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Digital Technologies in School Education – Emerging Perspectives From New Education Policy (2020)

By G. Balasubramanian

NEP- 2020 has indeed brought about a paradigm shift in the thought architecture of our approach to education. Many insights provided in the policy are path-breaking and are likely to give new perspectives to the programs of action. It does call for repositioning of our concepts of learning, schooling, curriculum delivery, pedagogical strategies, assessment patterns. It also provides an inclusive dimension to several of our scattered understanding of educational dynamics. However, the most vital point in the NPE is, it takes care of a newly emerging technological universe and its concurrent impact on how the learning would happen. It says in an explicit language “Particular attention will need to be paid to emerging disruptive technologies that will necessarily transform the education system and what it teaches to students.”

The three important issues the policy discusses are:

1. Digital education

2. Blended learning

3. Virtual laboratories

1. The following words of the NEP with regard to the relevance of the Digital education, the strategies proposed in conceptualizing and delivering the process are indeed quite impressive.

“Content creation, digital repository, and dissemination: A digital repository of content including creation of coursework, Learning Games & Simulations, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be developed, with a clear public system for ratings by users on effectiveness and quality. For fun-based learning student-appropriate tools like apps, gamification of Indian art and culture, in multiple languages, with clear operating instructions, will also be created. A reliable backup mechanism for disseminating e-content to students will be provided.” (24.4(d))

The vision of the Policy indeed calls for a celebration by educators and educational entrepreneurs. Basically,

a. It acknowledges the need for a paradigm shift to technology integration in classrooms

b. It defines the direction and magnitude of the proposed tools of technology on which eduprenurs can work on.

c. It spells out to schools the need for preparation for the shift and the technological scaffolding they need to do for their renewed curricular infrastructure

d. It calls for better integrated approach to curriculum and pedagogical designs with technology.

e. It encourages fun-based learning and gamification as instruments for stress free learning.

2. Realizing the need to make learning more flexible, viable, time and space free, the NPE also envisages “Blended learning” as the futuristic opportunity. This helps to shift the paradigm of ‘learning’ to ‘learnability’ of the learner. Detailing the strategies proposed, the NPE says:

“Blended models of learning: While promoting digital learning and education, the importance of face-to-face in-person learning is fully recognized. Accordingly, different effective models of blended learning will be identified for appropriate replication for different subjects.” (24.4(I))

Blended learning is the call of the future. With the scale of information flow, the changing social constructs, the new normal in life styles, the blended learning will emerge certainly as the most viable option for learning. It will carry with it better learning advantages and at a lower cost. Further, it opens up a large number of learning opportunities to the learners to meet their learnability requirements with an added advantage of time-space freedom. Teachers would in due course, rehabilitate their pedagogies, content designs and assessment models to the gifts of blended learning. Facilitation of a three-dimensional assessment – self-assessment, peer-based assessment and teacher led assessment would be a 360-degree approach to the learning content. Data Analytics of the above will give more transparent and realistic insight in understanding the learning curve and its latent challenges.

3. I recall one of my articles in my book “Mindscaping education’ released in 2002. The following is the narrative:

” In a virtual school environment, possibly, the students might log in to schools through their terminal and after a day’s work, log out. This could happen either by his direct presence in a network landscape or he may prefer to log in from his own home or elsewhere. The teacher-pupil relationship will be through digital communication.

The learning will, of course, be self-paced and the learner would use his free will and pedagogical status for the type, quality and quantity of learning. The teacher, through the server mode, can periodically monitor the learner and keep him abreast of his scope of learning, successes and failures. With unlimited flexibility to learn, the learner will not suffer unwarranted stress for time and space. Hence, he could avoid monotony which is normally prevalent in traditional classrooms. The learning will be individualized and the absence of attention by the teacher would be minimized as the teacher would be in a position to interact with various learners from a terminal.”

Today, after 18 years of publication of this article I find the relevance of virtual labs and virtual classrooms is being acknowledged. The narrative in the NPE is as follows:

“Virtual Labs: Existing e-learning platforms such as DIKSHA, SWAYAM and SWAYAMPRABHA will also be leveraged for creating virtual labs so that all students have equal access to quality practical and hands-on experiment-based learning experiences. The possibility of providing adequate access to SEDG students and teachers through suitable digital devices, such as tablets with pre-loaded content, will be considered and developed (24.4 9f))”

The policy certainly offers unlimited opportunities to technology entrepreneurs to search for greener pastures for exploration and integration of knowledge, experiences and skills under a single umbrella in the technology platform.

The advantages of ushering the virtual laboratories and virtual reality in classrooms would be:

a. It will certainly be possible to provide standardized content and experience to the universe of client population

b. It will be possible to provide same/similar platforms for experiential learning

c. It will be possible to provide simulations of difficult knowledge domains to remote places.

d. It will help in reassuring correctness of the approaches to skill development and thus validate

e. It will provide better understanding of concepts which were otherwise inexplicable on a 2-D dimension.

f. It will help in creating more “Aha” experiences to learners from all sectors of learning architectures.

While placing on record the vision of technology in learning environments, the policy also has made teachers as important stakeholders in management and delivery of digital technologies to the learners. One could only wish speedier actions on the above, as the life-period of technologies is very limited.