Monday, October 15, 2012

Frankfurt Book Fair studies classroom of future

Pakistan News & Features Services

The Frankfurt Book Fair 2012 has lived up to the billing of being the premier event of its kind. As in the past, the fair has come with exceptional side-events making it very memorable. 

The digitalization has taken the world by storm and the point was highlighted during the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012. 

With children being one of the central themes this year there was lot of novel ideas on display. The participants were passed on the message by the educational experts and interactive content producers that the digital world is knocking at the classroom door but it is not simply a matter of shifting from paper to screen. 

While portable devices such as the smartphone and tablet computer have revolutionised daily life for millions of people by enabling access to the Internet, schools have largely remained untouched by new technology. But children paradoxically tend to be more comfortable at handling the devices and are sometimes viewed as intuitively digital. 

However, the experts believe that schools will not switch to digital overnight and that any transition would not be without growing pains. 

US consultant on education and digital matters Ron Reed was of the opinion that there was "a precious limited number of minutes in a day" when meaningful interaction occurred between a teacher and a student. 

"So there is a requirement that the content or the tool must contribute, and it must be more than a 'nice to have', it must be 'must have' and replace something with greater efficiency and power," he said. 

He warned against focusing only on a digital transition rather than a change in the overall way children learn. "It's clearly about methodology, not just tools, and it needs to be not about products, it needs to be about practices," he said. 

Even with the advent of new technology in the classroom, experts believe the role of the teacher will not gradually disappear and will continue to be the key to learning, albeit with digitalised backup. 

"You still need supportive teachers and good teaching without that, technology would become nothing more than a distraction in the classroom," Linda Zecher, Chief Executive of school book publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), thought. 

According to the experts, teachers need the training to ensure that embracing the new technology bears fruit and the benefit is passed on to the students. 

Four schools in the US state of California used a curriculum developed on the I-Pad by HMH to teach algebra, Zecher said, noting that when it was correctly implemented, students' results increased markedly, whereas no improvement was seen when it was poorly put into practice. 

Lewis Bronze, Chief Executive and co-founder of Espresson Education, a company offering interactive content to teachers and schools, stressed the need to follow up once the devices were in schools. 

"Commercial companies which sell products to schools have the responsibility not to just sell and walk away, but to help the teachers implement the products that we sold them," he shared.

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