With a world of information just a click away, teachers are finding it difficult to keep up with students, and battle misinformation too.
Gone are the days when the lone textbook was the gospel and the teacher the oracle.
With information available at a click, teachers are faced with an identity crisis of sorts and are forced to reinvent classroom teaching, fighting a continuous battle between information and misinformation. Sometimes taking up the role of myth-busters too.
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‘They know the keywords, and are quick’ With the advent of the internet and kids increasingly becoming more gizmo-friendly, teachers face an uphill task. Liberal arts and social science teachers are the worst off in the classroom due to the subjective nature of their topics.
“I was teaching playwright Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House the other day in an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) class. I was giving a comparison with two other literary texts. There is internet access in class. The moment I finished, the students had already run a search and came up with ten other works for a comparative analysis.
Before I could give them notes, they were ready with their questions. They know the right keywords and they are quick. This is really a challenge. As teachers, we prepare a lesson plan relying on books, but students are several steps ahead. Google is replacing the teacher,” said Abhinandan Bhattacharya, an English teacher.
“This generation believes Google is everything and that they know it all,” said another English teacher Chitkala Kalan. A few months ago she conducted a class debate titled ‘Guru namaha vs Google namaha’ discussing the learning experience of scores of students.
With changing information dynamics, teachers are trying to up their game by bringing in more stimulating content and activities in the class.
“Instead of just telling students about a topic, you have to make them aware of all the things they don’t know about. You have to stimulate them through discussions. The biggest challenge is how to make them think. Teachers today need to talk less. I can’t compete with Google, but it also keeps me challenged,” Kalan said.
An easy access to knowledge is also peaking students’ curiosity. “I was explaining Human taxonomy and reproduction recently, but students were already aware of the topics. Another time, I was explaining the concept of force in Physics, but they knew about air pressure and thrust – the derivatives of force.
Students need more content today. They are quick and techno-savvy and need not wait for the teacher to learn something from. It is a huge challenge for us,” said Anuja Shekhar Deoray, a Biology teacher.
The odds are comparatively less for science and math teachers, as students still look up to the teachers for an explanation of technical concepts. “Even if you use the software available for Math it does not compare with actual teaching. The problemsolving part in Algebra, Geometry and even numerical problems in Science needs classroom teaching,” Kailash Chavan, a Math teacher.
‘Google will only create robots’ While information access is a welcome sign, teachers also have to deal with misinformation.
A teacher recalled how during a class discussion on the recent controversy over Taj Mahal being dropped from Uttar Pradesh’s tourism booklet, a student gave a presentation on how the structure was a Hindu monument.
“He had done a lot of research. He said it was not Mumtaz Mahal’s grave, but there was a ‘Shivaling’ there and that ‘Om’ symbols were changed into Persian motifs by Emperor Shah Jahan. I had to explain how a lot of material on Google was not authenticated and how it was not the end-all of knowledge,” she said.
Despite the Google challenge, teachers believe classroom teaching is here to stay. “Students have a lot of knowledge today, but Google will only create robots. It is just for reference. It can’t teach values. Can social development take place via Google? What about sensor skills, motor skills, analytical and critical thinking?” queried Neeta Vaz, a history teacher.
With students’ changing needs, their learning habits are also changing. “I find online videos of Chemistry very easy to follow. That’s a positive thing. Having said that, in a subject like Math, I will not be able to know everything on my own. Languages are another area where you definitely cannot replace the teacher. Facts can be googled, but teachers always bring in a dimension. The teacher should play the role of a facilitator, to guide discussions.
“He/she should make us think,” said Avi Anurag, a student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School.