Smartphones and tablets are fasbt becoming the primary media consumption devices surpassing TVs and music players. What’s more, tasks such as job search and even money transactions are going digital. As the world is embracing new technologies, our education system is still stuck in the 20th century. Little wonder then, there have been calls for an app-revolution in the education system. However, when it comes to taking decisions that may affect millions of children, we have to be careful not to jump the gun.
Before rooting for a change, we must understand the system in the first place. More than spreading knowledge, our current education system focuses on creating factory workers. This holds true for most of the developed and developing nations. In his book Future Shock, Alvin Toffler, states that mass schooling was put in place to adapt children to factory environment. It got them familiar with crowded living conditions, repetitive work, and collective discipline. They followed time discipline decided by bells and not by the Sun. Teachers served as an authoritarian figure, which must be obeyed. That’s pretty much what a good factory owner would want from his workers.
However evil it may be, the system has worked effectively. For a country with such a large population, India hardly had any other option to educate its people. It also churned out millions of cogs needed to keep the industrialisation machine up and running in this developing country. So, when someone calls out for the modernisation of the education system, we must analyse the situation. Is the tablet-based education necessary because it is a better method or simply because the assembly-line work is now replaced by desk jobs?
Benefits Of App Based Education
Kids being kids, find books boring. This is where the educational apps kick-in. Loaded on fancy tablets, these apps are perceived better compared to the conventional books. This is mainly because good quality educational apps can introduce the fun element to the otherwise plain delivery of information.
Simple text can’t compete with colourful animations found in educational apps after all. Quality learning apps also seamlessly transform lessons and chapters into challenging games to draw interest. Some even integrate virtual rewards and incentives for kids. This creates a certain enthusiasm among students, which books fail to achieve. The playfulness also negates the dullness kids associate with the studies.
Due to its very nature, apps allow the student to save time in finding the information. To figure out the advantages of an app over the conventional book, think of a dictionary. In an old-school dictionary, you may have to spend minutes to find the desired word. On the other hand, you can simply search for a certain word in a dictionary app.
Moreover, students can conveniently highlight the texts and write notes inside the app. These smart apps can also track the words you find difficult so that you can study them later and improve your vocabulary.
Lighter School Bags
Let’s face it, kids in India lug around heavy bags. On an average, a kid carries the weight of at least a dozen books and notebooks. In recent years, we have seen a sharp rise in cases of a backache among the school children.
Adapting the app based education can make a huge difference here. A tablet that roughly weighs same as a single book and can hold thousands of books without breaking a sweat. In short, all the books you may read in your life can be loaded on a single tablet or a smartphone. Never again will your kid be punished for not carrying the right book.
It is said that the textbooks become outdated as soon as they are printed. For example, many textbooks in India still categorise Pluto as a planet although it has been demoted to a dwarf planet status. In such cases, teachers need to take an initiative to help students amend necessary changes to the books. On the other hand, things are incredibly easy to update in digital format. With data connection, educational apps can be remotely updated. Thanks to latest developments in the telecom industry, mobile data is finally dirt-cheap India.
Not all kids are the same. Some need attention in history while others struggle with math. However, due to the sheer size of the classes, teachers can’t give special attention to each student. This is where app based education can make a big difference. Based on the needs of students, teachers can suggest apps that are better suited for an individual student. As opposed to dragging everyone with the same methods, apps can help students put extra efforts in weak areas.
Drawbacks Of App Based Education
Tablets can hold thousands of books and have a truckload of features. However, this also has a flipside. Since tablets offer multitasking capabilities and countless possibilities, many students end-up using social media or playing games during the study hours. We are already seeing the new generation getting addicted to media consumption devices, so handing out tablets to kids is not really a great idea. Many doctors also relate shorter attention span to the use of gadgets.
Things are completely different with traditional books as there’s not much you can do with it, except for reading. And like they say, sometimes less is better.
Apps Lack Lasting Effects
Many experts and scientists have carried out tests to find out the difference between reading digital text and an actual book. The conclusions have mostly sided the real books. Human Cognition expert, Mark Changizi, believes that, in nature, information comes with an address. When you read a traditional book, you navigate through it page by page. This gives you physical reference points of the book. On the other hand, in the digital format, you don’t navigate from one page to another. It feels more like teleporting from one set of information to another, which is dizzying to our brains. This explains why some book readers can recall information along with page number, while e-book readers can’t.
Sure, reading anything in the bad light puts stress on your eyes. However, staring at LCD screens in any light condition is terrible for your vision. And unfortunately, most tablets used for the educational purpose are equipped with LCD screens.
Things such as eyestrain, dry eyes, and headaches are common among tablet users. In many cases, this leads to blurred vision. According to an experiment conducted by National Center for Biotechnology Information (USA), blue light emitted by LCD panel’s backlight can destroy retina cells. So, except for e-book readers that use e-ink displays, digital education platform can put your child’s health in danger.
Tablets Relies On Many External Factors
Tablets require electricity to be functional. If you are studying on a tablet, you also have to keep track of its battery life. On the other hand, a printed book only requires sufficient light. Although electricity and Internet connectivity are reaching most cities and towns, there are still millions of villages devoid of these things. So, if you believe that every child in India should have access to same educational tools, printed books are still the way to go.
It is also worth mentioning that, unlike tablets, printed material does not run into a technical glitch.
Turning Students Into Consumers
The whole idea of the app-based approach is to make education more accessible. However, unfortunately for India, tablet-friendly classrooms are limited to fancy “International schools”. Using fallacies, these institutions convince parents why it is necessary for their child to study in high-tech classrooms.
Technologically-challenged parents fall for the hype and end-up paying exorbitant fees or “donations”. Many such schools charge anywhere around 2 to 10 lakh rupees per year. These things also happen in conventional schools, but the “smart” education moniker really helps these International schools squeeze every paisa out of parents’ pockets.
Using apps in education has its fair share of advantages and drawbacks. It is interesting, convenient, and time-saving. However, it can lead to distractions in studies. Many studies suggest that reading printed text is better comprehended as opposed to the digital. It is also important to consider health-issues caused by the tablets.
Weighing in pros and cons, it is fine for professionals to pursue app-based education since they can’t dedicate much time. For kids, however, we suggest parents take a cautious approach. Apps will eventually replace the chalk, blackboard, and books. But for now, it makes sense to go with traditional schooling, supplemented by educational apps. See, how your kid reacts to both. If he is responding positively to the apps, let him interact more with tablets. Don’t make him study on tablets only because your neighbour’s kid is doing so.