The digital classroom is here

Source : DNA Source Date : 2010-Aug-23

“Current-day students are heavily exposed to digital technology and this has changed their world-view,” says Anil Pinto, lecturer in media studies, Christ University. In that sense, today’s classrooms “are already digital”, he says. Consequently, students’ learning experience is shaped as much by a teacher as the information they have access to on the Web.

And, “what educational institutions can do is integrate this changed experience in education — and that’s the idea behind digital classroom”.

Pinto is one of the pioneers to integrate the digital medium into
higher education in India. With, which he calls “an experiment in using blogs in higher education”, he intends to enable greater learning and dissemination of information and ideas.

In the Internet age, as Pinto puts it, “the teacher is no longer the know-all entity, primarily because students have greater access to information.” Moving beyond traditional classrooms, Pinto’s blog provides a platform for extended learning. Students author posts every day based on the lessons taught in class; they even put up links to additional resources.

Further, all class assignments are published on the blog, which others can read and comment on — impossible in the conventional setting. In fact, presentations are recorded and uploaded on YouTube and links are pasted on his blog. All this, says Pinto, has multiple advantages: It saves classroom time, students get evaluated by their peers and learn to take criticism and learn to use technology — a must today.

Noopur Raval, who finished her undergraduate course at Christ University in March this year, attended the Digital Natives workshop, organised by Center for Internet Security (CIS) and Frontier Foundation Taiwan in Taipei last week. There, Raval presented a paper on digital classrooms on the basis of her experience during her undergrad course. While she was at college, she says, “there was extensive use of college email where people passed notes, scheduled time for shared problem solving etc.”

For Dr Latha Radhakrishnan, associate professor and head of department, Economics, St Joseph’s Arts and Science College, technology is “a great enabler”. Radhakrishnan cites the example of a visually impaired student in her class, Ravi Pinto.

Radhakrishnanemails notes to her students, and that itself is a boon to students like Ravi Pinto, as a simple software can convert all study material into Braille. Her Facebook page is often used as a forum to clarify doubts. In her case, technology has changed classroom dynamics and also fostered a bond with her students who often connect with her on Facebook to seek advice on many matters.

Twitter and Facebook are used extensively by Dr Richard Rego, head of department Mass Communication at St Aloysius College, Mangalore, to post his opinions on various issues. “This facilitates a wider discussion with my students, who then comment and exchange their views on the topic,” says Rego. He also has an active blog where he posts notes, links to resources, articles etc.

According to Pinto, digital technology can be used across disciplines to further learning but the challenges encountered will be different. Ultimately, for Pinto, the digital classroom has “erased the distinction between teachers and students, as both are co-authors of knowledge.”

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