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Archive for April, 2010

I came across this fascinating OECD-CERI project through Dave Cormier and George Siemens’ Open Course in Education Futures. Please download the Schooling for Tomorrow StarterPack document here. It gives practitioners, administrators and other stakeholders a way to think about key questions such as:

  • What is shaping the future of schooling?
  • What might schooling look like in the future?
  • How to go about it?

It provides a framework based on an analysis of trends (such as growing inequality, economic globalization, population trends, the expanding web and social interaction), realistic scenarios based on these trends (such as bureaucratic systems and system meltdown) and considers five dimensions (attitudes, goals, structures, geo-politics and teaching force) on which the scenario can be contextualized and analyzed as a possible alternative future. Taken together, this framework could provide an effective way to construct our future realities and allow us to then transform our beliefs through powerful, coherent and effective plans of action.

Scenario 3 is interesting. Schools as core social centres are visualized within “new community arrangements with learning at the core”. The Right to Education Act, that came into effect this year in India, sees a similar approach. However the Act and its main vehicle, the Sarva shiksha Abhiyaan, does not seem to focus on the community apart from the administrative and quality dimension. The Starter Pack scenario goes ahead and explores many new dimensions that I believe would be helpful in shaping policy and outcomes. For example, the goals:

Schools continue to transmit, legitimise, and accredit knowledge, but with intense focus on social and cultural outcomes.

Competence recognition also developed in the labour market, liberating schools from some credentialing pressures.

These goals are  extremely important in the Indian context. Specifically, we need to move away, perhaps, from thinking about facilitating the emergence of a new engineer, to facilitating the emergence of a new engineer who will bring value in the context of the region’s natural resource and abilities; which in turn, will play into a wider national strategy.

I would suggest that a bit of all and perhaps a preponderance of one will be the dominant paradigm in most countries around the world. Within any country’s educational system, there will be a rich diversity and discussion around many forms and systems of education.

Take for example Scenario 4 (The extended market model), that talks of a “demand-driven”, highly developed learning market responding to stakeholders dissatisfied with the public school system and with the obvious threat to social equity – sums up pretty much the debate around privatization in education and the common school system in India.

I believe that this is a useful approach to try to bring some collaborative direction to our problems. This should help not only clarify the problem, but also point us to possible scenarios unique to our region and how to go about thinking of the change.

Postscript: I re-evaluated using trends as a basis for a model such as this.

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Major General S B Akali, Director, Global Institute of Healthcare Management, talked about facilities should be reused and how mobile technologies will really make the largest impact. He talked about how technology can change culture and lifestyles. We must figure what direction to take ICT in because one tree can create a thousand matchsticks, but one matchstick can burn a thousand trees.

Raunaq Singh Ahluwalia, Director, University 18, states give the kid a computer and connectivity, and he will win over the world. There is a lot of content available. Citing the NIIT Hole in the Wall experiment (which I happen to be perhaps the lone person in the world thinking “so what”), he thinks that there is no requirement to tell our students what to do. Over time, if we do the basics right, we will have trained people to really understand how to evolve over a period of time.

Dr. Nivedita, representing ISTE, the Indian Society for Technical Education, created in 1941, focuses of education for engineers and technicians. They cover from curriculum to teacher training and awards. They have 78000 teachers, 350,000 students and 1820 institutional members. They create the quarterly Indian Journal of Technical Education. They are fairly active, so it seems from the presentation.

This panel was a bit confusing because I did not particularly understand what the relevance of the panel topic had to these talks.

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Madan Padaki, Co-Founder and CeO, Meritrac Services, said he distinctly gets the sense that online examinations will become commonplace a few years from now. With that comes a responsibility to make sure that we not only provide the rights systems and processes, but also the right methodologies. In a survey they conducted with heads of institutions, 77% of the heads wanted to implement technology in assessments. 99% of students were aware of technology led assessments and some felt that this was a mark of the degree of professionalism of the university they were interested in enroling in. He thinks the process is one of 12-18 months and needs to be meticuluously planned. Apart from that online exams could benefit from a wide variety of devices and systems, not just an internet based portal.

Prof. Sudhi Ranjan Dey, Executive Director & Dean and Chairman, Academic Senate of IBMR Business School talked about the need to go online and the possible uses of open source in the examination system. It could be used for internal assessment as well.

Dr. Sarabjit Singh, Principal, Apeejay College of Engineering, came next and talked about his experience running two programs from a university in London and the steps involves from the assessment perspectives. He also talked of redeployability of teachers given the standardized content that is available on their network.

R Dhirendra, President, Eduquity shared the sense of daja vu with Madan. He had tried convincing the Ministry as far back as 2001. He believes that examinations are a high stakes business, conventional and socially oriented. The challenges are manual intervention of multiple examiners, time consuming and arduous. The challenge also is to move to a more personalized assessment methodology, how to make examinations more friendly and how we should measure other skills using technology. In India, the ground realities shift day to day, and we need to learn to cope with this reality. Technology is changing all the time and there is no one size fits all solution.

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Brig (Dr) R S Grewal, Chitkara University, talked about the state of the art required in campus today. With students driving the transition to new devices, applications and content in an ubiquitous, the central problem, he felt, was that around control and information security. The entertainment industry has its own impact with students connected with devices like iPODs, leveraging the campus network for internet connectivity and downloads. The Campus network needs therefore to be flexible enough to keep on changing. Students need to be involved in knowledge construction and in assessing their own learning. But the human perspective is equally important. Teachers may not be as tech savvy as the students. And students need to be motivated as well to become more responsible for their own learning.

One observation I am starting to make is that there is already a big divide between top notch institutions such as DU and IITs, and the next rung institutions.

Dr. Rajiv Shorey, computer scientist, President, NIIT University, shared a not too distant futuristic look at the classroom. First of all, the technology enablement will come from braodband connectivity, borderless networks, pervasive computing, sensor networks, community outreach and connected communities. We need to make our campuses green through minimizing the carbon footprint, green computing and green communications. The classroom is now fully digital with bi-directional communications, maybe integrate multiple multi-location experts teaching the same classroom. He played a video from MS Research Labs that looked frightening similar the Wesch video, but with a smattering of MS tools (of course!). He anticipates thousands of startups in this space.

Prof. Sanjay Jasola, Dean School of Information and Communication Technology, Gautam Buddha University, talked of Web 2.0 tools for learning. They are using Moodle, Learning Activity Management System, Brihaspati, DimDim/WiZIQ, blogs etc. He showed a slew of examples of how easy it is to get tools and content on the web or to create your own.

Dr P K Chaturvedi, Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Skyline Institute referred to the low employability mentioned earlier in the day. He talks about increased mobility of students in terms of getting access to equipment, content and even equivalent certifications.

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Moderated by A M Thimmayya, SVP, Distributed Learning, Manipal Education who referred also to the debate between India and “Bharat”.

The theme was – Democratizing the dissemination of Quality Education.

The first panelist, Dr. C K Ghosh, Director, Student Service Centre, IGNOU, spoke about the value of the sensitizing people that technology can be used for learning. He mentioned how EDUSAT is helping get high quality content and how power failures could be combatted by looking at alternate power technologies like solar power. With so much going around ICT, we should not forget the simplicity of audio; in fact why not use VSAT + FM radio as a way to reach out. Railing against the entire recognition/accreditation process, he maintained that quality should speak for itself.

Sharat Kumar, former director, Institute of Management Technology, talked about his experience in leading faculty and students to create the brand that is IMT today.

Prof. Sunitha Raju, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, talked about how they run a degree program online and brought into focus hwo technology can be used in a blended manner to impart education effectively.

Prof. Seema Parihar, Deputy Dean, Central Placement Cell, Delhi University, seemed perturbed that a connotation could be that digital learning or adding technology is the missing link to the formula for a good teacher. Surveys she has led show that teachers are not very comfortable with teacher reviews. It is also very important to prepare an action plan against the feedback that has been collected. “eLearning cannot create a university but a university can create eLearning” was her last comment.

Dr. Neeta Kapai, Deputy Director, Campus Placement Cell, IGNOU talked about tie ups with Common Service Centres (and telecentre.org) training students for industry and providing them consulting on employability and industry focus.

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Mr. B K Murthy, Director, Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Technology, Government of India, started by talking about a National Knowledge Network approved by the government in late March 2010 (costed around 5900 crores, taking over from National Mission). The plan is to connect all academic institutions on a high speed redundant mesh network. Applications in e-gov, health, grid computing, telemedicine and country wide classrooms (6 such virtual classrooms have already been established).

Prof. S Choudhary, Vice Chairman, National Council for Teacher Education talked about the wonderful impact of technology on teacher education, a change in mindset from questioning technology use to how we can use it effectively. However the big question is the low level of utilization of ICT at the school level. 38% of the teachers have access to the Internet according to a World Bank report. We have unique problems such as the ICT equipment being under lock and key of the headmaster and an arduous process for the teacher to even get these into the classroom. Language is a big problem, most of the content seems to be in English. A serious problem is that the attitude of adminstrators and teachers is weak in terms of these changes. Technology may be over hyped, the real problems need real attention. In India, “the bullock cart and the jet plane will coexist”.

Rajan Varada, moderator and Resource Person, United Nations Solution Exchange, applauded the reality check given by Prof. Chaudhary.

Dr. S. Nandy, a Six Sigma black belt, Associate, Quality Council of India, was next. He agreed with Prof. Chaudhary in bemoaning the poor attitude of government, teachers and management of the educational institutions. The teaching learning process could do with great improvement – through collaboration and those processes that will excite students to ask questions. Leave apart the institutions like the IITs, how many of the other institutions do meaningful research. Overall, the quality of HE needs a lot of focus and this is something that is an essential piece of the accreditation puzzle.

Prof. A K Bakshi, Director of the Institute of Lifelong Learning (ILLL) at Delhi University, talked about the use of technology for learning at DU. We have to be clear about the use of technology. Requirements are scale, the other is the mindset of today’s students, helping us meet the fast growth of knowledge. ICT has not percolated because of access problems, but also of high quality content. So ILLL follows a three prong strategy – high quality content to empower teachers and students; capacity building in ICT skills; and infrastructure and connectivity – to help leverage technology for education. Content in 15 UG disciplines with thousands of teachers from Delhi University involved in this venture. This is text and multimedia enriched content. A studio has been setup for video sessions and e-LABs. The move from rote learning to out of the box thinking is most critical.

Prof. Z H Khan, Director, Centre for Information Technology, Jamia Islamia University, spoke about the comprehensive nature of JMI (from nursery to PhD). There are about 15,200 students and over 4500 students in the school sector. The university has fibre and copper connectivity with about 3000 internet nodes with a central MIS system for administration. For teachers they have had programs in Web 2.0 for education and new tools and techniques.

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We have an envious growth rate. Access is the most important dimension and bottleneck. We want to get 30% of our HE age group access to good quality, equitable education. ICT is a powerful tool in that quest. ICT implementations will help create the basic supporting infrastructure – content, delivery mechanism and evaluation. Nothing can replace face to face education, but we could come close.

ICT could be used to bring institutions together globally. She talks of hubs and hubs and spokes as ways to model mentorship and interchanges between institutions.

We need to also improve evaluation systems. Assessments like SAT and GRE suffer from lack of ways to evaluate subjective questions.

Scalability issues are floundering at the governance level. ICT can play a very important role in helping here (she should be looking NAAC :)) and increasing transparency and providing access to information to all. Participating institutions should be enabled in a friendly manner, to send in their information to a central regulatory body. ICT can help streamline processes and data/knowledge flow.

Collaboration is going to be increasingly important in a global context.

As far as industry is concerned, we are very IT enabled. It gets frustrating sometimes to integrate with academia (placement, HR, curriculum planning) because of lack of ICT adoption across the spectrum. Maybe industry can probably help with defining the learning outcomes that it needs from the education system. Maybe there can be a database that can provide everybody with visibility on which industry needs what skill over time.

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