Category Archives: Teachers and technology

Collaborating, innovating, learning and unlearning: UK-India Education Week

It wasn’t the first time I’d visited and observed an educational system of another country. It wasn’t the first time I’d met international (education) entrepreneurs/leaders and had some dialogue with them. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in a delegation that brought diverse people together on a study tour.

The delegation at The Open University

The delegation at The Open University

Yet, it was my first time experiencing a group that ‘worked’ so well together. It was the first time that right from the moment that I received an invitation until I received a ‘thank you’ email, I found a warmth exuded by the hosts. Kudos to British Council India for making this week long UK-India study tour the first for me in myriad ways.

In such study tours, it remains the participants’ responsibility to grab the most that they can. And I did that. But this was assisted by the well-planned and diverse interactions I experienced. The British Council team had put together quite an eclectic blend of stimulants. From a school visit to a meeting with key members of a university, there was a range of conversations that helped me assimilate a lot of educational ideas, triggering strong forward-looking thoughts on the domain.

My favourite part of the tour was the time well spent in an elementary school in central London. Direct interaction with the leaders, teachers and the students gave deep insights into classroom pedagogy and the incredible climate of trust within the school. Reaffirming several aspects of our own organisation’s programme back home, it was an eye-opener and a reassurance at the same time.

Higher education visits seemed irrelevant to me when I first looked at the agenda. However, interactions here set the context for the formative years’ education in which Chrysalis, my organisation is deeply involved. The most exciting of these was the detailed conversations at The Open University. The power of ‘open’ learning struck me like it never has before.

A surprise bonanza for me was a sudden invitation to speak in a panel at the Education Innovation Conference in front of an audience of 150 key players working in education in the UK and India. An Indian perspective came pouring out when I had to speak about an educational leader’s approach to the fluid and ambiguous nature of global education. I couldn’t quite hide the joy when I received great feedback for the talk.

It was a week that emphasised the importance of collaboration, innovation, learning and unlearning. That the two countries had a lot in common, and yet are unique in their own way was made clear with this first person experience.

Post is by Chitra, Founder and CEO, Chrysalis.

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Investing in innovation: UK-India Education Week

With the recent budget announcements in India and the huge expectations from the Finance Minister with regards to the education sector; (the 2017 budget allocation to education was upped by 10 per cent from the previous year, now standing at INR 79,000 crores / INR 790 billion),  it seemed like the perfect time to press the pause button in my hitting-the-road-running life, to take a deep breath, reflect and perhaps (Un)learn! The opportunity to do just this came in the form of an invitation to participate in an exciting outing as a delegate at the UK-India Education Week, organised by the British Council offices in India and the UK.

Janaka Pushpanathan at the Bett Show

At the Bett Show

During this time, I along with other delegates was exposed to current and future technological trends in school education practice; the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers using advanced technological tools; a library of experience for diversity and inclusion (facilitated by a Microsoft partnership); digital democracy and the overwhelmingly huge Bett show, to name a few. The common denominator underpinning all of these remarkable developments in education is the snowballing of computing technology, coupled with a strong desire to create disruptive innovation.

Two experiences amidst many that stood out for me personally: the visit to Christopher Hatton primary school located in central London and the meeting with the team at NESTA. I could totally relate to the background and setting of the primary school, with many children from disadvantaged communities (opting for the free school meals scheme), and almost 26 different languages being spoken in the school. The dedication of the head teacher Gwen Lee and her team of very driven staff touched me and it was no surprise that the school recently received an ‘outstanding’ rating from the English government inspectorate: Ofsted. It was interesting to note that many of the challenges that the schools’ sector faces in the UK were similar in nature to what we are facing in India and in Tamil Nadu, where I am from. For example, at Christopher Hatton school, more than two thirds of the children were learning English as an additional language (which is the given, in our classrooms in India). The school has also invested deeply into teacher development – the recruit, train and retain policy that Gwen follows in the school uses technology very innovatively to strengthen teachers and make them more self-aware. This includes the use of the Iris Connect system.

At the end of the week, I had made new connections, not just with people in the UK, but also with fellow delegates from back home. Along with our full schedule of meetings and events, we also had time to eat hot desi khana (Indian food) and hip fusion cuisine (thanks to some seriously awesome hospitality from the British Council), hang out at an uber-cool Sherlock Holmes themed pub and just simply walk the streets of London, soaking in the beauty and busy-ness of it all. Even the classic London weather taught me something significant: change is constant, but it is magical too.

Back home now I’m looking forward to following up on my conversations, exploring collaborative possibilities and continuing the learning opportunities with potential partners.

Post and images by Janaka Pushpanathan, Founder, UnLearn.

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.55 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

Tower Bridge, London at 3.57 PM

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How is technology being used in schools in India?

95805Technology is often seen as a solution to improving learning and teaching, but what exactly does this look like in Indian schools? Which types of technology are being used? Does technology actually enhance learning in this context, and if so – how? Can technology be successfully used in government and low-income private schools in rural India?

To answer these questions, British Council India and Central Square Foundation recently launched a joint publication Teaching and technology: case studies from India edited by Dr Gary Motteram from the University of Manchester, UK. Twenty two case studies were selected from over 430 submissions following an open call. The selected stories highlight the innovative ways in which teachers, schools and organisations are using technology to improve student learning and teacher development across the length and breadth of India.

The collected data highlights a number of interesting features.

  • Technology is frequently used to show their learners videos or images are frequently used to demonstrate concepts more clearly. This is particularly prevalent in science classes, but also used in social sciences and English lessons.
  • Many teachers give their students tasks and projects in which they have to research topics using the internet and then co-create presentations of their findings. Such tasks can also benefit learner autonomy, as learners are required to find things out for themselves rather than rely on the teacher and textbooks. This also helps to develop digital literacy and internet navigation skills.
  • There are several examples of flipped classroom approaches, with teachers asking learners to watch videos or read articles before coming to class, so that class time can be used for going into more depth and clarifying any misunderstandings.
  • A number of organisations aim to increase the quality of education available to disadvantaged learners by using tablets, videoconferencing, projectors and other technology to support their learning.
  • Many teachers mention how they use technology for their own professional development, such as participating in social media communities of practice, following massive open online courses (MOOCs) and using the internet to deepen their own subject knowledge.

This publication studies reveal that there are a lot of enthusiastic teachers and organisations using technology to enhance learning, and aims to inspire further action from others working in similar contexts. We strongly encourage you to try out some of the ideas from the case studies in your own schools, building on the knowledge and experience gained by these individuals.

You can download or view the publication here, along with a research report published in 2016 on how teachers in South Asia use technology for their professional development. We will also be doing some further activity around the themes from the current publication and individual case studies in coming weeks, via webinars and our social media channels.

Post by Rustom Mody, Senior Academic Manager – English Partnerships, North India.

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Technology for professional development

Report launched during event co-hosted with The Open University at British Council Delhi on 30 September 2015 

Launching the Technology for professional development report at British Council New Delhi. From left to right: Michael Connolly, Assistant Director English Partnerships British Council India, Chris Brandwood, Director English British Council South Asia, Bhanu Potta, Founding Partner ZingerLabs, Nirupa Fernandez, Assistant Director English Language Services British Council India, Rob Lynes, Director British Council India.

Launching the Technology for professional development report at British Council New Delhi. From left to right: Michael Connolly, Assistant Director English Partnerships British Council India, Chris Brandwood, Director English British Council South Asia, Bhanu Potta, Founding Partner ZingerLabs, Nirupa Fernandez, Assistant Director English Language Services British Council India, Rob Lynes, Director British Council India.

There has been much discussion in recent years on the potential of technology to help deliver high quality training content to teachers who otherwise may not have access. The British Council is committed to exploring the feasibility of this and experimenting with innovative ways of using a range of digital channels to assist teachers with their professional development.

On 30 September, the British Council co-hosted an event with The Open University to explore the topic in detail through a panel discussion featuring five professionals working in the field. The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Tom Power, Senior Lecturer at The Open University in the UK and Programme Director of the English in Action project in Bangladesh. A recording of the event will shortly be made available on our YouTube channel – details will be made available here later this week.

Themes emerging from the event included general agreement that pedagogy trumps technology – teachers need to be taught when digital content can help their development (and indeed their learners) but also how to use it appropriately and judiciously. The panel was quick to recognise that it is not technology that makes a difference, but teachers. Additionally, there was considerable discussion around the function of technology in providing opportunities for collaboration: social media and forums on MOOCs or online courses can provide much needed space for sharing and discussion. The need for support was also clear: teachers need help in developing their own ICT skills in order to make the most of opportunities available through digital channels. Overall, there was a general consensus that technology can provide unprecedented opportunities for developing both pre- and in-service teachers’ skills, but that there is still further work needed before it can be done efficiently and effectively in India.

In addition to the panel discussion, the British Council launched a report entitled Technology for professional development: access, interest and opportunity for teachers of English in South Asia. The report highlights findings from research conducted by ZingerLabs and EZVidya in 2014. This included a detailed survey of 892 teachers from six countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – investigating their access, attitudes and preferences with regards to using radio, TV, mobile, computers and social media for their development. The survey was supported by a series of fourteen focus groups in seven locations and interviews with industry experts and school leaders. Additionally, the team conducted secondary research into national trends and existing initiatives which are harnessing technology for educational purposes in the South Asia region.

The key findings of the research were as follows:

  •  Access to digital is similar across the region and the various segments of the sample population (e.g. private vs government sector, urban, semi-urban and rural locations, etc.)
  • Teachers are positive about the potential for making more use of technology for their professional development.
  • Digital literacy and ICT skills are low and there is a lack of confidence in using technology.
  • Computers and mobile phones are the most popular channels for professional development content, while radio and television are not preferred because of a perceived lack of interactivity.
  • There are currently inadequate user payment models to support commercial development of content.
  • Teachers are interested in participating in communities of practice and want resources that clearly suit their context and needs.

The report can be downloaded for free from our website .

Are you a teacher? Do you work in teacher education? What are your views on teachers using technology for their professional development? Write a comment below to join in the debate or tweet us @inBritish or @TeachEngIndia using the hashtag #digitalteachers.

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