Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CII Conference on e-Learning and e-Publishing

I attended the above conference in Park Sheraton, Chennai yesterday. I spoke on the technology challenges one has to face in producing and delivering E-books for the Indian languages.

But more than my session, I enjoyed the last session on "Tablet Based Education".

Couple of years ago, I spoke at TEDxSSN about the need to introduce a complete Tablet based education at the school level. I was then disillusioned as I tested with many low cost Chinese Android devices. They were completely crap, the Android OS was not up to the mark, and I felt the entire Tablet revolution will be only for the rich and stopped thinking about it.

Subramanian Viswanathan of CEO of Edtech made some good points about why Tablet today may win where models such as OLPC failed in the past. I agree with him. I hope I paraphrase him correctly thus:-
  1. Tablets have a fantastic, natural interface through "touch", which even a child which has not learnt letters of a language can operate, while keyboards and mouse are a lot more difficult. Over time, we are going to get "gesture recognition" which will make it even better and easier.
  2. Tablets are getting thinner and faster and hence easy to hold and take around.
  3. Bandwidth is getting better and people are making provisions in schools for this.
  4. Unlike the Laptops software, apps have been unleashed for the tablets. The app store concept has made content and application creation and dissemination too easy. Social media has become stronger and the connectedness helps in innovative uses for the product.
  5. The users have become co-creators, and not just passive consumers.
He was suggesting that people invest in branded products rather than the cheap chinese tablets. (I should know better!)

But the really fascinating talk was the one that followed - by Shefali Jhaveri, a teacher at the Canadian International School at Bangalore. Her school has introduced iPads for all the students. No books, no notebooks. Everything is done in their iPads. To get the teachers familiar with this product, the teachers were given the iPads a good six months ahead.

The default apps that come with the iPad for the students include Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, Comic Life and she also talked later about Doceri. Students write their reports using Pages, presentations using Keynote, and also compile their projects using Doceri (a screen animator app - I have not used this). Comic Life is used by the students to create some of their projects.

Teachers trawl through iTunes Univ and identify course material rleated to the syllabus they have to teach. Text books are provided through iPad directly (I didn't figure out who the publisher was and whether iBooks was the book reader).

Subramanian, in his presentation, said most teachers are against the tablet because it does not enable handwriting that well, but that soon good writing may be possible with a pen like device. (I have found handwriting cumbersome as well currently with the current stylus models.)

Shefali talked about and demonstrated a human body app which mimics digestive system, respiratory system, circulatory system etc. which provides students with excellent understanding of these lessons far better than the boring printed book.

***

Of course, there are challenges in India for the neighbourhood low cost schools. There are even bigger challenges for the Indian language schools. It is up to us to take this exciting idea to the next level.

5 comments:

  1. I completely agree that students will understand better...But, my only concern is keep looking at these small display devices may be harmful to their eyes in long term. I mean out of 7/8 periods, if they start using IPADs for around 5 / 6 hours , will that not harm their eyes ? Again carrying out Projects, homeworks, reading lessons may end up looking at these display devices for around 8 hours a day ??

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  2. Hi Badri,
    Thanks for sharing this.

    -- Dharmakumar

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  3. For many average Indians, it is difficult even to provide note books to their children and as such these kind of tablet based education will remain a very long time dream. Sri Subramanian has rightly expressed his concern about hand writing which is gradually not cared for. You may be remembering the importance given to it during our school days some 15 years back.

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  4. Whether you like it or not, CBSE schools like Delhi Public School etc., would soon turn to this iPad mode of teaching. If it can reduce the heavy burden of books and paper-note books being carried by students now, every parent would welcome it.

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