Are Schools Doing Their Bit In Blurring The Gap Between Digital Learning & Traditional Learning

Dr. Suresh Nagpal, Chairman, Asia Pacific World School, BangaloreA visionary and a successful educationist, Dr. Nagpal with three decades of efforts, has brought about a change of a lifetime in the education system and is currently responsible for revolutionizing the way education is imparted through the many colleges affiliated to the Krupanidhi Trust.

In the last few years, the Indian education sector has witnessed the launch of several digital learning websites and mobile apps, offering a diverse range of educational resources. They enable students to go beyond physical textbooks & other study materials, to learn academic concepts at their own learning pace, and in a more interesting manner through audio-visual tools. From the perspective of schools or teachers, digital learning gives them an opportunity to improve their teaching curriculum, methodologies and outcomes.

While digital learning indeed is a powerful medium to provide high-quality education, engage students effectively and adapt to the new-age, there is still a significant divide between traditional and digital learning among a majority of schools. The reasons for this gap are several:

• Lack of awareness about digital technology in education.
• Insufficient funds to source and implement digital learning tools.
• Lack of space and infrastructure for digital
• learning set up.
• Unavailability of trained teachers in digital
• learning.
• Resistance to digital learning - `traditional learning is the best' ideology.

It is imperative to understand that India is one of the largest education systems in the world with diverse demographic population and socio-economic-political features. This in itself poses difficult challenges to incorporate common standards and goals in traditional education.

Hence, there is also general apprehension in traditional schools that digital learning may become more burden-some in terms of resources and standardization.

The need of the hour is to shatter the misconceptions around digital learning at the mass level, and make the traditionalists realize that it is a progressive path to the future of education. It has been helping schools to provide the right mentorship to its students, with an apt platform for nurturing ideas and thinking out of the box. It also supports an atmosphere where the students can be transformed into innovators of tomorrow; all this
because of the immense possibilities that digital learning brings with itself. Fortunately, the ruling government's `Digital India' campaign is a step towards integrated digital learning. It is urging schools to get rid of outdated, traditional education and embrace digital learning for reforms through innovation and experimentation.

Some schools have already begun to do their bit by integrating digital learning with traditional learning through the following tools:

The need of the hour is to shatter the misconceptions around digital learning at the mass level, and make the traditionalists realize that it is a progressive path to the future of education

Setting Up Computers and Internet: Computers and internet are the basic prerequisites of any kind of digital learning. Some schools already have dedicated computer labs while others have computers available in each class-room or at least in common areas, depending on their re-sources and affordability. Schools are also enhancing their internet access by installing wi-fi connections at some specific zones or making them available to limited users.

Interactive Whiteboards: Some schools are replacing conventional chalkboards with interactive white-boards that can be connected to a projector and a computer. Interactive whiteboards make lessons more exciting and fun by displaying images and videos.

Multimedia Presentations: Textbooks have limitations in terms of content and space; there is only so much that you can do with text and a few pictures. Multimedia presentations on computers, projectors or interactive whiteboards can make lessons dynamic with photos, videos, sound, animation and artistic elements. Multimedia presentations add a practical dimension to theory and are quite effective in subjects such as science, math, geography, and many others.

Virtual Field Trips: Students love outdoors ­ it opens up new vistas of learning. However, schools can conduct only a few trips a year due to monetary and logistics constraints. But, digital learning can make unlimited field trips possible by playing videos in the classroom.

E-Learning Assignments/Projects: Many schools are now encouraging students to access information and ideas from online resources for their assignments and projects. In fact, some schools are also making way for students to make their presentations using PowerPoint or digital templates, and submit their homework by sending emails or uploading on the website of the teachers/schools. Such initiatives build digital literacy skills among students from a young age.

Digital Libraries: Technology has now enabled schools to get remote access to digital versions of books, magazines, textbooks and even audio-video files from across the world. Digital libraries are a great addition to schools where there is limited space or budget for physical libraries. Schools can make digital libraries available on school computers, website or app.

There is no doubt that digital learning can uplift the face of education. It has opened up new avenues of learning for students and teaching for schools. However, at the same time, it is viewed as a medium that can facilitate traditional learning rather than its substitute. That is where blended or hybrid learning comes into the picture.

It should also be noted that implementation of digital learning requires investment in time and money. Not all schools can fulfil both parameters straight away. Hence, while schools have begun to do their bit to blur the gap between digital and traditional learning, the onus also lies on policymakers and education boards to provide necessary assistance in this direction.