Techspectations teachers and educators ask if Asimov’s fears about online education have come true


What the Russian-born American writer Isaac Asimov imagined would happen in 2155 seems to have come true more than a century earlier. In his 1951 story, “The Fun They Had,” mechanical teachers taught children in their own homes. COVID-19 moved Asimov’s world forward in the 22nd century, in which children hated “schools” and their mechanical teachers, until the beginning of the 21st century.

Jaya Nagarajan, principal of the Hari Sri Vidya Nidhi school in Thrissur, called Asimov’s story a warning. The possibilities of augmented reality and virtual reality were immense, but Jaya said online lessons were wreaking havoc with children.

“Today, online classes are wreaking havoc with our children. We have a section of kids who are distracted, depressed and cranky, leaving their parents deeply worried,” Jaya said, while participating in the discussion on the issue. ‘Immersive Class’: Experiences with AR / VR & New Age Technology’ at the Techspectations Educate Digital Summit held on Saturday.

Asimov’s story tells of the nostalgia felt by two children for an ancient world unknown to them. Their school was the room next to their bedroom, as it is now in our time of pandemic. There was no meeting together, shouting, sharing and collective games. Their master was a mechanical being superior to humans but distant. Their printed words were on a television screen; a book with static words printed was new to them.

Here’s how the story ends: “Margie thought about how kids must have loved her in the good old days. She thought about the fun they were having.”

Jaya acknowledged that online education was there to say, but advocated a mix of the two forms of education. “We can come and go, we can embrace a judicious mix of offline and online education,” she said, adding, “We need kids in school. Nothing can replace touch. , especially in the case of young children. “

Aditi Chatterjee, principal of Silver Hills Higher High School, Kozhikode, also spoke about the importance of artificial intelligence but cautioned against excluding natural intelligence. “We need virtual reality to simulate and improve learning experiences, but we also need to think beyond augmented reality and virtual reality for natural intelligence and preserve it,” she said. declared.

Aditi spoke of “global engagement”. “When it comes to AI, all data is binary. What doesn’t fall in the groove is outside of technology, ”she said. In other words, there are emotional lessons that even the most advanced machine learning could teach.

Aditi said the scope of information is vast when it comes to AI. “But what about the depth of the information,” she asked. “How many of our children have probed the depths that will make him competent to face life,” she said.

Ajith Jacob, principal of Thee Choice School, said AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are not the panacea. “These are just tools we can count on to make real connections,” he said.

Ajith also wanted children from rural and poor backgrounds to have easy access to technology. Deprived areas need to be updated with technology. “We should not seek to create smart cities alone, we should also create smart villages. It is important to invest heavily in rural schools, ”he said.

Teresa Jacobs, executive director of the learning wing of the International Skill Development Corporation (ISDC), however, said online education was not a passing phase but “the way forward”.

She had a word of assurance for teachers like Jaya and Aditi. “On the one hand, we have overworked teachers in the online classroom doing hours of teaching and doing a bit of assessment, but on the other hand, there are more and more innovative solutions to solve problems that teachers even knew existed, ”Teresa said.

She also said she was overwhelmed by the ingenuity with which human beings had adapted to the new normal. She said it was high time teachers immersed themselves in immersive technology to become “talking heads.”

Manojkumar Nagasampige, director of online education, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, said virtual reality could improve the learning experience rather than diminish it. He said students’ errors decreased significantly after they were asked to go through virtual labs before entering offline labs. “When we provide them with first-hand experience before bringing them into the labs, I think the kind of confidence they gain in managing these skills will increase dramatically,” Manojkumar said.

Perhaps the children of Asimov’s story were not told interesting stories by “mechanical teachers”. This is why they longed for the old type of schools “where the children could have liked it”.

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