Smart Classrooms: A New Approach to Teaching and Learning

By Smriti Parikh, Head of Literacy, The Acres Foundation

The National Education Policy 2020, released by the Government of India, emphasised the
use of technology in education and aimed to ensure that every student has access to a
digital device. Shortly after, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented
acceleration of the adoption of technology-based instruction in classrooms across the country.

Teachers could be seen using digital tools and resources, such as multimedia, presentations,
quizzes, etc, with ease. However, the use of technology is banal if it is not significantly
enhancing student learning outcomes. For instance, if in a traditional classroom students
were learning through a textbook, simply reading a digital version of the textbook is not the
smartest or optimum way of using technology.

Smart classrooms empower classrooms with digital hardware such as computers, projectors
and interactive whiteboards. Having the teachers use them to replace “offline” or paper-pen
learning will not be sufficient. While using engaging presentations and embedding
multimedia is definitely a step above reading from static text, it is indeed, just the first step
in distinguishing a traditional classroom from a smart one.

Technology should aim to improve productivity in the classroom while ensuring that it is
empowering students with 21st-century skills. It should not act as a substitute for content
but should become the vehicle or means through which students engage with content in
more depth. At the same time, it is important for educators to acknowledge that students
are learning the use of technology for accessing information in their classrooms.

Educators can reimagine all three aspects of instruction, content, assessments and process,
with the help of technology.

Technology-driven classrooms allow educators to expand the depth and breadth of content
addressed in their subject areas. Teachers can identify relevant and most updated
information related to the content and include it in their instruction. They can also make
their teaching engaging and student-friendly through videos. The best use of technology for
content curation, however, is using virtual reality and virtual tours. Students can visualise
scientific models, animals, and plants in 3D with the help of VR tools. The pandemic also led many historical places and museums to design free virtual tours. Teachers can make use of the same to take students virtually to places that they would otherwise only read about in books.

At the process level or how a teacher teaches, teachers can use several tools to improve the
learner experience. Jamboard, quizzes, padlet, kahoot, canva, nearpod – are just some of the tools that empower students to interact with their peers and teachers digitally. At the scale
at which Indian classrooms operate, these tools promote easy collaboration without causing
physical chaos in the classrooms. Students can respond to their classmates answers, give feedback to them and even learn from them. It also allows teachers to personalise
instruction for individual students or small groups by giving them different tasks or different  material to engage with.

Finally, at the level of assessing student learning, technology allows teachers to provide
immediate feedback. Online quizzing tools allow for checking progress in real time rather
than waiting for students to submit notebooks. More importantly, automated feedback
gives students real time feedback as well. Tools available via Google Suite, Flipgrid, Canva,
allow for multiple means of expression. Students are no longer restricted to expressing their
thoughts in a written manner. This promotes critical thinking as well and makes learning
more valuable.

A smart classroom delivers a plethora of opportunities for engaging students with
technology. The differentiator, when it comes to traditional classrooms, lies in answering
the question – is the use of technology allowing my students to engage deeper with
learning? If the answer is no, educators risk the use of technology fatigue for children. This is a generation which will continue to use technology for almost all possible tasks of their daily life. Poor use of technology in classrooms can dissuade students from seeing it as a means to expand their knowledge. This in turn will push them to use technology for when they find it engaging i.e. social media and gaming.

Hence, schools have an important role in training their teachers first in helping them
understand the purposeful and wasteful use of technology. By teaching them the use of various tools and sharpening their decision-making regarding their use, schools can ensure that classrooms are using technology for deeper learning. Eventually, classrooms will need to become a hub for students to discern when technology provide for positive learning
and when “offline” or traditional methods of learning serve them better.

Almost a decade ago, a common essay topic in examinations used to be “pros and cons of
technology”. Well, in 2023, we have established that technology is useful and is here to stay.
The education industry will need to embrace it and identify its role in building individuals
who are responsible for a safer and responsible future for all.

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