The use of Technology in education in emerging markets

For many years, the use of computers in schools has been a topic of interest for both teachers and parents. In the last few years, the purpose of deployment of technology has shifted from learning about computers, to using technology to improve the quality of education. This becomes even more crucial in a rural environment, where teacher absenteeism is reaching epidemic proportions. The intent is not to replace teachers, but to empower teachers, students, parents and administrators with the necessary resources to deliver the best quality of education possible.

Technology has been implemented in various ways, ranging from massive open online courses (MOOCs), remote tutoring and even gaming technology to provide a feedback mechanism and provide incentives to improve performance. The simplest and fastest deployment of technology in education is for the implementation of a flipped classroom methodology. In a traditional classroom environment, the teacher is limited to lecturing, while real learning happens at home through practice while completing homework. In a flipped classroom system, students watch videos of the lecture before the class, and then conduct the equivalent of homework in class, with support from the teacher. In this manner, the teacher changes from a simple lecturer to a personal coach. Most often, students are equipped with tablet computers to allow home access to the necessary content. Even in the classroom, teachers use the tablet computers with each of the students as a means of quick assessment. To implement flipped classroom systems, teachers can curate the content themselves with access to videos on Youtube or Khan Academy websites. For content that is directly mapped to the CBSE curriculum, solutions like those provided by iSecula are very effective.

Over the past few years, improved teacher training and development of content have made it ever easier to implement technology in the classroom. Still, key barriers of affordability and connectivity have limited the penetration of technology in many parts of emerging markets. These barrier are now being demolished. Today, powerful tablets with cellular connectivity (phablets) at under Rs.3,000 have made it possible for every child to have a personal computing device. These devices have dual-core processors, and the latest operating systems, yet are one-tenth of the cost of devices from just a couple of years back. These devices have now become so powerful, that it seems silly paying more. Internet connectivity has also been a key limitation in the past, but with DataWind’s breakthrough web delivery platform covered by over 18 U.S. and international patents, affordable internet access is available across India’s pervasive mobile networks.

The quality of education that our children receive is no longer linked to our ability to spend. Technology levels the playing field, and eliminates mediocrity in teaching. The current system of education was invented to create factory workers for the industrial revolution almost 200 years back, but education in the modern age needs to take advantage of tools that are available today. This will help create an environment where learning can happen anytime & anywhere. The ability to self-learn can continue beyond the classroom and for the rest of our lives. Technology makes this possible.

Suneet Singh Tuli
CEO, DataWind