Why Technology Alone Won't Reform Education

Dr. Madhav Chavan is a social activist, entrepreneur and the CEO of the educational non-profit, Pratham. He was also responsible for starting the Read India campaign, which aims to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic to underprivileged children across India. With his diverse background and having studied and taught at universities across the United States and India, Dr. Chavan has broader understanding than most of us when it comes to the challenges facing education.

In this short interview, Dr. Chavan states what we all know to be true, that technology adoption is inevitable. But while technology may seem to solve many of our everyday challenges, it does not necessarily mean it alone is the solution to all our problems.

Technology is something that’s inevitable. People will go to technology because technology is spreading far and wide. It does offer some advantages, but to think that technology alone will solve problems is not quite right. I think there are a few fundamental issues here.

While technology is a tool that can aid and enhance many aspects of education, it is not until we align our curriculums and change our overall thinking that technology can truly revolutionize the way we teach and learn.

The biggest problem in using technology is that if you use technology to improve the learning outcomes under the present curriculum and the present education system then there’s a conflict. Information technology is essentially a nonlinear tool. You can go to the Internet and serve just about any content. Whereas the education system as it has existed over 200 years is a very linear one.

So while our current systems place students in their linear learning bucket (1st grade, 2nd grade, etc.), technology allows students to access any information beyond or below what the linear system dictates. This is a very different world to that which created our current education systems. Placing technology into these outdated systems severely restricts its use and means that the tools and advances can only provide partial benefit.

You should become a self-learner because there’s so much out there to be learned and there’s no way that the content that humanity has generated over so many hundred years can be absorbed over 5, 10, 15, 16 years. So the important thing is to learn the skills of learning, to learn cooperatively. The old system says you are going to learn and you are going to appear for the exam. The new system is saying you can work in groups and learn and crack the problem. So I think we need to fundamentally change the way we’re learning, the way that we are being assessed and certified as well.

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