Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(Only)PowerPoint slides are not E-learning medium!

As the computer gizmo is hitting all sections of society, and being applied in every domain in which it could be applied, education/teaching is one sector where it is thriving rapidly to make learning virtual. Basically I don’t have any interest in teaching methods (though I come from a family which has considerable amount of people working in education field!), but I strongly believe and support the view that technology can bring drastic changes in much questioned Indian education system. I am not an authority either to speak on this issue but whatever information I have collected through meeting people, readings, internet etc. led me to pen down this post.
A workshop was going on in our college on “Use of Computers in Teaching” or what they call as ICT in Education. One of my higher secondary teachers was also attending this and told me that they were taught to make power point presentations. My father and mother have also attended such workshops in past few months (Dad even went to Bhopal for that) and were taught nothing different than Microsoft Office Suite, stressing more on PowerPoint. I guess anyone who attends such workshops would rarely practices atleast showing a ppt in the class, forget getting more interested in ICT in Education. There are practicality issues everywhere (and more complex ones in Goa) as far as teaching methods are concerned.
A rule which is being often quoted in education circles is that “One teaches his students as he has been taught by his teachers”. Since we have been following the so called Chalk-Board (or Get Bored!) system of teaching, and we (will) still practice that for future generations to come, after all we are Indians! The resistance for change in system is bound to be offered and education is surely not an exception. Come on people, we are not talking about the changing the systems fully (though it would be the best revolution that will ever happen in Education sector), we are here just to make the teaching learning process just smoother, better and effective.
Let me not get into teaching methods again, it can be altogether another write up I could make in coming days. My grudge is against all people who are the resource persons for such workshops mentioned above who propagate that using powerpoint presentations in classrooms is E-teaching and do not uncover the life beyond PowerPoint, or MS Office or even for that matter, Windows! May be the resource persons themselves haven’t heard anything beyond the 3 things mentioned above and try to push in whatever they can into Office Suite labeling it as E-teaching and society calls it E-learning.
Things have gone much beyond of Powerpoint, Office and Windows and people here are least bothered, unaware and un-updated on it. My second grudge is about these people who are unaware about technology that would make their life simpler, easy and smooth. For an instance to quote an example from my class, one of my lecturers had bought a new laptop and since my college is one of the only two educational institutions in Goa, who have moodle package running for their campus, started uploading ppt files of his course on moodle. There were no issues until one day he brought his laptop in class, projected a MS Word window in Full Screen Mode on the screen and started reading out whatever he had typed in those notes. It was one of his most boring lectures I had this semester. After the lecture was over, I went to him and asked “Sir, wouldn’t it have been better if you could actually had shown us how the particle behaves in particular state of motion (it was Physics) using a simulator or something?”
“Are there any such kinds of softwares?” He asks.
“Yes! There are plenty of simulator application available, and more plenty in Mechanics itself.” I replied, expecting him to be eager to know about them.
“You know to use them?” He asked again.
I said yes. I thought he would tell me to demo them but he just says “very good” and walks out of class.
This was so unexpected and moreover disgusting, that being a teaching staff of a noble science pursuit called Physics, teaching a fascinating subject ie Mechanics and moreover being an employee of a educational institute that boasts about being the pioneer in e-learning in higher education in Goa(I’ll talk about that later, that’s another breed of people out there!)
The moral of the story is if they don’t want to learn by themselves, how they expect their students to learn?”
I see E-Learning as an effective medium for learning and the best way to achieve it is FOSS. Wait, for all those who have been sleeping with their “Windows” shut and haven’t heard of this term, the term FOSS stands for Free & Open Source Software, a renaissance in computer software and technology. There are n numbers of applications available for teaching a specific domain which falls under the category of FOSS and are absolutely free to use and modify as per the user requirement. The worst part is that people haven’t heard about it, and those who have, are again not keen to opt for it. Again introduction to FOSS would be another post, Introduction to FOSS in Education/Teaching would be yet another but before that, my dear teachers and educationists please wake up and dare to think beyond PowerPoint, MSOffice & Windows.
Technology is dynamically changing life by changing itself too. When are we going to change?
Note:- The day I had that dialogue with my teacher, I went home and took up a task of collating information about e-learning applications available under FOSS category and making a toolkit for the teachers to use them. I know there is an ocean out there of such softwares but I would try to collect as much as I can grab from it.