Flipped: Changing role of Teachers in Digital Classrooms
Digital classrooms are slowly but steadily making inroads in the Indian education system. Numerous discussions are under way on the benefits of digitisation in education and how students stand to benefit from the e-education revolution. With increasing awareness, school authorities are warming up to this transformation, especially on adopting ERP solutions for their school administration and operations.
However, let us spare a thought about another important stakeholder in this equation – the teacher. Not that the discussions involving e-education solutions and teachers are uncommon, but such discussions, sometimes, seem to diverge to an uncomfortable realm of a ‘Man vs. Machine’ debate. Such debates run the risk of either undermining a teacher’s contribution in imparting knowledge, or give a technophobic flavour to potential benefits of technology.
Before we evaluate the digital classrooms and their impact, let us for a moment focus on the core idea here – teaching. At its very basic, ‘teaching’ is a form of nurturing – just like parenting. Teaching is a vital process for human development, and human interaction is indispensable to this process. So let us not trivialise such an important process with a ‘Man vs. Machine’ flavouring. Technology solutions can and will always be teaching aids – not teachers. And considering the fact that the average teacher-student ratio in India, is far from healthy, even with advent of digital classrooms, teachers are much in need. So the question about a teacher’s role getting redundant due to digital classrooms doesn’t have a sound foundation to begin with.
E-education solutions cater to multiple segments, and can be broadly categorised as: Self-Study aids for students, ERP solution for school administration, and teaching aids for teachers (real, not virtual!). Technology and IT play a support function in education sector, and their adoption can have incremental benefits for all stakeholders, including teachers. However, it is important that school authorities and e-education providers take an empathetic view on the contribution of the teacher community, and ensure that any misgivings that teachers have towards technology adoption are adequately addressed. The teacher community, on their part, also needs to prepare for this transformation. They need to develop comfort level with technology solutions, especially teaching aids. Further, many of the e-education products for self-study, need to be calibrated for individual student’s need and learning ability – which invariably requires teachers’ guidance, as they have invaluable insight on student psychology. This requires e-education solution providers to design their offerings considering teachers among the key beneficiary and users of their offering; further school authorities need to take up measures that help their teaching staff develop the requisite comfort with these technology solutions.
The traditional image of a teacher, standing in front a blackboard, and disciplining and lecturing a class of 40-50 students, won’t ring true in coming years. It is imperative for every teacher to take on the role of a mentor (rather than a disciplinarian) who encourages her students to leverage technology in their journey of knowledge discovery – and do this with same nurturing guidance as they always have.