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Futuristic Classrooms for Educators

 

In the age of internet, social media and numerous other forms of information and communication technologies(ICTs) , it would be an anachronism to talk about futuristic ‘classrooms’ for educators. Classroom in the face to face teaching-learning is a powerful organizing   strategy.  F2F meeting was  the only  available place for educators ever since education became an organized, social necessity for teaching-learning thousands of years in the recorded history . Slowly  other forms of education like correspondence education, distance education, open distance learning(ODL), blended learning etc, have emerged during the last two centuries.


Depending on the availability, usability and affordability of ICTs in the modern world, at least  five generations of open distance learning have evolved from the days of correspondence education  that started in 1840 in England. Each generation of ODL has been accommodating some new technological and communicational devices. We may now can visualize the sixth generation of teaching learning in the form of application of Artificial Intelligence (AI). All these changes have not replaced or made irrelevant face to face classrooms so far. However, the classrooms themselves have accommodated and absorbed many of the education technologies and technologies for education in their day to day operations seamlessly.  The dividing line between classroom teaching and other forms of teaching learning has become extremely blurred.

The millennia  old classroom education itself has seen tremendous changes  from the Gurukul  study to Ashrams ,Pathashalas and Universities in India. Takshila,Nalanda,Vikramshila,Kanchipuram and Madurai-- to mention only a few among many other ancient and medieval universities of India had many different forms and structures and the roles of educators were also constantly changing. A Guru became an Acharaya and the Acharya became professor etc. in our own indigenous academic traditions. In the western world, Greek and Roman traditions had  their own equivalence and counterparts of the Indian institutions. So did the Egyptian   and Chinese traditions in this regard. The modern universities of the west and eventually in the other parts of the world started with Bologna a thousand years ago  . Oxford Cambridge, Heidelberg and the rest of the well known universities in the world have evolved  very different structures and academic standards of their own.

In the context of globalization and ICTs there is no dearth of models and structures of educational institutions, including the classroom models and structures. From one student to one teacher classroom, we know have one teacher with infinite number of learners! ICTs have given us enormous flexibility to define the term “classroom”. By Classroom, we have to now understand the meeting point for the educator  and the learners  without necessarily the four walls with limited number of more or less homogenous student population of the traditional variety of a classroom. In India, a classroom accommodates  from five students to one hundred and fifty or more, depending on the demand for a particular course and, at times, the popularity of the teacher this has its own implications for effective teaching and- learning thanks to the connectivity provided by an array of communication technologies on their different combinations it is now possible for one teacher to reach any number of learners from anywhere in the global village. So , simultaneously access to content and methods of teaching- learning can be assured with appropriate arrangements by the public sector, private sector and individuals.

But there are huge challenges in taping this limitless potential of teaching learning to produce educated skill human beings who aspire to become effective members of a knowledge society this is where futuristic educators will have to engage themselves in finding appropriate classrooms ‘ content and methods’ so has to minimize the resources which are normally consumed by traditional classrooms in turning out  huge armies of unemployable graduates particularly in developing and less developed countries. The situation is very fluid.

Recognition of degrees and assurance of jobs are no longer the privileges of branded classroom teaching institutions. The recent experiences of school and college drop outs becoming billionaires in the corporate world clearly show that futuristic classrooms can not be defined in terms of old mind sets and known parameters. They can be determined only by those educators who are open to ideas people places and methods with the help of ICT’s, innovations and creativity. The field is vide open the abstractions to futuristic classrooms are the centuries old habits, mind sets and prejudices  unless the mindsets which are so rigid can be changed new innovations in designing future classrooms will be extremely difficult.

Four factors will ultimately prevail in the business of education: excellent content, unfailing technologies, updated pedagogies and imaginative instruction design. All this factor need not be always formed in one single educator. Different component and different abilities  may be found in different individuals. Therefore futuristic classrooms engage them effective teaching will be necessarily a theme activity. The team members and the team dynamics  will have to be managed efficiently. To do that, we require imaginative and  efficient and visionary leaders.

Leaders  have to be found within a given society .Once found out, they must be given the necessary freedom and encouragement to experiment , innovate and deliver. We can easily find who are the potential education leaders. There are,  of course,  different obstacles within and outside the institutions that in many different ways put down the potential leaders and their initiatives. Members within the institutions know about them very well. The complex dynamics  operates in a society. Therefore, the leaders  must first understand the given reality, work through the given human agencies, motivate them to be  more open, more accommodative and more productive in tune with  the constant changes that  take place in the field of  technologies, education and the social aspirations of people ultimately. Reason and dialogue are the  characteristics of an educator as well as the  learners of a knowledge society. The Journey is long but it has to be undertaken. ICTs  will be the most appropriate vehicles in this journey which will have many stops, turning points with a goal.

 


By Prof. P R Ramanujam
Indira Gandhi National Open University.