In recent years, Education Technology (EdTech) has witnessed remarkable growth. With the Indian EdTech market contributing 6% to the global EdTech market, it is projected to reach a value of $10 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40%. Notably, the Kerala government has emerged as a frontrunner in digitising education, investing ₹493.50 crores in establishing 45,000 Hi-tech classrooms through the “Hi-tech program” which was launched in 2018. This comprehensive initiative encompasses providing ICT hardware, software, training, and support services for government and aided schools in Kerala. Given the augmented growth of EdTech, the question arises whether students can reap the full potential of EdTech and whether the efforts made by the state are materialising into the expected outcome. 

A recent study conducted by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, aimed to evaluate the experiences and challenges faced by students, teachers, and parents due to EdTech interventions in schools. While the study revealed the widespread acceptance of EdTech among students, with 98% of the students using some form of EdTech platform, it also shed light on certain challenges that require immediate attention. One major concern highlighted in the study was students’ lack of holistic understanding and use of EdTech tools, leading to the ineffective integration of EdTech in the public education system. 

The majority of the students in the study have a limited understanding of EdTech, often associating it solely with digital learning applications. While many students watch YouTube, use ICT equipment in the classroom, or access educational TV channels, they fail to recognise the interconnected nature of these tools and their potential as an integrated learning ecosystem.  Students, teachers, and parents must understand that these tools are not independent entities, but rather interconnected components that can complement and enhance one another. Recognising and utilising these connections synergistically can lead to a more comprehensive and effective educational experience.

Teachers are pivotal in creating these synergies by effectively interconnecting the various EdTech tools. For instance, teachers can guide students to watch specific educational TV channels which can serve as supplementary resources to support classroom interaction. With the advent of technology in education, it’s high time for a transformation in the traditional role of teachers, making them more like facilitators in the learning process. 

One of the key elements of EdTech is the potential it offers for personalised and self-learning opportunities for students. According to the study, while 98% of the teachers noticed an improvement in after-school personalised support for students with the help of EdTech, only 58% of the students agreed. This indicates a mismatch between teachers’ perceptions and the actual experiences of students, highlighting the need for further improvement in the utilisation of EdTech by teachers. To facilitate this, the role of teachers which used to be limited to teaching and conducting exams will need to shift to facilitators who create an entire educational ecosystem that aligns with the specific needs of the students. Each child has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning strategies. Earlier, the education system has often failed to identify these individual differences, treating every student as the same. The one-size-fits-all concept of teaching can be done away with the emergence of EdTech. 

According to the study, 50 out of the 52 teachers interviewed (98%) actively support and encourage the integration of EdTech for their students. Through the implementation of comprehensive training programmes, workshops, and mentoring initiatives, these teachers can be empowered with the necessary skills and knowledge to utilise technology beyond its role as mere teaching aids in the classroom.

Students have different ways of learning. Some prefer studying with factual and data-driven materials, while others prefer learning through audio and video resources. As facilitators, teachers can be trained to adapt and tailor instructional materials to accommodate diverse learning styles. This ensures that students receive individualised attention and can learn in ways that suit them best. Additionally, in light of the continuous evolution of technology, it is imperative to provide regular training sessions rather than one-off events, promoting continuous professional development among teachers.

Furthermore, according to the study, out of the 52 teachers interviewed, 43 of them use EdTech as a teaching aid. However, the number of teachers who use it for other purposes, such as an assessment tool, is as low as 23. Teachers should be empowered to use EdTech for purposes beyond teaching. For example, adaptive assessment tools leverage technology to evaluate students individually based on their unique skills, competencies, and learning capacity. This approach eliminates rigid standards of assessing and comparing students, fostering a more personalised evaluation of their progress. 

Capacity-building initiatives can also support teachers in using gamification techniques, which help create interactive and immersive learning environments that promote active participation, creativity, and deeper understanding among students.

Moreover, teachers who have successfully integrated EdTech tools can contribute significantly by sharing their knowledge and experiences through collaborative sessions. The concept of “peer-teacher support” is instrumental in fostering collaboration and inspiring other teachers to integrate and use EdTech tools effectively.

The Kerala Open Online Learning (KOOL) initiative, administered by the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), presents an opportunity to provide comprehensive training to teachers. While the platform currently offers basic ICT training, there is immense potential to expand its offerings to encompass advanced courses focused on effectively integrating and synergistically utilising cutting-edge EdTech tools, such as generative AI. By leveraging the KOOL initiative, teachers can enhance their digital competencies and make the teaching-learning process more impactful.

EdTech has the potential to revolutionise learning experiences, foster engagement, and equip students with the skills required for success in the digital age. It is however imperative for stakeholders, including governments and educational institutions to collaborate and invest in teacher training and development to fully unlock the potential of EdTech to pave the way for a transformative educational environment. 

(This article is first published on APN News)

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

Ashna Rahim

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