Source | www.livemint.com : By Shweta Sharan
From virtual reality to big data, the tech frenzy has hit education too, but will it be able to go beyond gimmickry?
By Shweta Sharan
Can technology change education?
We are told that the day isn’t far when a child in India can teach Hindi in real time to a child in Africa through interactive whiteboards that use touch detection. This might seem like a scene from a Ray Bradbury novel but how do we separate the signal from the noise, and distinguish gratuitous technology from technology that can solve problems?
A few months ago, an education start-up in Chennai called QED wanted to test if students learned better from bots than they did from (human) teachers. They performed a simple experiment with 100 to 150 students. Around 60% of the students performed better when their doubts were cleared by bots instead of teachers.
It’s too soon to wonder whether computers can replace teachers based on a small experiment but can technology surprise us?
Let’s say you are a student with dyslexia. You may find it easier to learn from a bot than a teacher because you could be motivated to go to the next level, like in a game. But can bots make you love a subject the way a teacher can?
Priya Ramakrishnan, a high school science teacher in a CBSE school in Bengaluru, often uses technology to hook her students in the first 10 minutes of the class. Says Ramakrishnan, “While technology has many uses, it cannot understand and fulfil the psychological need of a child. It cannot teach empathy.”
According to a recent report brought out by Google and KPMG, the online education in India will possibly grow from its current $247 million and reach $1.96 billion by 2021. Tracxn tells us that in 2012 alone, there were 2,400 ed-tech start-ups in India and more than 200 new ones coming up every year since then.
Will one of them strike gold?
Cutting a frog without cutting a frog
The beauty of virtual reality, or VR, in education is that in 10 minutes, it gives us an experience of a subject that a textbook cannot.
Picture this. You can cut a frog without cutting a frog. You can go inside the leaf that you are studying in botany class. Let’s say you are in class and the teacher is explaining one of the laws of friction in physics. He or she gives you the definition but won’t you retain the information better if you can actually apply force in the virtual world with your hand and see how far the block is going?