In the earlier times of our grandparents they used wooden planks and coal to write and teach children. Our grandparents used shells like an abacus to calculate and count and teach. With the changing tide of development, pencils and paper replaced the wooden boards. The times have changed and the technologies used in education have also changed. The teachers of today have to be trained and of certain standards. The classrooms have walls and chairs and tables and fans keep the students cool during those warm sunny days. Educational technologies further advanced to schools having computer classrooms and internet and laboratories with modern equipment, to provide a far more student-centered teaching experience. The next logical step were digital classrooms with smartboards. These were all slow but deliberate efforts to better the way we teach; more productive and cost effective. This said, not all technologies are as effective equally; as some might make the learning process more labored (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Let us look at how far we have come with technological advances in the pedagogy of education in the Maldives.
Timeline of Technology in the Maldives
The early schools of Maldives were mainly astrological schools that focused mainly on mathematics and astrology. Historian HCP Bell in his monograph of the Maldives notes that in the early 20th century the Maldivian schooling system included learning to read the Quran and writing Thaana (the local script) and further education included learning Arabic, Urdu language and navigation. There were no formal schools or educational institutions established. It is said that while the royalty and the wealthy were able to travel to neighboring countries such as India and Sri Lanka to receive higher levels of education, this was only for the elite few. In 1927 the first western style educational institution of Majeedhiyya School opened its doors and later a similar girl’s school of Ameeniyya was established as well in 1944. Then the first government curriculum was piolet tested at the Baa Atoll Eydhafushi School in the late 1970’s. Today we boast free public pre-schooling to Higher Secondary education, though not in every island or atoll yet.
The early classrooms were basic with four walls and tables and a black board. In the late 1990’s we saw the introduction of white board and markers to classrooms. Laboratories, media rooms and computer classrooms were further developed in the 90’s as well. Though still, it was very much centralized to the capital, Male’. The progress from black board to white board can be said to be the first advancement of teaching technologies. Then by 2008, smart classrooms were slowly being set up with the aid of international donors. These were classrooms with smart-board technology and internet based smart libraries were also accessible now. This meant that the visual room classes now can be conducted inside the confines of the classroom. Though, we seem to be stagnant at the smart-board level of development. Though the world offers far more advanced and cheaper technologies that can be adapted into our classrooms. Making teaching more fun, inclusive and effective. The teachers can conduct lessons with lesser effort but reach out to the children far more effectively.
Why Technological advancement is required in the field of education
“It's quite fashionable to say that the education system is broken - it's not broken, it's wonderfully constructed. It's just that we don't need it any more. It's outdated.” –Professor Suagata Mitra
Suagata Mitra is the leading revolutionary, educational pedagogy development professor. With his “Hole in the wall” experiment, whereby he left computer systems with downloaded information at rural areas for children to play with and observe how they teach themselves, he discovered the hidden ability for kids to teach themselves. There was no requirement of the Victorian style classrooms or teachers. Professor Mitra proposed in later research, a new model of self-learning called Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), where he created a model whereby children are given complex questions and they research and find the answers all by themselves. All that is required is an internet connection, computer and lots of encouragement. As the leading figure in creating a new pedagogy of education, the professor is pushing for that change to adapt to a more digitized educational system whereby the classic classrooms are no longer required as such.
Merely spoon feeding children vast amounts of information without their proper understanding but rather memorization will mean we create children that are unable to fully utilize the knowledge and just mere cogs. The great educational and developmental researcher and academic, Vygotsky’s view was that the use of technology to connect rather than separate students from one another would be the most appropriate way to ensure that we not only create human robots. In 2007 Mishra and Koehler presented the Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge (TPACK) concept at the conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. This framework builds on Lee Shulman’s construct of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) to include technology knowledge and shows the academics way forward to include more technological assistance in teaching.
Technological utilization in the globalized world
I-pads: there is an increase in the number of schools that use I-pads as musical instruments and for seeking information and analyzing topics and researching while in the classroom.
Mobile Phones: Some schools in the United States, students use mobile phones to play with decimal points, snap photos for research projects, and beam Microsoft Word documents to one another. John F. Kennedy School in Spring Valley, Illinois, equipped sixth-graders with mobile phones preloaded with various math and science applications
Apps: smart phones and tablets now have a huge market of applications that are focused specifically on education. Math and Science and so much more can be sourced from these Apps for a nominal price. Google Classroom and Google Education are resources that teachers can utilize to increase their outreach and reduce their burden.
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter provides the platform for children to group together and discuss topics and assignments as well as search more through their connections.
Video Conferencing: Skype and CISCO video conferencing and other online platforms are often used to conduct lectures and guest speakers to break the routine of the classic classroom. It can also bring lecturers and speakers from across the globe as well as build relations between cultures and races and countries’ students.
Smart-Boards and Clickers: are commonly used in the classrooms to access videos and presentations by teachers during their lessons.
Free Online Resources/libraries: there are numerous teaching websites that are free and easy to use. These include the Khan Academy (mostly mathematics subjects covered in detail), Wikipedia (free information on various topics), Code Academy (computer Programming), Dualingo (language learning) and many more. Online free libraries including Google Books and academic websites are now easily available. Youtube and TED Talks are other popular video based sites with a vast subject range.
These are just merely a few applications of technology. There are vast amounts of technological advances throughout the world if one seeks to find them.
Barriers to adapting modern technologies in the Maldivian School System
The main restriction seems to be the finances required for the adaptation of modern technology. This is a barrier that is only limited to as far as much research one does on the available technologies. Today, there are far more affordable and effective technologies to the smart-boards. Projectors, I-pads, tablets and Applications and software can be used as they are available or even adapted to the Maldives specifically.
Teachers are also afraid of change. This can be restrictive not only on themselves but their ability to raise the bar of quality education in this rapidly changing and technologically savvy world. Imagine the child playing games and fun activities on their tablets at home but have to listen to a teacher speak on a topic for 45 minutes. That child has already lost his ability to go back to older methods of understanding when they are spoilt with modern day advances at home. It is understandable that teachers who have been teaching for decades with markers and white board, producing high pass rates of students, will argue why such a drastic change is required. The simple answer is their method very well might not be creating meaningful learning amongst children. The standard exam preparation is spoon feeding and memorization but that limits the child natural ability to learn more or express their creativity or indulge their curiosity. As teachers, the target should be to create self-learning students not merely pass grades. As Professor Mitra states, this is the Victorian style teaching that has been infused during the colonialism and that has no place in the modern society. If the ultimate goal is to produce an all-round student who can think for himself and strive to be better and seek more knowledge, why should we shun the modern day methods of teaching that include technological advances?
Parents need to demand the latest in technology to be adapted at their schools. This allows an easier mode for them to be involved in their child’s education as well using the tablets and internet and applications. Unless the demand exists, the private sector nor the public sector would move towards change when we all fear such changes.
The future of Technology in the pedagogy of education in Maldives
There is no denying the truth. Technology has invaded our homes and lives. There is no reason why we must resist the change when it can only make lives better. Financial obstacles can be overcome by simply choosing cheaper options of technology. Teachers can be taught and educated themselves to become more technology savvy. Parents can demand newer technology and once implemented, can become more involved in their child’s development and wellbeing. Producing a wholesome student who has the ability to self-learn even after they pass through their exams, then we have succeeded. For is it not that we seek knowledge till we lie in our graves? Let us not limit the natural abilities and curiosity of our children but spark their minds to greater heights with mere guidance.
“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event”– Heidi-Hayes Jacobs
-What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge? Matthew J. Koehler and Punya Mishra Michigan State University
-Pedagogy, Technology, and the Body McWilliam, Erica / Taylor, Peter G. (eds.)