Education for the students in our lacs of government schools is at the cusp of technological innovation and maturity.
All government officials, NGOs, social enterprises and CSR Foundations who have worked for years with the ecosystem at government schools, are banking on digital learning & experimenting with models that can finally solve the impending issues and give them regular usage & finally some transformative results.
Earlier the buck used to generally stop with teaching aids and teacher training programs. But over the last 2-3 years, all the stakeholders have taken a step forward and are now working on engaging the students. Everyone is exploring and implementing personalised digital solutions with an aim to deliver growth oriented learning opportunities to the inquisitive & waiting hands of every student.
What are the underlying expectations from digital learning for students?
- The first expectation being proactive and happy adoption of digital learning by both the government school students and their ecosystem. Genuine adoption is the first and most important milestone that determines all the value that a digital education investment in a government school actually derives, and therefore is the most important objective for everyone today
- Once we achieve adoption and regular usage, then it should lead to students regularly consuming all types of content across subjects and skills to achieve their grade level learning, and also cover up the learning gaps left out from previous years.
- Eventually, with consistent learning usage our digital investments should finally result ongoing data driven outcomes and visible growth in student’s personality, all round performance and future prospects in life
Since our government schools face a lot of complex issues, therefore digital for students is expected to be the leapfrog step, which can complement the psychology of every stakeholder involved in govt school education and break open the transformation barriers.
Why the confidence on educational tablets?
When we talk about student engagement with digital, we should be clear that it’s not about a teaching aid but a learning tool for the student.
The projectors, smart boards and TVs are for the teacher to operate, maintain and use as a teaching supplement but when we implement student centric digital learning it is either computers, tablets or laptops for direct student use of digital.
For personalised ICT learning, over the last two decades many computer based learning projects and e-learning centres have been implemented across government schools in every state.
State Governments under the ICT in Schools scheme by RMSA funded by the center, have setup computer labs at thousands of govt schools as per budgets.
Corporate CSR projects have donated computers to government schools across states in the country.
Technology companies like Intel and Google have supported state governments to setup e-Learning and digital classrooms with Laptops & Chromebooks too.
Over the last few years, Educational Tablets for learning in government schools are being set up and experimented in many projects across states.
We at iDream Education also went through this digital cycle, in our work with government schools. We started with setting up computer labs at government schools, studied the usage and challenges, experimented with other types of digital hardware and off late have been focussing on fine tuning educational tabs for best suited usage at rural & government schools and with some very promising results.
The physical infrastructure and the ecosystem at our government schools can be very diverse. But some of the larger challenges with ICT at government schools have been generally observed everywhere in different degrees. These are:
Infrastructure & Electricity
Majority of our government schools have less than basic physical infrastructure and shortage of rooms. Also, they face shortage of electricity supply and even limited connections in the school.
Tablets fit into any govt school very beautifully by not demanding for fixed furniture, permanent power connections, UPS and a separate room. If designed and implemented smartly, an auto charging & lockable case for the tablets in a corner of any classroom or existing rooms, can be a new age e-learning and ICT lab for our govt schools.
Another advantage that tablets bring is non dependence on electricity and backup. So practically if the school gets even a few hours of electricity, the tablets once charged, do not need any power, or backup during entire school time and ensure best of student engagement in all conditions.
Hardware & Software Maintenance
The wiring, keyboard, mouse or CPU going corrupt, or the windows crashing with a virus from pen drives led to reduced usage. Servicing and carrying computers has become a headache and a very expensive proposition for teachers, principals and the govt functionaries.
Tablets have eased out their lives a lot, and have finally ensured that such large investments actually reach the children regularly. With no wiring issues and ease of access to phone like service/warranty options, they make a very good case for worry free e-learning at schools.
Android is an amazingly robust operating system for rural usage, with literally error free usage and a universal acceptance.
Computer Training itself was a major challenge and most schools complained of not having special IT teachers to maintain and teach computers. But with android tablets, the digital lab becomes a plug and play digital centre since everyone today is happily training oneself on using an android device.
Multi Category & Interactive Learning Content
This is another deeper shift that has happened to the overall content usage in our societies, and has a very strong impact to school education.
It is the great surge in the adoption of apps, digital books and interactive forms of videos by children and adults across socio economic boundaries. This has been facilitated majorly by the mobile revolution, and therefore now to engage the students and children in our government schools, we need to give them engaging and interactive types of content.
That is where tablets take the lead and can offer touch and view facilities for all types of educational content including digital books, play way apps, videos and practice tests.
Reading itself is getting lost in government schools and the students have very limited access to books across categories for general knowledge, inspiration, awareness and personal growth.
Digital reading on tablets becomes a boon for these students who can get access to hundreds of digital books in english and also their mother tongue, books which can transform their self confidence and lives.
True Personalisation with Digital Access to every Student
We all have seen computers and how they are actually used in schools. Generally there are 5 to 10 computers which by no means are enough to make every student experience personalised digital learning.
The ICT in Schools scheme under RMSA provides funds for computers in government schools, but it has been seen that the funds can best support 5 to 15 computers since computers need a lot of additional infrastructure investments like the furniture, electric fittings, Routers with Network and UPS. Since tablets can come at a far lesser cost than computers and do not need as much additional investments, therefore government schools can very well get 20 to 40 tablets in the same budget, and truly take digital learning to every student’s hand.
Empower & not Burden the Govt School Teacher
For other digital hardware, teachers have been complaining of being burdened with usage, maintenance and upkeep.
Tablets seem to have changed the things around. They enable the teacher to be a guru, a guide and let the students use the digital devices for learning.
Once the govt school teachers experience this empowerment, their attitude towards digital totally changes and they ensure that maximum usage happens. Why?
Because they start seeing those 20-30 tablets as their teaching assistants, as their extended hands which can help them serve every child in every situation. Even in times when they get other duties or work, or are short numbered, the students don’t suffer but still happily learn.
That realisation is the starting of a fundamental transformation of our government schools.
Costs & Scalability
Between all our visions and the actual implementation in such a large and diverse country like ours, come the costs and budgets we have to invest equally on every government school in every state. Tablets definitely come up as a much more affordable to setup and maintain learning tool.
Even for replicability and scale, tablets can be taken to very large number of govt schools in a shorter period of time thereby making it a very suitable digital project for last mile inclusion.
Last and Most Important, student’s Proactive & Happy Adoption
This is the biggest value add that tablets and mobile devices bring into rural education.
After all, everyone is spending ultimately to engage and enrich our students, right?
But for that, we need to adopt digital in a way which understands the children’s psychology and happily appeal to their inner self.
Half of the battle is won when the students happily adopt and own up. We have seen students in tribal government schools who had never used a smart phone earlier, touch, explore and play with a tablet, and be a decent user playing video and practice content within 10 mins of enjoyable self training.
We have seen students who are sidelined in classrooms, feeling amazed at what a touch can do, but then learning by trials where to touch and play the lesson animation or laughingly read a pictorial digital book within a single session.
No Training Required. Just the opportunity to freely explore digital.
That is the biggest power that tablets bring to rural, government school education. They can very well make our government school students fall in love with learning!
Tablets in Govt Schools: A worthy bet
To summarise, we can say that currently the entire global ecosystem is working to make mobile and tablet devices affordable and acceptable to all.
Ofcourse computers, laptops and Chromebooks have great value in different use cases for learning in our schools but for student centric digital learning at rural government schools, tablets seem to solve a lot of our impending issues facing us today.
To conclude, educational tablets seem to be a viable, suitable and enjoyable way to bring our millions of growth hungry rural students into the digital fold.