Create a multimodal learning environment
A new educational technology story was brought back when millions of students and thousands of teachers were urged to change everything in a matter of days in the spring of 2020. The new teaching was voiced in a familiar language to deliver a semblance of normality. – thus popular discourse was swarming with adjectives to qualify what was happening to education, from kindergarten to doctoral studies. Terms that were immediately mobilized included “online”, “digital”, “remote”, “remote” to name a few. These terms seemed to translate what teachers like me were doing, and what our students were experiencing, into something that we, and those watching the school, could relate to. However, the fault lines of this process are now being shown in the headlines as it becomes clear that thousands of students have been cut off from the new education narrative due to barriers ranging from technology to financial. .
The conversation continues as educational institutions look to the future, again creating narratives that seem to bring education back to the ‘normal’ that existed in early 2020. Multiple scenarios for restarting colleges have been made. proposed; economists deplore the end of the education industry as it existed; academic industry leaders grapple with the financial realities of empty classrooms and dormitories. Still, this is a point where an opportunity has presented itself that could be seized. The possibilities lie not so much in scenario-building and despair at the depressing results, as in reshaping the history of education in a new technological narrative.
Universal and accepted teaching technology has remained rooted in a face-to-face method where teacher and student are expected to be in the same “real” space at the same time – the ubiquitous classroom. From the classroom at the forefront of modern universities to the small halls of public schools in remote Himalayan villages – the teacher and students are presumed to be in the classroom – the defining technology of the education. For a long time, there were few alternatives to this technology. With the advent of television, an alternative presented itself, but it was used in a limited way because there was no need to interrupt traditional technology. There are bold initiatives such as the UK Open University which in 2008-2009 enrolled nearly 200,000 students, and the Indira Gandhi National University of India (IGNOU) which had nearly 4 million students. ‘students in 2012; these have remained on the periphery of industry such as distance education from subsidized universities in the United States. These are the exceptions, and often seen as inferior in the established narrative of global education, which is still attached to the classroom, and in the United States, to the residential college. An interruption has come and the ongoing attempt to remake history in colloquial terms rejects an opportunity to rewrite and rename the technology of education.
The first step in rethinking technology is to be able to ditch the current adjectives. Online (or distance, distance, etc.) education has a definition and a set of specific practices that have been carefully nurtured by specialized institutions such as the Open University, IGNOU and others who have defined best practices for the process. It is inconceivable that all educational institutions suddenly went online within a week. It’s absurd ; To call it online education does a disservice to those who have upgraded the skills and have the technology. In addition, creating an online learning environment requires a certain predisposition on the part of the people who create the environment and the people who inhabit the environment. Perhaps more importantly, the online experience is embraced by choice by all who inhabit this learning space. The virus offered no choice – everyone just had to react. In this responsive mode, teachers and students have in fact tapped into an array of tools that now offer a set of lessons and offer an opportunity to reconsider teaching technology.
It is now worth considering creating a Multi-Mode Learning Environment (MMLE) using technologies that deliver the maximum impact to the greatest number of users. The MMLE would be comprised of many different tools to provide a fair and rewarding learning environment and experience. Adopting the following simple technologies and strategies can make MMLE a successful experience:
1. Messaging tools that require minimal data and can be easily used on a cell phone. This strategy recognizes that not all students and educators are in a privileged position with ubiquitous access to advanced digital devices and fast, flawless network access.
2. Students should be reassured that the instructor is accessible. Access is no longer just during pre-defined hours like office hours and study rooms, but when the student needs help using a spectrum of technology ranging from real-time video meetings to phone conversations.
3. Students should be able to access pre-recorded teaching modules through multiple access points where each module does not exceed a certain file size. Students may not have the technological systems to download an hour-long prerecorded video, but may need it to be broken into smaller chunks both for easier interpretation and for easier downloading.
4. Pre-recorded teaching modules should go beyond “talking heads” and integrate dynamic tools.
5. Face-to-face technology should be used when it is needed for specific teaching (laboratories, dance studios, art classes, etc.) and as a tool to foster the learning environment by deploying it in other areas. multiple spaces – from school playgrounds to university dormitories and not favoring face-to-face contact in the classroom.
In this model, each of the five elements is of equal importance and MMLE is built in the delicate balance of these technologies. Finally, in this balance, it is possible to reduce the primacy of the classroom but to retain and reimagine, in the fifth point above, the centrality of the college or school campus in creating the environment of learning.