Friday, December 22, 2006

Technology and Educational Institutions

I paid a visit to a new school in my neighborhood today. Founded and promoted by a software engineer, the school boasted of using the best that technology could provide in taking the way education is imparted to the next higher plane. Accompanying me were my Dad and a lecturer from a different school.


The school indeed was an experiment in new uncharted territory.
  • Each class had 29 inch TV that beamed multimedia programs to the students.
  • The students were equipped with smart cards that held their entire profile and track record at school. It also served as their access card to the library and the laboratories. And not to mention their attendance was marked by their swiping into the school in the mornings.
  • The school had 14 cameras installed across the campus and each class room for central monitoring by the management.
  • Plans were on to rope in telecom providers to provide instant updates of class test results via SMS to the guardians of the students.
Quite impressive I must say, given the fact that the school is located in the middle of nowhere in a rural area along the Golden Quadrilateral between Bangalore and Pune.

While driving back, however, the debate that ensued was on the balance that needs to be struck between technology and traditional methods of imparting education. The following points of view emerged.
  • 14 cameras to monitor the classrooms would definitely make teachers conscious and inhibit their natural teaching style. Isn't it like having a private eye sitting all the time in the class and reporting
  • Wouldn't SMSing parents and guardians instantly about student results make a mockery of the students and amount to the school management raising question marks on the integrity of students?
  • Asking students to swipe in and swipe out through access cards hints at draconian disciplinary measures. Are these required at schools that mark the formative years in a kid's life?
Technology can only be used to assist education delivery, but anything beyond that is an area marked in shades of gray. One needs to be careful not to trample on people's sensitivities while turning tech-savvy. Technology should not be used to monitor and keep checks on core human values like faith, trust and integrity. More so in our hallowed educational institutions that impart the very same values to Gen Next. We would not want them to be hypocritical by using technology to keep tabs on students and teachers.

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