“IT in education is no longer a luxury”

by Sohini Bagchi    Dec 14, 2012

Chandan SonowalIn an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday.com, Chandan Sonowal, Interim MD, India and South Asia, SMART Technologies speaks about the new and emerging technologies that are playing a vital role in the education sector.

How has technology changed the education sector globally? What are the trends in the Indian education sector as far as technology adoption is concerned?
Worldwide, IT in education is no longer a luxury. New and emerging technologies are increasingly playing a vital role in education helping teachers, students and others develop the necessary skills to compete in a global knowledge economy. Online learning has to a great extent replaced the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ method of teaching that is often found to be inadequate for today’s learners. Organisations are integrating audio and visual aids like graphs, maps, videos and images to streamline their course content, making it easier for them to grasp concepts and retain the information for a longer period of time. Introduction of technologies, such as one-to-one computing, video conferencing and interactive whiteboards, to name a few, are found to be very effective and motivating for students. The education system is also moving away from a one size fits all to a more personalized model. Various web and mobile technologies are also effective for teaching students with special needs and others dwelling in the remotest area who do not have access to the regular classroom.

How are interactive whiteboards making a difference to learning? What is the adoption rate in India?
As schools are moving into a digital learning environment, interactive whiteboards are being widely adopted in classrooms. In the changing education landscape, institutions are recognizing the importance of collaborative solutions that allows communication and content sharing on a real time basis both within and outside the organization. Connected physically to a computer and a projector by a USB cable, or a Bluetooth, the whiteboard display emulates the computer mouse and keyboard and is operated by using a special pen, or finger touch. It digitalizes the entire learning experience. It also allows easy and immediate access to data and applications, enabling participants to review files, share information in real time and distribute their work to all team members, regardless of the location.
Globally, interactive whiteboards have a huge market and the trend is fast catching up in India. The sizeable presence of the education sector as well as the huge demand from the corporate is expected to fuel the growth of interactive whiteboard market in India.

What is the potential of digital classrooms in India? Do you think the digital wave in the education sector has actually taken off in the country?
Keeping pace with students who are becoming more tech-savvy, schools in India are taking to the concept of digital classrooms. This is a new education technology that assists teachers with courseware and maintenance support in a digital format. Some private schools and training institutes have already adopted this concept. We at SMART have worked with our partners to enable over 20,000 classrooms in over 3000 schools over the past one and half years. Another trend is that of accessing digital content through internet. This trend is still in its nascent stage. Students are free to access the content anywhere as long as they have an access device and internet connectivity. Teachers also use the freely available digital content to make their lessons interesting. With internet penetration increasing in rapidly in the coming days, this trend will further pick-up. as per the report by IDFC SSKI, the multimedia classroom segment is pegged at $459mn in 2012 growing annually at 60% with a chunk of the growth coming from private institutes, while ICT in government schools alone is growing at 70% per annum.

What according to you are the upcoming technology trends that will shape the education landscape?
As the Indian education segment is adapting to global standards, it is going through a huge transformation. We have already seen the incredible impact of Internet on education and other knowledge segments. Collaborative classrooms are coming up and educational institutions are using technologies such as interactive whiteboards, mobile phones and tablets and other audio and visual tools for greater interaction. Cloud computing in education gives better choice and flexibility to the overall functioning of the organization. It also becomes very cost effective for educational institutes as lessons can be accessed from any location and anyone can use the resources freely. One-to-One computing will be the norm in classrooms as educational institutes are looking to provide an information device to every learner and create learning environments that assume universal access to the technology. Whether the hardware involved is one laptop per child (OLPC) or a net computer, smart phone, or tablet, classrooms should prepare for the universal availability of personal learning devices. Teacher-generated open content will also come up in the coming days.