by Champa Rathnayake
Expert Educator Columnist, Sri Lanka
Some decades ago, the teachers get their pupils to use slates to write on. As a pre-school child I used a slate with pencils, which made with slate too. Sometimes it made a screeching sound when it scratches the slate surface. Sand boards are still used to train students the shapes of letters and numbers, in the kindergarten and primary classes. The way that I used them as a pupil, is a memory I still cherish.
Even though blackboards and chalk are still in use in our schools, they are gradually being replaced by whiteboards and marker pens. Many people talk about Interactive multimedia projectors and interactive whiteboards in the classroom as well. New computer labs and wireless network facilities are installed in schools. Students are provided with well-equipped classrooms comparing to those of two decades ago.
Yet, the student in the present school is always subjected to criticize by the common elder, that student is not like the kid in our good old days. They use cellular phones, internet, tablet PCs, laptops and who knows what- many digital gadgets!
The children are in the digital age. Alternatively, they are the digital natives. They are exposed and have access to networked technologies. Their daily routines and activities are always connected with digital technologies. In short, children of the digital generation have experienced the technologies. Elder generation including their teachers and others in the field of education, have witnessed the evolution of the digital technologies- computers, internet, iPhones, smartphones, tablets and other numerous devices. However, not well converse with the devices practically as their students.
Most of the teachers are not ready to accept the truth that student in the digital generation is different from the student in earlier generation. Students come to the classroom from a world full of ICTs.Teachers know the fact that, ways of present students’ perceiving things are already connected with the environmental factors. However, practical usage of the theoritical knowledge is hard to see. On the other hand, the teachers are the ones who are well trained with using psychology in classroom, applying educational sociology and using relevant teaching methodologies. Meanwhile teachers get in-service and pre-service professional development courses on ICT integration in classroom. In spite of that, in classroom practices, teachers again tend to use their usual methodologies. I do not say that traditional teacher-centred methods are used; they have deviated to child-centred teaching methods. The point is that using digital technologies by the teacher in the classroom is still low. Therefore, a broken connection between digital–learners and non-digital teachers can be seen in the school system.
There can be many reasons for this broken link. The weightage of the ICT integration in the subjects may lower in curriculum. Alternatively, the uniformity of the curriculum may prevent teachers from attempting technology integration. Because their final target is to get the students ready for answering the exam papers, even though it is not the ultimate goal of education. Therefore, practicing writing answers may be the most important part among the other load of work in the school. Anyway, it is a clear fact that using ICT in classroom teaching enhances students’ achievements.
Coming back to the tools in the classroom, slate and the sand board have entered to the system back again in digital mode. Laptop computers, tablet PCs or Surface create a world with wider knowledge and expand the horizons for creativity, with a simple touch of the fingertips. The devices visualize and simulate any kind of abstract concept easily, where teacher should take much effort to explain without a digital device. Teachers need to be experts of creating the correct learning situation with the appropriate digital tool or software. Updated skills, in-service teacher development courses are there for teachers to face this challenge-to connect the broken link.
Unless the teacher can understand the students with computational thinking, the student may be ignored or neglected by the teacher. Because teacher evaluates the child with his /her out, dated measurement scales. Teachers need to teach, facilitate and guide the students for their tomorrow. Problem solving techniques must be utilized in every classroom. Using information and communication technologies for problem solving is necessary in the modern classroom. To utilize the unlimited potentials of students’ skills of creativity and knowledge construction are essential for the world tomorrow. Therefore, the teachers are required to boost themselves with re-structured instructional designs with use of ICT tools and digital devices. Otherwise all the facilities of digital equipment and computer labs may remain a waste without been used for the correct purpose at correct time of education.