The 21st century services-and-knowledge-based economy has altered the landscape, and it requires different skills and ways of learning. If we hope to help our children actualize their own potential and that of the country then the education system needs to be the first area of intervention.
In this context, putting Information Communication and Technology to use can be a good step towards making schools and eventually education ‘smart’. What does mean for the schools to be smart or technology enabled- does it mean providing laptops to the children? Does it mean a sudden influx of gadgets in the classrooms? Does it mean replacing teachers with self-learning tools if not by robots?
One of the foundation concepts of a smart school should pertain to creating enabling learning environment and strengthening the teacher student relationship. In the smart schools, the teacher is a guide, a facilitator who can help the children connect to the world of knowledge. A smart school is a place where teaching-learning is not a direct process- with an implicit hierarchy- it is more of a kind of continuum- where there is an emphasis on learning by doing and the teacher actually participates in the process of learning along with the students. It enabled and teacher facilitated learning can help translate mountains of data into intelligence. This intelligence can be then be translated into action by the student- in the process of their education as well as in their daily lives.
This process of learning can by IT enabled that makes it faster, more resourceful in the amount of information available and better connected and integrated with the globalized world. The role of the teacher is to help students process and analyze information in a manner that is simulating and enhances the natural quest of the young minds for knowledge rather than burden them.
Smarter schools and in general smarter systems of education, ensure that schools don’t bear the burden of education alone. Rather they create linkages with other agencies and institutions. They enable the inclusion of supporting organizations and communities — integrating other institutions, for example postal departments, hospitals, social service agencies, sports training agencies, environmental agencies and infotainment organizations- — transforming schools into a student-centered educational ecosystem.
While it might sound ambitious and capital intensive to go for such schools, once the economies of scale start operating (just as in the case of mobile phones) balance costs get reduced. Once instituted technology enabled schools can actually cut costs in terms of reducing administrative processes of books and libraries. Again, important to remember, not to replace books, but as means to better utilize web based libraries and e-learning methods.
Finally, smart schools are about imagination- about innovative ways of teaching and learning- where ICT is a tool and not the master- a tool that enables the process of self-learning and connects to a wider world.
What can be done to make our schools smarter?