Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transforming teaching by broadband

The last two eLearning conferences I have attended in New Zealand have opened with the Minister of Education speaking at length about the government plan to spend $1.5 billion on fiber optic roll out, which will include schools, across the country. What was perplexing to me was hearing significant numbers of kiwi teachers express sentiments along the lines of "there was nothing in that for me"! Agreed, the previous Minister announced a day off school for all teachers during his final conference speech, and the implications were far easier to grasp.

I observed a class of Year 3 students grapple with a similar concept recently when they met to discuss how they would spend the wonderful $250 prize they had received from the Ruth Hart Jessee Strange Award - a big feast or a Flip video camera? Hard decision for them to make!

I was reminded about this when I watched the BBC video of Sam Pitroda, who is adviser to the Prime Minister of India, delivering his views on how access to broadband in his country will impact teachers and teaching in India in the very near future.

Some of the gems from his talk include:

"Technology is a great social leveler, second only to death."

"It is not a question of replacing teachers by broadband; it's a question of transforming teaching by broadband."

He tells us that:
In India there are currently 550 million telephones
They are adding 15 million new connections each month
There will be 800 million in the next couple of years

This will see the whole country connected and the local government bodies connected to form a national knowledge network.

He speaks about the teacher's role as a mentor and talks of the internet / broadband bringing the guru tradition back to India. Guru are people who are there for you, who have many answers, we look up to them, but they are not always teaching.
He says the concept of teacher delivery with duster and blackboard is obsolete; it doesn't make sense today but we still go on doing it! And it will have to change. That's the power of the internet.

I am reminded that as educators we need to be looking for inspiration at every level (from personal to blogs/books/Twitter to large conference keynotes) outside of our traditional 'Mother Country' and North American go-tos. The video is only 3 minutes long. Check it out here.