It's easy to miss the forest for trees, especially when it comes to technology implementation in schools as there are many tools, platforms, solutions, and devices. Often individuals get confused and drowned in the information deluge and added to this flux is the perennial love-hate relationship with technology - manifested in debates namely, ‘Technology - Bane or Boon’, ‘EdTech - Education first or Technology first’, ‘Smart Teachers or Smart Class’ etc.
Despite shaky grounds, digital transformation is a reality
The only solace is that this situation is not unique to education as the business sector and other industries have also been facing this challenge for a long time. There have been many disastrous software and technology implementations that have not produced any value. Despite these shaky grounds and scepticism, we have seen tremendous transformation in businesses adapting to technology (Digital Transformation) and eventually generating exponential growth.
The introduction of innovation in the sector is collecting dust
Though Healthcare, Education, and Agriculture have been the last bastions of digital transformation, the road so far for digital transformation in education has been filled with potholes and an uncomfortable ride, which consists of over promised, failed delivery, elusive efficiency gains, and difficulty in correlating to learning outcomes. The sector has seen brief periods of collective euphoria and then the enthusiasm falling to dust soon after.
A classic example is ‘Smart Digital Classboard’ - which is nothing but a large TV screen in the classroom. Marked as a revolution, school leaders lined up and parents lapped the device up but fast forward 10 years, literally several smart-boards in schools are collecting dust. The cost is high, and the maintenance even higher, the operation was eating into the precious teaching time in the class - leaving the already overworked teachers, scrambling to finish the syllabus.
This left a bad taste in many educators on the promise of technology. All was not lost in technology, it was rather pushed to an administrative role - Websites, sending SMS to parents on holiday, and attendance was considered to be innovative and tech-savvy.
Technology in education is more relevant than ever
The true power of technology was realised and appreciated only during the pandemic. Only because of technology, teaching remotely and connecting with the students was possible. Two whole years were conducted purely online. Technology wasn’t just a peripheral tool but the core of how education was delivered, with this there is a renewed respect and interest in the inclusion of the same in Education. As it is wise to learn from past mistakes, it helps to think about technology implementation in a structured way.
Despite the complexity and multitude of options technology only delivers four things.
Saving time in the current work process
Saving effort in the current work
Improve the quality of the work output
Enables completely new work
Marking attendance manually vs fingerprint or RFID or digital registry, software for making report cards from exams and tests conducted, software assessment for practice and learning, live video classes, and graphing tools, are just some examples of how technology can deliver education.
Education leaders need to reason and understand the true underlying value of each technology project before implementation.
(The author is the former CEO of Report BEE)