Are all teachers digital savvy?

Convenient: Technology tools used in classrooms across schools are age and curriculum specific. The apps come in handy packages as support for educators at various levels of the academic ladder.

Every school-going child knows what a digital board is and has seen a smart board in use on a regular school day. The pressure of preparedness is on those hands which are seeking to push the right buttons to make the mocking monitor open a required page. Remember those mouse control exercises we had to master before the little deadly arrow condescended to stay long enough on a given point for you to double click? Imagine fumbling in front of a room full of little know-it-all(s)!

Adapt and upgrade knowledge

Being tech-savvy is not just wading through and mastering the barrage of apps and related skills that a teacher is required to at the beginning of each academic year, it is about the attitude of the mind to expect changes, glitches and the urgent need to upgrade one’s knowledge at frequent intervals.

“Using technology on a day-to-day basis eases the process and helps me feel more comfortable with digital communication,” says Nagesh, who teaches Environmental Studies and is generally the troubleshooter in the resource room. “However, most senior teachers are not comfortable with using technology,” he quips. It is but natural. They are the ones adapting to changes. The newer crop breathes and devours technology, so naturally, they don’t need to be guided through the labyrinths of the digital world.

Blackboards still exist

In some of the schools I visited, blackboards are still in use. Some others have replaced black with white and chalk with marker pens. The digital boards (also white) are confined to the audiovisual (AV) lab and computer labs. Sasi, a middle school girl, with a mile-long grin said, “I am the Digi-board monitor (pun intended) in the AV room. Our teacher allows me to operate the system and we watch documentaries and even movies once a week.” In this case, the teacher was clearly resourceful enough to relegate an uncomfortable or even difficult task and make it seem like a reward badge!

Technology tools used in classrooms across schools are age and curriculum specific. The apps come in handy packages as support for educators at various levels of the academic ladder. There are teaching apps, assessment apps etc., to help teachers keep pace with their young charges and with changing times.

There are apps to even screen the attitude, comfort level and proficiency of new teachers at the time of their interview. It is no longer enough to know your subject, you must know to explain it in the language of the Gen Z who speak ‘tech’ tongue.

Why are smart boards important?

Smartboards or digital boards offer a platform for integration of different teaching tools like maps, charts, images, audio and video clippings. “It is time-saving and offers a simple way to record, save, replay and review lessons at a later date,” Sairam, a biology teacher, sums up.

Before the digital board era, we had occasion to admire our teacher’s handwriting and drawing skills. Now with smart features like converting voice commands to text like dictation, drawing shapes, open a tool or even go to Google search, the teacher’s job is simplified and makes the learning experience more interesting. Technology pervades every walk of life and if we don’t keep pace, we will be left floundering. 

Teachers swear by this interactive feature of technology and claim that with the use of technology it is easier to control a class. The audiovisual impact has always been strong. What better way to have thirty hyperactive minds focus on a gentle giant screen as against having them look up line 23 on page 104, within the covers of a textbook which they already resent, for having to lug it to school every day.

“I enjoy lessons better when Ma’am uses the digital board but sometimes, it is difficult to understand everything I see on the big screen,” opines Kshitij Kumar, a twelve-year-old. “Later Ma’am uses the textbook to clear our doubts.” Rishaan, his younger sibling in Class 1, is very clear about his favourite subject — Computer. He is learning the ropes of MS word, he says happily.

Science teachers favour these boards more than language teachers, though Namrata, a Class 5 student, finds it easier to remember her Kannada script through digital imaging. Opinions vary with some parents feeling that the schools are not very strict about the use of digital boards and that many teachers find it easier to slip back into grading papers and holding a textbook in their hands.

Most others are happy to see that teachers are using cloud pages for assessment and reports of activities and units of study on a weekly basis or fortnightly, depending on the subject. Sharad, a parent of two lively teenagers, is happy to say, “My twin daughters’ homeroom teacher, who basically coordinates with other subject teachers, keeps us posted on a regular basis via emails. We have individual student portals too which are password protected.”

Assessing apps and tools

It is fast becoming a necessity for teachers to be tech-savvy if they want to connect with students and parents. They have to learn to be a digital citizen and integrate tech skills into everyday life. Teachers should be smart enough to know that technology can baffle or fail at times. They have to be prepared with plan B or even C to continue with the lessons. They are teachers and not techies. But they need to make technology work for them. Assessing apps for quality of information, treatment of the subject and age-appropriate language is something they have to learn to facilitate meaningful learning.

Skype lessons are as common as private tuition lessons these days. Teachers and students create common chat groups to communicate, discuss group projects or share a laugh. This is a very healthy trend to build easy rapport and keep a watchful eye on the student’s social media presence and behaviour. A good teacher believes in embracing change and in looking forward. Being tech-savvy shows your determination to move with times.

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