Changing shape of education in the age of IT

CIOL Bureau
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Where learning occurs is indelibly linked to what, when, why, and how students learn. The current generation of schools clearly reflects this phenomenon. In them, students learn core subjects and skills, during a school day and academic year, with teachers acting as purveyors of knowledge in nearly identical, factory-like buildings that are the locus of all educational activity. This expression of the where-what, when-why-how approach works well for some students, not so well for others, and not at all for most students.


The past two decades have witnessed many attempts at changing this circumstance, most of which failed miserably. Do not despair. History has shown that a change to one link in the “where-what, when-why-how” education chain can lead to a change in the others.

That was the case in the early 1950s, when two changes in education altered schooling for generations to come. The first was agreement about the length of the school day and year, the second was consensus about the need for students to learn the same curricula in predictable and controllable ways that led to building the current crop of schools.

Over time, those agreements — when and what students learn — changed where learning took place and subsequently spurred changes in the why (college and work), how (teachers in the front of the room), and ultimately who (some students) for contemporary education.


Today we are experiencing a similar, but different chain of events in education. This time the educational who is driving the change of what, when, why, and how students learn. A few persons would disagree that students today are different from previous generations of students. They only know a world with technology. Technology is an integral part of who they are and what they do outside of school.

Until recently, technology has not been part of what they do inside school. Too often tech-savvy students — equipped with laptops, cellphones, MP3 players, and other computing devices — had to disconnect from the Internet, shut down, and unplug when they enter school.

Thanks to the changing nature of students, educators (teachers, lecturers, school heads) are increasingly viewing technology as a valuable tool in their education. Along with their warming acceptance of technology, the what, when, why, and how in education are changing too.


The changes are evident in the increasing interest educators are having in technology. Change is visible in how teachers are integrating technology in their classrooms. This is evident in the growing number of students who benefit from purpose-built technologies designed for addressing learning style preferences, personalising lessons, and assessing performance.

One example of this type of technology is the Connected Classroom offered by Dell. It consists of a variety of devices such as interactive projectors, interactive white boards and student response systems. Central to the offering is the Dell Latitude 2110 laptop that was designed with input from educators and has student specific features, including a tough rubber casing and anti-microbial keyboard.

From a cost perspective, connected school IT infrastructure that embraces open standards can in the long-term end up saving huge amounts of money — 80 per cent of school IT budgets goes into fixing monotonous problems like incompatibilities and viruses.


A planned, connected infrastructure helps reduce this bill and allow schools to make the kind of big IT purchases that students will be demanding of them in the future. The trajectory of change that the connected generation is sparking goes from individual devices that connect students and teachers to connected classrooms and connected schools in which all aspects of schooling and learning are connected.

Figuratively and literally, classrooms and schools, as well as the students and teachers therein, are interactive. Enabling such interactions requires technology that is safe, seamless, secure, systematic, stable, and educationally sound. When technology meets these requirements it readily enables the where, what, when, why, and how students learn to be altered in ways that better serve students and teachers.

As these educational shifts play out, students once told to leave their computers at the door will be encouraged to bring their computers into classrooms. Teachers who previously resisted using technology will eagerly integrate it into their instruction and curricula in order to help students reach their highest potential. What once were school days will be learning days during which teachers and student interact about what they learn and how they learn it.

This means that classrooms formerly built to have desks in straight rows, four computers at the back of the room, and a white board up front going forward must be interactive places teaming with engaging technologies, tech-savvy teachers, research-proven content and processes, and students eager to learn. In short, factory-like schools will exist no more, replaced by hubs of activity and achievement. The where student learning occurs will have been pronouncedly changed for the better by the who, when, why, and how of education.

(S Sridhar is the Director for Marketing — India Relationship, Dell India. The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CIOL)