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Educators turn to innovative solutions for students

Learning is now being enhanced with the use of new technology

WITH JOB markets requiring tech-savvy and creative manpower, many countries are improving education systems accordingly. In South Korea, the government's Smart Education project is being developed and curriculum materials are being delivered in digital form.

With some teachers and concerned parents wary of the modernisation process, the Smart Education Society puts an emphasis on exchanging experiences and opinions.

The society, whose Facebook page was launched last year, kept members engaged in conversations about the Smart Education initiative and managed to get many more teachers on board.

Some 2000 teacher groups are now involved in the society, encompassing 300,000 teachers from 10,000 schools, according to Chungnam National University's Professor of Education, Se-Yeoung Chun, who is also the society's president.

In 2011, the South Korean government announced its intention to realise the Smart Education project with a call for strong public and private investment.

The project is made up of five main sectors. Digital textbooks were a priority so that information that had once been in paper textbooks would be delivered on screen for access via tablets or laptops. The first set of digital textbooks were distributed this year for science and social studies in primary and secondary schools and will expand from 2015 to more subject areas. South Korea didn't totally rule out paper textbooks, as some books and writing were viewed as still necessary.

Secondly, schools would control online classes and evaluation. Thirdly, there would be the creation of a "content cloud" computing system for access to the database of all digital textbooks. Fourthly, the digital capacity of teachers would be developed via training and, fifthly, the "Smart Education" environment development would comprise of improved infrastructure, wireless connection, bigger servers and related technologies.

The new generation wanted technology, games, music and videos rather than just writing in textbooks, Chun said. The South Korean government, so as to meet such demand, wanted to offer schools the opportunity to teach youths accordingly.

Chun said that some teachers, especially older ones, were still reluctant to get on board the "Smart Education" bandwagon while many parents were concerned about the ability of their kids to compete in exams. Although people were interested in digital literacy, the actual implementation was still difficult, as it required changes in teaching, the national curriculum, and the attitude of parents. The society came in handy as it yielded good feedback from teachers, especially younger teachers, Chun added.

He went on to emphasise the importance of learning together, giving youngsters chances to connect with kids in other countries and equipping them with the skills to connect. "They must live in their world, not in the world of the past," he said. "As a parent I would just let them have a computer and the tools and the government should support this," he added.

Meanwhile, an educational institution in Malaysia has also embraced digital media in its higher education classes. Associate Professor Daniel Tan Tiong Hok, Chief Learning Officer at Taylor's Education Group, said that education must recognise the changed student profile. They were now more tech-savvy, achievement-oriented (seek recognition, fame and feedback and want a solid learning curve) and team-oriented (value teamwork and seek input |and affirmation of others), hence schools should provide students with a quality learning experience that is collaborative, and sustainable, he said.

Taylor's University applied various methods to do just that, including flipped teaching in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures and review lessons. It also created the "X-Space Collaborative Classroom" which provided students' easy access to online tools and the Internet and had a group-oriented seating arrangement.

Besides attending classes and |getting assignments, students also participated in online learning |activities and read contributions |by both themselves and their peers. Using the Learning Activities Management System (LAMS), an open source software produced by Macquarie University, to engage |students online, topics that once |had limits were given extra depth. For example, in the teaching of |aerodynamics, existing wind and water tunnels couldn't support a class of 140 enrolled students. |To address this, the instructor |created a documentary-style video and put it onto LAMS. The soft-|ware enables students to learn |related topics in text, graphics, |video clips and audio as well as |taking online tests and compar-|ing answers to same questions and seeing the grades given to each answer.

Meanwhile, Australia's Charles Sturt University (CSU), moving towards a "flipped" classroom, used the Adobe Connect web conferencing platform to aid students, said CSU Strategic Learning and Teaching Innovation's director Philip Uys. The program also built a sense of community by blending on and off-campus student learning experiences and offered recordings of previous year's topics for review, he said.

For example, a bio-medical science class histology challenge was given via Adobe Connect so that student groups in breakout rooms could practice as effective and collaborative practitioners to identify tissue origins. Adobe Connect also aided presentations and allowed peers and subject co-ordinators to make comments and pose questions in real time.

The three educators' comments were made during the 9th annual Adobe Education Leadership Forum, held from March 31 to April 2 in Kuala Lumpur.


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