Saturday, June 1, 2013

Schools encouraging students to bring gadgets

Schools, which not too long ago barred students from bringing smartphones into campuses, have made a U-turn with some of the better-known ones in the country allowing gadgets such as tablets in the classroom. 

What schools like Delhi Public School or Dehradun's Doon School are doing is not much different from the emerging concept of 'Bring Your Own Device' or BYOD, a raging debate among corporations. Unlike the enterprises, which are still debating the pros and cons of BYOD, the educational institutions are encouraging students to bring laptops, tablets and smartphones into classrooms. 
Besides older schools such as the Doon and Delhi Public School, relatively newer ones such Millennium School in Lucknow, Dhirubhai Ambani International School in Mumbai, Gurgaon's GD Goenka School and Kolkata's South City International School are all making a determined push to integrate personal technology with classroom education. Slowly, but surely, pen, paper and blackboards are being replaced with gadgets, teachers at these schools said. 

"Teaching isn't done the chalk and duster method anymore. Students are getting inquisitive by the day and we need to adopt new methods to teach them," said Monica Chopra, headmistress at Millennium School in Lucknow, where students are asked to bring their laptops and tablets at least three times a week. Mallya Aditi International School in Bangalore has prescribed tablets and smartphones as a medium of study for students in eighth standard onwards. 

A spokesperson for Doon School explained that the new practice helps ensure that students are proficient in using such modern devices optimally for study-related research. At Doon, students in class 11 and 12 are allowed to bring their gadgets to class. 

Suchitra Maske, who heads Dhirubhai Ambani International School, said students from seventh standard on are not only allowed to bring in gadgets, but are also encouraged to take notes on them. Some schools, such as National Hill View public school in Bangalore and Gurgaon's GD Goenka School, have gone a step further and are offering wireless internet access in classrooms. "Actually, they like it when we bring gadgets because you get to finish the class-blog on time," said Rica, a ninth-grader at Delhi Public School. 

Tolerating students using gadgets in schools comes after years of resistance and debate about the merits of handing out technology and internet to children. Even now, not everybody agrees on the desirability of it or the value addition it brings to education. The trend has raised eyebrows among experts who argue that technology, especially internet, can be a counter-productive distraction. 

"It's quite impossible to stop students from using Whatsapp, Facebook and other applications once you allow technology in classrooms," said Dherandra Kumar, child psychologist and director at Delhi-based PsyIndia. 

"Schools need to set up monitoring systems to ensure students don't exploit the technology available to them. Whether they should allow internet connectivity in classroom will be a decider." GD Goenka's Neeta Bali said the school ensures "judicious" use of internet, which is closely monitored by school staff. "There's a strict vigil. We have chosen the kind of sites students can visit."

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