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Disconnected classrooms: a way forward to connect?

In my previous article ‘Technology an Evanescent Cure for Educational Quandary’ I succinctly contend about the educational technology that we use in classrooms today and about techno-centrists who insatiably advocate for having a tech-based education and whether this could be a cure for the educational predicament caused over a passage of three decades. To further understand the intricacies of the issue to integrate technology in classrooms or keeping it away from the students, it is important to be cognizant of the didactic and social point of view. Almost three billion people around the globe have access to the internet and by a rough estimate, it will double after a decade. The tremendous rate of the spread of technology is unprecedented, today everyone is connected through the internet and telecommunications devices that support such transmission facilitating to bridge the gap among individuals, societies and workplaces using smartphones, laptops, iPads, personal computers, information systems, management systems and handheld devices. Though many technologies are still being developed to further enable masses to connect, share and create yet it appears that coming generations will be oblivious to the impediments previous generations have gone through.

Change is the only constant, imagine ways in which living styles are changing and will keep on changing due to such advancements. Today 5G technology is on the verge of dissemination and artificial intelligence is being routed into businesses and human lifestyles. For instances, cinemas today are considered to be a popular source of the entertainment industry and most movie goers travel distances to watch their favourite movie. However, due to the increase in online streaming websites, more people are now subscribing to online services instead of going to the theatres and with such trends continuing one can anticipate the outcome. The spectrum of technology is not just limited to social and academic life but also expands to a wider range affecting an individual’s personality, behaviour and thinking.

The educational sector is also part of such changes. Over the decades, many erudite researchers have given cogent arguments in favour of making technology an essential part of the classroom. However, today there are still different pejorative debates going on around the globe whether technology integration in a classroom can transform teaching and learning experience into something more productive or is it distracting students and teachers from retaining the interest in the classroom. Some researchers are of this view that in order to make most out of such paradigm shift in a way we live, learn and teach we’ll have to adjust with a speed of rapid change and we are going to have to step up our game as teachers and primordially change our own practices as the way we teach and use technology for professional and personal use. It is rather sooner than later that we move from adoption to adaptation of technology regardless of our comfort zone in a classroom.

Over the decades, many erudite researchers have given cogent arguments in favour of making technology an essential part of the classroom

In my prolific discussion with Mr Ashar Khokhar a PhD candidate at the University of Management Sciences, he conceded equivalently that use of technology can produce some eccentric results. Its effective use can help alleviate poverty in Pakistan and provide students from low-socioeconomic status means of quality education. But we will have to first contemplate the obfuscations tied to it. Effective integration of technology in lessons can also help reduce heavyweight bags that children have to carry every day affecting their health and from an environmental perspective, it can also help decrease the use of paper in Pakistan. He upheld that technology holds a potential to solve real-life problems it’s not just a game or a mobile application, it can impact lives in ways we never thought it would. However, he was also critical about how and which technology we use today will impact tomorrows students. Different manifestations of computers in our lives and at large in society will determine how coming generations will evolve, learn and advance.

Contrary to this, many researchers accentuate that educational technologies are infructuous and causing a massive decline in the retention capacity of students making them the poor recipient of knowledge. However, in lieu of both arguments, I repudiate and assert that teachers can play a very crucial role in determining why, when and how to use technology in classrooms. It’s not the hardware or software that determines the future it is they who are in control and decides what to make of it and not the vice versa. Today many futurists and tech gurus lay huge emphasis on how technology will revolutionize the schools, education and learning. The focal of this process becomes a technology (computer) rather than an individual who facilitates this process. Technology should be used as an enabling tool and not as a replacement of teacher.

Unfortunately, most teachers today still have misconceptions regarding the use of educational technologies. Their inability to understand that it is just a tool to facilitate a process of active learning and stimulate a learning experience stems from a lack of exposure to technology when they were growing up. In other words, the digital divide is at play in many schools especially in public schools where most traditional approaches to teaching are common. In light of this problem, the recent government can step up the teachers training program by introducing Microsoft and Google teacher certifications for teachers in order to better prepare them to teach digital immigrants and also facilitate student collaboration and communication in classrooms. Not that it will help reduce the digital divide among teachers and students but will also help students to self-regulate and become more attentive and focused learners.

It is time to introduce such questions into intellectual discussions that engage educationists to think whether disconnecting from technologies will better prepare students as a whole or will it cause a dehumanizing effect by having too much exposure to computers? Moreover, causing less interaction among students and teachers because of the screen time giving to gadgets. Lastly, it is important to understand that sometimes even the best technologies are unable to provide solutions to the problems and yet ordinary ways of teaching goes a long way.

The writer an educational researcher in the areas of technology integration, research-based education and learning methods

Published in Daily Times, March 24th 2019.