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Technology Enabled Inservice Education of Teachers

Authors: Prof. Marmar Mukhopadhyay and Prof. Madhu Parhar

That this is still a subject of debate among teachers and teacher trainers is a surprise especially when majority of the school teachers have computers/Laptop at home whether it is available in schools or not. Since most of the teachers have invested in computers at home for their children, a large majority of them have Internet connectivity as well, especially in urban areas. Teachers are regular users of mobile phone – almost all have android or smart phones. Almost all teachers without exception use WhatsApp regularly for oral, text and graphic communication? That also implies that they have internet connectivity on their mobile phones.

The main argument put forward by teachers and teacher trainers is lack of computing facility and internet connectivity in schools. This argument is valid only as much as ICT is seen and regarded as computing technology for word and data processing, making presentation, and such other conventional usages. Also, it assumes that unless there is access to computers in schools, teachers cannot learn and use ICT.  There is a need to reconstruct the concept and practices of ICT in Education. Although mobile learning is not new in this country, it does not find a place in Indian education especially in the cognitive masse of teachers, teacher trainers and educational administrators at various levels. There are some exceptions, though.

ICT Enabled Teacher Training

USAID called upon ETMA with an assignment to create a strategic plan for training 500,000 untrained primary teachers without taking them out of the schools as that would affect the functioning of the schools using ICT.  After a detailed deliberation with teachers and administrators including the Minister in charge of education, ETMA recommended use of mobile learning (based on mobile phones) complemented by week-end F2F programs at the BRCs. The project is now being funded by the World Bank. Several other agencies and individuals are extensively using WhatsApp (mobile learning) for delivering courses on a wide variety of subjects like Diabetes, Agriculture, etc. It provides delivery of text, voice and video. It provides opportunity of M2M (many to many) interactions among trainers and participants, and among participants. Selectively, there are instances of phone call between experts and participants. There are many instances where participants not only raise questions and queries, but also provide input by providing URLs from YouTube and other free-access resources.

A small analytics may be useful. On Swami Vivekananda’s birthday, a quote from Swamiji on Knowledge was sent by WhatsApp to 130 people of different background and of different age groups at 10 in the morning. Within first 10 minutes, 89 or 64% read the message; 16 or 12% responded back. Response increased with time. Qualitative analytics indicate that responses were ‘Thanks’; promise to further circulate; reinforcement by similar quotes from other religious leaders; enrichment with other quotes and videos on Swamiji; and others.

There can be a sea change in inservice teacher education by adopting mobile learning especially WhatsApp based delivery mode. Besides all the advantages of technology enabled learning it saves on cost, travel and logistics of participants and experts while dramatically improving quality of training material and delivery. In other words, inservice teacher education can be much less expensive but much more effective. There can be a paradigm shift in cost and quality of inservice education of teachers by adopting technology enabled learning.

The bonus of TEL in teacher training is additional. When teachers benefit from TEL, they get convinced. They are more likely to use TEL for students.

This cost saving can further improve quality by investing savings from conventional inservice teacher training on mounting research especially programme monitoring and evaluation activities.  Let us see some of the other developmental issues in this context.

LMS and Analytics

Many school specially the private schools are using computers not only in the teaching learning process in classrooms but they have adopted their own Learning Management System on which they post home work, instructions to students or parents etc. Can we draw lessons for teacher training?

Trainees and teacher trainers,  when work on computers, whether they go to the library and search web resources or they log on to any website or to a learning management system, they leave a digital footprint.  Learning analytics, a web application, is a process of gathering and analyzing details of individual trainees’ and trainers’ interactions in online learning activities. Learning management Systems like MOODLE leave learners/trainee profile. This data can provide an insight into learning process of trainees and teacher trainers way to training/teaching.

Data is taken from the inbuilt discussion forums, activity completion, assessments, etc. Data can also be obtained from trainee enrolment/registration systems and their progress reports or portfolios. By using various statistical tools/methods, learning analytics can be used for prediction, personalization and intervention. For example, presently, answers to exams are used only to assess how students are performing.  But data will give student’s individual behavior. Data will inform how much time   students take to answer the questions, which questions are skipped, what resources students are consulting, relation of one question to another, etc. Teachers/trainers can plan and it can improve students’/trainee teachers’ results.

Learning analytics can help teachers monitor students in real time. It can help teachers know how students are reading, the text, which are the difficult concepts, easy ones or which concepts are not clear. This will help teachers plan for customized learning.

Big Data is another concept which not only produces data from the interaction of trainees with computer but also from students’ mobile phones. Mobile phones are becoming primary tool for humans to go online. Information is obtained on consumer behavior from mobile phones. Big Data draws a meaningful conclusion on what an individual is interested or a group in case of WhatsApp messages.  Even the mobile apps are sources of information for the Big data analytic companies.

Conclusion

ICT is being used extensively in human resource development across the world and in India. Education is lagging behind. By resorting to ICT enabled teacher training, the quality of training can significantly improve while also dealing with attitude problem and resistance to technology. It must be recognized as an investment in education manpower development and not a wasteful expenditure. Someone somewhere has to pioneer and experiment.

Prof. Marmar Mukhopadhyay, Chairman, Educational Technology and Management Academy, Gurugram.
Prof. Madhu Parhar is Professor of Distance Education at STRIDE, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi