Discover the reality of virtual and digital tools in learning

G. Balasubramanian is a doyen of school education in India. He has held several positions of leadership at CBSE, including Director Academics. He was the brain behind the introduction of several innovations at CBSE which included frontline curriculum, Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Information Technology, Alternatives to Homework, etc. He is also an author, poet and a sought-after speaker at education conferences world over.

The debate whether technology should be brought into the corridors of the classroom is already over. The role of technology as an empowering tool in furthering learning has been widely acknowledged to a differing degree of their intervention, depending upon the social and the personal psyche of the teachers in the classroom and their geographical locations. From a simple screen-based, desktop supported learning tool, several generations of technologies have evolved which provide a real-time experience to the learner, thus enabling experiential learning. At present, we are in a world gearing up at an unimaginable speed by providing virtual and augmented reality support to the classrooms. Like any other technology, their cost is also bound to come down soon with an increasing volume of consumption.

I had several times addressed a question to my own self whether we can survive without these technologies. Though one can find several statements to support this perception, I am presently convinced that these technologies are likely to transport learning to an entirely different universe of understanding and comprehension. The more we negotiate on its relevance, the more we delay its implementation – possibly doing an increasing injustice to the future learners.

Without making any over-statement, let me put across the points for advocacy:

1. Content clarity – The visual inputs and the 3D facilitation do give a holistic view in putting across the content with extreme clarity, giving no scope for any ambiguity that could usually result from a simple verbal communication. It does open the visual domain of content, coupled with an audio interpretation, the content stands clarified without any misgiving.

2. Pedagogical clarity – Imagining a three-dimensional view of many inputs on a single dimension presentation has often resulted in confusion. Sometimes it has also resulted in misinterpretation of the concepts. The gap between the teaching and learning depended largely on the competency levels of the teachers or the learnability of the students. With technology in place, it has become easy to share on the screen, such abstract concepts which would not have otherwise been possible to comprehend.

3. Learnability – The opportunities for effective and productive learning along with experience and exploration could be triggered using virtual and augmented realities. Further this also meets the challenges of differentiated learners and the learning styles in a classroom. Increased ‘learnability’, also impacts quality of learning and its depth.

4. Standardizing learning – With these tools in place, there is adequate scope for standardizing learning in a classroom situation by facilitating reach for the content to all, both individually and collectively. Many concepts of Science, nature, Mathematics or Social Sciences can be illustrated with ease and insight. Concepts, which were left to imagination, can be supported through illustrative pictorial representations.

5. The “Aha” Experience – Many of the virtual or augmented reality inputs do provide the “Aha” experience to the young learners. Learners are transported to an “imaginary world”, looking and experiencing things in a concrete manner which were so far at the abstract level. Experiences which would otherwise have been ethereal, when reduced to cognizable visual experiences, transports the learner to a ‘dream land’, thus providing opportunities for experiencing a set of fantasies as real-time learning experiences.

The emergence of Virtual and Augmented reality experience is likely to re-engineer the classroom experience. Teachers would be required to reconstruct learning in more a theatre format as compared to the present unidirectional model. Experiences of such nature are likely to create more questions in classrooms, which could be challenging to the teachers yet triggering curiosity in learning. The technology could walk into the classrooms soon, without knocking the doors of the traditional classrooms. Let us keep a vigil!

This article was originally published in magazine in the month of October, 2018.

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