Monday, March 17, 2014

Changing Classrooms...

I've just realised that I have been 'in' school for almost 40 years! And in almost 39 of the 40 years, the classroom has not changed much. You have 40 odd desks and chairs and the chalkboard. Students sit in rows and teachers come in and go out according to the periods. Each period is between 35-40 minutes. Students go to various rooms or labs for certain subjects like Science or Living Skills. The latter used to be known as either Home Science or Industrial Arts.

Over the years, special media rooms came about. These are rooms with projectors. I was one of the earliest in the district to start such a media room. I started with a digital projection panel. Power Point was used in class. But I wasn't such a keen user myself because lesson preparations were just too much work. But over the years like everyone else I was a big fan of word processors and spreadsheets. And so, I became quite an adept user.

Last year I started using the iPad in class. Back then my classes would be held in the normal classrooms and the media room. But after a while all my classes were held in the media room. The reason was, the iPad had become my board, mind map tool.... There was just so much that I could do with it. There would be new discoveries every week. The only limiting factor seemed to be my imagination. The more I used it, the more I extended my horizon. I bought many apps too. Some of the apps are just amazing. I have been able to acieve so much more. The best part is I feel less tired too. Being in an air-condition room helps too, I supposed. But not having to write on the chalkboard is one major energy saver.

Classroom should have such facilities. We have an interactive whiteboard at school too but I think the iPad wins hands down. We have this other We Present WiPG 1000, a wireless interactive presentation gateway which I tried once. I gave up because I couldn't run anything from its mobile app. The iPad is easy. It's mobile and preparing lessons on it is a breeze. With an Air Print enabled printer, preparing handouts is a breeze.

I have been able to use timelines and mindmaps in my history classes. I have been able to interspersed lessons with different media. Editing movies on the iMovie app is a breeze. I downloaded the movie 'The Railway Children' and edited them into 5-6 minutes clips for each chapter. My students can remember the story line so much better. With my MacBook as a standby, I have two 'assistants' with me in my class. Well, it's 3, and maybe 4 if you count my iPhone and iPod Touch.

I have brought TED speakers as my guests in class and a host of other contributors. I can do many of this with the laptop but none of them is as mobile as my iPad cos even 20 minutes of wait to pay my bills means I can prepare a couple of worksheets or part of a lesson. Teachers should embrace such technology. School heads must make an effort to equip classrooms with such tools.

The time has come for us to seriously consider BYOT or BYOD. Some schools have been supplied with Chromebooks in the mobile cart but I suspect many schools have yet to be able to use it in the manner it should. Lack of know how, rush to finish a still very exam and content based syllabus, a rigid curriculum.... these all play a role.

We keep talking about the need to keep up with times. Blended, Flipped, Personalized, Project Based Learning concepts... We are still slow to adopt and adapt to them. The field of education is changing at a very amazing speed... But we are still not able to unlearn the things that we have learned or learn what is new. That, makes us the new illiterate generation.


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