Facilitating a computer-aided learning workshop

I facilitated the last batch of a two-day workshop the programme of the Policy Planning Unit (PPU) of the Education Department, Government of Karnataka, ‘Master Trainers on Public Software educational tools’, organised on 17-18 February at the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) premises. Majority of the participants were Block Resource Persons (BRPs) who came from all parts of Karnataka and had a degree in science and mathematics.

The idea was to enable the BRPs to provide academic support in innovative ways with the use of technology for high school teachers. Every workshop batch, although I facilitate the same topics I find myself approaching it in new ways as the workshop unfolds and I also learn something new!

What I did differently... This time, while I was opening the computer “black box” to the teachers, I had the opportunity to address a response to my question – “What is a computer within the framework of education?”. “ An intelligent machine”, said loudly one participant. I addressed this with the technology term Garbage-in Garbage-out (GIGO), a common phrase used in the field of computer science and ICTs when one puts excessive trust in computer-generated data. Here I was able to address two things: first, that the “intelligence” of the computer is only as good as the “teacher” who uses it. And second, one cannot blindly accept all computer-generated information, and why it is vital in this digital age to develop critical thinking skills to decipher what is garbage or not. This mantra stayed with everyone throughout the workshop and most of the teachers/educators were convinced that they were far more crucial to the learning process than any computer software could ever be.

What I learnt... The science and mathematics subject experience that the participants brought to the workshop was enormous. They constantly questioned every aspect of the tool for concept coherence. On prior occasions, I have always defended the tools given justifications for their questions. This time, I did not justify but challenged the participants. This led to excellent debates, going from “how a software can depict the milky way in the KSTARS tool” to “how to explain approximation versus accuracy in measurement while simulating the laws of a simple pendulum using PheT”.

The participants, by the end of the workshop, usually realise that the tools help them connect back to the subject concepts which sometimes get lost in their day-to-day grind. Thus this makes them very enthusiastic about taking it back to teachers and the classroom. Seeing this is the greatest joy for me.