Amit Bansal is the CEO & Founder of WizKlub. He is a serial entrepreneur with over a decade in start-up experience across three edtech ventures; and 10 years of corporate experience across strategy, business development, technology, product management, and marketing for consumer and enterprise technology products across India and North America. His earlier ventures include Xcelerator and PurpleLeap. Amit holds an MBA in Marketing from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
With the NEP 2020, the focus in the Indian education system has shifted to the adoption of online teaching methods and learning tools across the education ecosystem. As parents gradually realize the benefits of online classes where they can also monitor the quality of instruction and efficacy of teaching methods, there is increased interest in indulging kids in interactive classrooms offered by schools as well as for supplementary education. Young kids also are savvy with technology that allows them to grasp concepts through technology-aided learning tools.
The earliest attempt at understanding cognitive development in children was by the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who posited that children are born with some basic blocks of knowledge (mostly reflexes) and would grow to build on top of them with the tools that are available to them in their environment. He called these blocks of knowledge ‘schemas’ and that every time a given schema wouldn’t work, the child would go on to create or overwrite existing schemas by way of ‘accommodation’. In hindsight, Piaget had formulated the basics of a maxim that is cited very often today: ‘Learn, unlearn and relearn’.
Cognitive skills are clearly the building blocks for anyone to even aspire to become a coder in future. Even more important is to assess a child’s core strengths in the skill areas of critical thinking, logical reasoning, creative thinking in order to help them realise their potential in becoming creators of technology rather than being just consumers. In this sphere, edtech has helped bridge gaps between access to e-learning methods especially in 2020 as traditional classrooms were closed in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
How exactly does one go about teaching in a manner that fosters the development of cognitive skills? While there are so set templates to approach this problem, we do have some nifty tools at our disposal to facilitate cognitive development. One such tool is technology. Exposing young children to the building blocks of technology fosters their aptitude levels that become easily transferable.
Marrying Technology with Higher Order Thinking
‘Higher-order thinking’ has become a highly noted phenomenon in the world of learning. What started out as an attempt to nudge children towards developing deeper and richer levels of thinking, has now been reduced to a set of standardized textbook approach that seems to have deviated from its original purpose.
Revitalising ‘higher-order thinking skills’ or HOTS using technology could bring the focus back to fostering deeper levels of thinking. By deploying platforms that incorporate machine learning models and artificial intelligence to identify a student’s learning pace, we can customise learning modules in a manner that introduces the student to different layers of thinking at a pace that suits them. Informing and asserting parents with insights regarding their child’s cognitive skills would also result in more informed choices about the direction of learning at later stages.
If there’s one thing that can be gleaned from the children’s toy company, Lego, it’s that creativity and curiosity are best expressed through a platform for building things. While Lego came up with the idea of literal building blocks to give children free rein over what they could build, we can do the same today with software.
Allowing young children to grasp ‘modules’ and use them in combination to achieve a certain goal can serve as an instantaneous feedback loop that will further motivate them to think in nuances. Utilising different blocks of software or hardware to create newer and more sophisticated applications instils a desire to build and fix. This works as a means to thwart the widespread norm of ‘passive consumption’, something that has been proven to inhibit higher-order thinking.
Modular learning is very effective when it comes to connecting concepts. By enabling children to tackle the know by utilising what they already know, children tend to get a deeper understanding of core concepts. It also allows for a more organic way of learning as children learn through discovery, rather than rote learning.
As tempting as it may seem to eschew traditional classroom practices in favour of decentralised, technology-driven learning, it is important to recognise the importance of peer-based learning. As an extension of the traditional classroom, children could learn critical skills such as collaboration and communication to solve problems that they can’t otherwise tackle on their own.
Most real-world projects, even technical ones require collaboration between large teams. Young learners who can master both hard skills in conjunction with soft skills will possess a huge advantage. With the proliferation of open-source movements and cross-country collaboration in technical projects, students would benefit deeply from blended learning.
The introduction of experimental hardware in a classroom setting can serve to bring the best of both worlds (analog and digital) to the student. By demonstrating the relationship between software and hardware, children will be able to employ their visual and tactical faculties to better absorb information. This ensures that there is a common thread that connects in-class learning with independent learning efforts.
The idea of education is rapidly changing. With most Indian schools following curriculums often with sub-optimal learning outcomes, it’s important for parents, teachers and educators to collectively build an alternative learning environment that allows students to learn effectively and enjoyably. The problem with the current state of education is two-pronged; it lacks a coherent scientific underpinning and isn’t designed for scale. NEP will perhaps aid this system gradually, but not immediately.
Technology can help solve the problem of scale and the integration of science into pedagogy can solve for deeper and more meaningful learning. Combining the technology with a scientific approach to designing learning systems will not only mean happier students, but also a more energized society. Hitting the coveted ‘goldilocks spot’, where students don’t feel too bored or too overwhelmed has never been easier. With smart use of technology, we can curate individual versions of the ‘goldilocks spot’ for all students and liberate themselves from the horrors of standard, test-based education. After all, it took us a pandemic to change the way parents, students and teachers look at web-based learning and there is still a long way to go.