11 May, 2017, 12:00 am
To attain Sustainable Development Goals such as no poverty, zero hunger and good health and wellbeing by 2030, it is very important that education is made inclusive and participatory for all stakeholders — students, teachers, school management, and parents — as there is a dire need for reforms and improvements in education.
Digitisation is the way forward in the process of educational reforms. Considering the wide reach of internet and information technology, digitisation is the perfect answer for a lot of concerns about education’s accessibility in the context of Fiji.
When we talk about digitisation, it does not only mean the digitisation of the teaching-learning process but also the digitisation of curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, quality assurance processes and connectivity with the parents, community and the ministry.
Digitisation can affect and improve every aspect of education bringing true inclusiveness and ensuring immaculate participation of all stakeholders.
Students in digitised classrooms
For students learning becomes more active, inclusive and participatory in a digitised classroom. With the help of digitisation, the students can be engaged at a much higher level than a conventional chalk-and-board classroom.
Digitisation enables students to engage in project-based learning where they can look beyond the textbooks to study and understand complex topics on real world issues such as climate change. With digitisation, it becomes comparatively very easy to integrate studies, especially in a multigrade classroom.
The students can investigate subjects using numerous forms of knowledge and expression. For example, the literacy skills can include graphics, color, music and motion along with the regular topics such as words and numbers.
Furthermore, the co-operative island culture can be promoted through digitisation as students can learn and practice skills of collaboration and co-operation through increased connectedness by digitisation.
Not only the students and teachers of one school but also the schools of remote areas can be connected with one another through internet and digitisation.
In 2030, it would not be a surprise that a group of students of a school located in highly urbanised Suva City is collaborating on a project on climate change with a group of students from a school located on a remote island in Vanua Levu. Along with all these, the students will also benefit from a digitised comprehensive assessment.
A computerised assessment will generate a detailed, continuous profile of the students, informing about the strengths, areas of improvements in every subject. In a digitised assessment process, the students will be to learn from their mistakes and retake the test as many times as they want.
Smart teachers in digitised schools
Teachers can also focus on more crucial aspects of teaching as the mundane has been handled by digitisation. As the digitisation process frees up a lot of time for the teachers by covering the curriculum, the teachers can utilise that free time in coaching the students.
The teachers can become the intellectual and emotional guides of the students. The teachers will mentor individuals and provide personalised tutoring to the students in their specific areas of improvement on the basis of the reports generated by the digitised assessment.
Also the teachers will have a lot of time to improve and enhance their own skills and knowledge by taking online MOOC (massive online open courses), attending conferences and workshops.
A teaching fraternity connected through digitisation can share lesson plans, tips and discuss their academic problems with one another through various online platforms.
Effective school management
The school management bodies and academic leaders, the school principals and headteachers can improve and standardise every aspect of school, starting with the curriculum, student assignments, parental connections and administration.
Simulations and demonstrations are available online for classroom use and review. The students can collaborate for enhanced learning. The record keeping of attendance and assessments becomes quite easy and the same can be shared very easily with the parents and management bodies through email. Overall the school can save a lot from the administrative cost and spend the funds for core teaching and learning process.
Digitally connected communities
Digitisation can also enhance the inclusiveness and participation of the parents and communities in the school. With improved and open digitised communication channels among the parents, communities, students and teachers there can be healthy dialogues and discussions to improve and integrate the community values and needs in the classroom teaching.
The school management and other administrative bodies can inform and receive feedback on the school’s policies and goals. Digitised communication with each parent highlights the importance of each child and each parent for the school.
Thus, for students, teachers, school management bodies, parents and communities, digitisation ensures absolute inclusiveness and active participation. It opens the communication channels and keeps them open irrespective of the person or place.
It levels the playing field between urban and rural schools and communities. It creates platforms for students, teachers and schools from diverse places and backgrounds to come together to collaborate and create. Digitisation, one to one digital access, ensures that each student is included and accounted for the process of teaching, learning and assessment. In the context of Fiji where the population is scattered, the proximity of the school with a large city or town often impacts the performance and result of the students.
Digitisation is the way to bring inclusiveness and participation in the education process, bringing together students, teachers, schools and communities from remote islands, maritime zones and urban centres.
* Dr Daneshwar Sharma is an assistant professor in language and literature the FNU. Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.