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Preparing learners for the demands of the 21st century requires committed, innovative teachers willing to push existing restrictions. It is also about effectively using the emerging technologies to enhance teaching and learning strategies. The unique and rapid changes happening in this field present various problems for teachers who are willing to experiment with their teaching and learning, roles and responsibilities, learning atmosphere and situations, patterns of interaction, strategies and theories, as well as, modes of assessment. Integrating technology in education can range from replicating existing educational practices through digital media with technology as tools, to transforming education to bring about new learning goals. Incorporating technology in the classroom can bring significant and positive changes in the teaching-learning process but it is not at all easy as we have strong conventional educational practices in our education system and integrating ICT will demand for the innovative role of the teacher as facilitator of the learning to the active role of the learner. The present paper focuses its attention on the problems and issues of the classroom and teaching-learning process in the digital age as it won't be easy to break existing pedagogical practices and adapt new ones. The paper further proposes the ways through which ICT can be effectively incorporated in the classroom. The paper also talks about the changing role of the teacher as well as of the learner in the world of technology and suggests the ways through which teachers can be motivated to use technological tools in their teaching-learning process.
Key Terms: Teaching, Learning, Digital Age.
Integrating technology in education is a complex issue taking many forms that differ in purpose. This can range from replicating existing educational practices through digital media with technology as tools, to transforming education to bring about new learning goals. Education is at the core of powerful and rapidly shifting educational, technological and political forces that will shape the structure of educational systems across the globe for the rest of this century. Many countries are engaged in a number of efforts to achieve changes in the teaching-learning process to prepare students for information and technology based society. The UNESCO World Education Report (1998) notes that the new technologies challenge traditional conceptions of both teaching and learning and, by reconfiguring how teachers and learners gain access to knowledge, have the potential to transform teaching and learning processes. ICTs provide a range of powerful tools that may help in transforming the present isolated, teacher-centered and text-bound classrooms into rich, student-focused, interactive knowledge environments. The digital age means we now have interactive tools for the classroom to go alongside our more usual set of ideas and activities.
Technology is both part of the problem and part of the solution. The information revolution itself has been fuelled by the growth of the Internet networked society but this revolution also offers alternative approaches to access, process and share knowledge, significantly reducing the importance of memory and the retention of a vast subject knowledge base (Burden, 2010). There is no longer the essential for teachers to retain a comprehensive body of subject knowledge which they are expected to be able to access and repeat with accuracy and speed. Subject knowledge is less likely to be perceived as placed in the individual teacher but rather as a shared effort in which the learner is capable of re-constructing new knowledge, both by themselves and as part of a collaborative effort (Ellis, 2007). The passive 3 R's replaced by the more dynamic 3 C's of collaboration, creativity and communication. These features challenge the traditional basis for teaching in schools.
TEACHING & LEARNING PROCESS:
Schools today serve and shape a world in which there can be great opportunity to grow if people can learn to work creatively and collaboratively. Yet, instead of fostering creativity and uniqueness, more and more school systems have become preoccupied with traditional curriculum uniformity and pedagogical practices. Schools and teachers have been bound into the web of test scores and achievement targets. By and large, our schools are preparing young people neither to work nor to live well in this digital age.
Twenty-first century teaching is no longer about the four walls of the classroom. Technology has enlarged the area of teaching-learning process as learners have the reach to vast store of information i.e. internet and they have lots of queries for this reason. So, pedagogical practices should necessarily be changed and capable enough to provide opportunities to the learners to discover the answers. It is also a fact that teaching has always adapted to its circumstances methodologically and physically, moving from lecture to pair work and from translation to communication, for example. Likewise, teachers have always tried to make the best use of any materials that they could get their hands on - from slate to whiteboards, from hand-written postcards to authentic magazine articles, from radio recordings through to DVDs.
Fig. 1, Teaching-Learning in the Digital Age
The absolute degree of human knowledge, globalization and the accelerating rate of change due to technology necessitates a shift in our children's education- from merely knowing to continuous cycle of learning, thus demanding the total change in the teaching learning process which is currently based on rote learning and memory. Digital age has opened up the new dimensions to the learning which are not visible in our existing traditional school system. Twenty first century learning is more complex than ever before as it includes various skills that must be acquired by the learner. Figure 2 presents these skills:
Fig. 2, Skills of 21st Century Learner
The days of only using chalkboards and books in the teaching learning process have gone. Nowadays, there is video or audioâ€video interaction in children's classrooms. Using the same skills used for centuries-analysis, synthesis, and evaluation-teachers now must look at digital literacy as another realm within which to apply elements of critical thinking.
TEACHER IN THE DIGITAL AGE:
In the recent years school education sector has realized that the teacher is the ultimate key to educational change and school effectiveness. The teachers do not merely deliver the curriculum, but they also develop, define and reinterpret. It is the task of teachers to tackle with the technology and to grow their learners to acquire "skills of the 21st century". In the current scenario, the voice of the innovative teacher in the country is barely audible. This voice is rich in practice and experience and can aid us in understanding best suited pedagogical practices for learners. ICT has given new roles and responsibilities to the teacher. ICT challenges the existing authoritarian role of the teachers as the sole source of knowledge and information and demands to be themselves learner first.
Teachers themselves need to learn the new way of learning, and in addition to new ways of helping others learn. This also means a massive shift in the role of the teacher and in all structural aspects of the school system. It can be a highlight for most of the teachers when they suddenly realize that they learned something by and for themselves, not just for next class tomorrow. Teachers are hardly ever asked what they already know and can do, what experiences they bring, which problems they would like to tackle. Such low expectations are set in their teacher education courses in university and more traditional professional development settings.
Fig. 3, Roles & Responsibilities of the Teacher in the Digital Age
The greatest teachers teach naturally. It flows from them like a gentle rain; they can't help but teach. ICT is just another tool in the toolbox of a good teacher. ICT expects teachers to give the students middle stage in the classroom, providing opportunities to explore and inquire for their learning. Teachers should act as guides, facilitators and advisors, building linkages between their students' individual interests and understandings and the common skills and knowledge society expects them to acquire. Teachers hold personal theories, cognitive constructs and guiding principles that determine their instructional decisions and technology integration. Teachers are reflective by nature and use their own systems of beliefs to pursue solutions to problems as determined by their contexts.
ICT has made it relevant for a teacher to be a subject specialist, in addition be able to utilize the amazing power that computers offer. The real facts remain the same. The good teacher's love and passion for their subject, whether it be art, poetry or geography, can and do enrich the child's learning experience. ICT enhances this enrichment, but it will be difficult to break the existing boundaries and to convince the teachers to play their new role.
LEARNER IN THE DIGITAL AGE:
Students in a traditional classroom are passive. They listen and react to the teacher's direct instruction. NCF, 2005 also articulates that "children's voices and experiences do not find expression in the class. It further says that children will learn only in an atmosphere where they feel they are valued and our schools still do not convey this to all children". But ICT has changed the way students learn and the styles of learning they adopt. The learner today has multiple resources available to them. They are ahead of their teachers in using the technology and accessing information in various fields. They are less dependent on teachers and prescribed text books. They build upon their existing knowledge and derive their own meanings. It has provided them freedom and flexibility which was not available earlier. Learners have active, reflective role in this digital age.
Today's children are "growing up digital." Their view of the world is very different from that of adults, thanks to exceptional access to information, people, and ideas across highly interactive media. Today's children are the latest model of human being. Looking at the world of children is not looking backward at our own past-it's looking ahead. They are our evolutionary future.
But, it also proposes the biggest problem in the teaching-learning process in the present digital age. A common scenario today is a classroom filled with digitally literate students being taught by linearâ€thinking, technologically obstructed teachers. Students have been exposed to these technologies or similar ones early on during their formative years while their teachers have just been exposed to it only recently. As a result, the students are sometimes more capable with the technology. In spite of this teachers are rarely given the chance to learn how to use this technologyâ€â€teachers are given the tools, but not the knowledge. Teachers increasingly are learning the technology on their own time.
Students on the other are confident enough to use these technological advancements effectively and they even prefer it more on traditional methods of teaching and learning. Learners now have freedom to explore, discover and inquire whatever they want.
ROLE OF ICT IN EDUCATION:
Contemporary beliefs regarding learning have moved away from knowledge transmission models of simply imparting information to constructive knowledge models where knowledge is constructed. In the process of meaning making, technology is roped in to support the communication and construction of new knowledge resulting in new learning. Teachers want their learners to make their own decisions in future, enabling them to learn for themselves. The role of ICT in education can be seen as learning about, learning with and learning through ICT. ICT is used to liberate learners from the limitations of their physical environments due to inadequate infrastructure or lack of resources. ICT can mainly help in three areas that are as follows:
Fig. 4, How ICT can help in the process of Teaching-Learning?
Today ICT is an essential "life skill" in the same way as literacy and numeracy are. ICT provides an opportunity for economic development and is a requirement for employability. ICT is a tool for educational management that can improve teaching and learning. Teachers should utilize these technological advancements according to the particular context, pedagogy and activities during the lesson. Teachers need to be flexible to enough to use ICT. Use of ICT can create an interest among students which will result in learning at better pace and with ample opportunities to explore the answers to their various queries. But, it is not at all possible without changing the current traditional practices and roles that teachers and students are playing.
ICT or digital age is the truth of our lives today which is unavoidable if one want to live, learn and move ahead in 21st century world. This digital age is a potentially liberating process freeing teachers and students from the acquisition and retention of information and enabling them to focus more on the creative processes of making connections and creating new paths which have meaning and purpose for the present time (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2000). ICT or digital age resources today offer great opportunities in education sector and especially to our schools for the beneficiary role they provide in information, learning and research. It clearly states that teachers should be digitally literate in order to use these ICT resources and tools. Existing traditional practices and roles necessarily be changed by the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers must be a facilitator and direct the students towards the right direction where as students should be provided with the freedom to explore, discover and inquire. Resources should be made available to the schools in order to fulfill this objective and teachers must be educated digitally. It means, curriculum of teacher education will eventually be transformed into ICT based curriculum and exploratory pedagogical practices. ICT can enhance the teaching learning process and can make it more interactive than today. It will provide new dimensions to the learning as it will lead to autonomous learning. Constructivism will emerge as the new theory and technology will follow it in practice as it emphasizes on collaborative learning, real-world projects with authentic assessments with students accepting responsibility for their own learning. But all this will require internal inspiration and support system from our education system as well as the readiness to change and learn from everyone even from the students. Teacher training curriculum also need to be redesigned as teachers should themselves be learner and digitally educated to be capable of using these ICT tools.
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