benefits, like: easy access to reading and other study materials, continuation of learning outside the classroom space, online discussion forums, enables teachers and learners to render the study process more flexible, and focuses on the principle of individualization based on different interests, levels of competence & expertise, and needs.

Apart from the pedagogic advantages offered by ICT mediated instruction, the faculty of critical thinking can be developed as learners engage with tools, discuss, experiment, collaborate, make decisions, and solve problems using various tools. Moreover, in ICT mediated learning, the control on the entire learning process consisting of aims & objectives of a particular lesson, the specific kind or sort of information & knowledge that needs to be accessed, the time factor as to when it would be accessed, the utilization of the information-data-knowledge, securing the outcomes of the learning, qualitative and quantitative assessment & evaluation of the learning rests on the learner. ICT mediated education establishes self-regulated learning process, where the learners are aware of what, why, and how they are learning. Technology based learning (in particular, e-learning) enables the teaching-learning process to be more flexible as it takes into consideration the needs of different learners depending upon their levels of competence – basic, intermediate, and advanced levels. They can plan, monitor, and evaluate their own learning process. The minute constitutive process adds on to the critical thinking capacity of the learner in this case.

In order to develop critical thinking skill and analytical skill, the learning environment needs to be conducive and learner friendly. ICT tools like various learning applications, different types of software, videos, images, audio files, power point presentations, among others, simulate a ‘constructivist’ classroom wherein the learners can engage in long-term learning process, constructing their own learning by asking questions and finding better approaches to solve the problems. The ICT mediated classroom makes the learning process more interesting as ideas and information can be presented in different forms such as images, video clips, audio clips, tables, graphs, and even multimedia. The emergence of World Wide Web associated with internet has compelled stake holders within the academia to invent new forms of learning that would add significantly to the creation of learner’s autonomy and its enhancement as well.

Considering that this blog focuses solely on English as Second Language Acquisition (ESLA) and TESLA, it may be claimed that ICT provides the language learners the opportunity of real-life exposure to the technical and socio-cultural aspects of language communication by giving them an insight into those who speak the target language as their native language. For example, through digital platforms such as emails (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, et.al), social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Face Time, professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, and other video conferencing applications such as Google Meet, Zoom, and Cisco Webex platforms to name a few, language learners can interact with native speakers and this enables them to understand the communicative culture of the target language speakers. That in turn facilitates the language learning process for the non-native speakers. ICT tools such as Interactive whiteboards, power point presentations, video clips, and images, they provide stimulating visual aids as a productive strategy to support the comprehending, understanding, and using of the target language in real contexts. In ICT mediated learning, the learners have freedom to access information and control their own learning speed.  It makes the language learners aware of the whole learning process. The learners can consciously adopt preferable language learning strategies as per their need. This further intends to establish a more action/outcome based learning.

While using technology to plan their learning goals and outcomes, the learner becomes aware of one’s own cognitive process, which further inculcates self-regulation of learning objectives and active monitoring of the learning process. Thus, the arena of language learning and knowledge acquisition gets invested with neural vectors with the predominant intersection of a complex network involving cognitive, supra-cognitive, and metacognitive practices for the fulfillment of broader goals.

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