Q/A With Outstanding Teacher – Meet India’s Educational Innovator Par Excellence

Our quest for outstanding educators continues, and this time we are lucky to have India’s Most Outstanding Teacher awardee: Dr. Dheeraj Mehrotra, an educational innovator par excellence. Join me in welcoming him and learn a thing or two from his wisdom shared with us through this Q/A:

LIN: As one of the pillars in Indian Education, what made you decide focusing your time, skills and the like on education, technology, teacher training, among others?

I wanted to stimulate the future generation to become life long learners, I have values which I feel I should contribute to the society – that, what I have learnt and experienced over the years. By doing this I will be paying back and fulfill my desire to make difference to the future generation. I believe education is an empowering process that allows students to develop holistically. Moreover the satisfaction I get by investing my time in my passion is far better than or would reward me more than anything else would.Thus I chose to go in for teacher training among any other profession. I believe in sharing my knowledge to others for the sake of learning to learn. My objective of life is “The more we learn, the more we earn, in terms of honour, respect and recognition.”

LIN: What, to you, is the 21st century teacher? learner?

I believe in the fact that the 21st century teacher is a teacher who is prepared to Learn, Un-Learn and Re-Learn. The one who uses technology and its power to empower self and others through experiential learning. A new learning has emerged with technology. The shift is from education to learning. Secondly it is consumption of learning to participation and thirdly thinking. In today’s world students have a rich learning environment. The teacher for them is a facilitator, a coach, a mentor and a mediator.

LIN: Elaborate on the essence of education toward achieving excellence in life, career, success, etc. of individuals? How about the fate of a nation or world in continuous changes in economy, politics, environment, and technology. What is the role of education on aforementioned aspects?

Education is the part and parcel of one’s future. It makes man and literate person to earn a living. It is the power in oneself which explores other powers of our senses and provides wisdom to our living. The career is directly related to our moves in education. The nation is in requirement of future literate citizens who in turn shall make the things possible in time to come. The country’s economy hence forth needs a greater emphasis towards investment in education of its children. Nothing is possible without the literacy of the hour implemented via technology and to understand and explore technology one has to have the power of learning. Education is all about learning and developing your abilities to their full potential. It gives the knowledge and skill they require. One cannot say that they do not need any further education no matter how smart they are because the quality of education is always improving. With the standard of education getting higher, an organization’s demand for an individual’s level of education is also getting higher.

LIN: Do you believe giving awards to teachers as motivator to more effective/efficient teaching? If so, why?

As a National Teacher Awardee myself, I believe in recognition of the teachers as one of their life time achievements. The awards to the teachers give them the pride to work for them and the society in a better framework and above all it also gives a narration to the others to do their best. I feel recognition given as a mark of achievement will always be motivating. And by awarding the teachers, in a way one motivates them to perform better and feel appreciated for all the hard work he or she puts in, throughout her life to get the best out of someone else’s life.

LIN: Have you heard about Global Teacher Prize? Sort of seeking for outstanding teachers around the world to qualify for a million dollar prize. What is your take on this? And if you were one of the judges how would you rate shortlisted teachers with outstanding qualities to get the most deserving among them? Would you rely on the given criteria or would you risk choosing a finalist over the rest through gut-feel?

I have not heard about this earlier. It is certainly a great recognition to the teachers’ community globally. I believe the companies and other establishments must come together under Corporate Social Responsibility and join for the common cause towards the recognition to this community of TEACHERS who are the only blessed creatures after GOD to dwell a product which is a living being into another refined product as a RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN of the nation in particular. Well I checked on the criteria and I believe we would also add on to some more conclusions viz. PUBLICATIONS/ CLOUD PRESENCE/ COMMUNITY OUTREACH/ INNOVATIONS. Adaptation to change, ability to engage and inspire in students independent and original thinking and how does he or she handle children with different learning abilities can also be the add-ons in particular.

LIN: The battlefield of education is not the classroom, but the hearts and minds and souls of learners… do you agree on this? Why?

I do agree of this fact with the reputation to believe that we need to teach the hearts not the minds. For the fact is the children like the subject only when they like the teacher. It is such a fact that explores learning with heart and soul to replicate the fact of making the learning as a pride within classrooms a possibility. Teaching breathes like poetry. No two learners can interpret teaching the same, just as no two teachers can write same. It is like two humans sharing a space in mind and body by personal interaction and transfer to one another. Thus the battlefield of education is not the classrooms, but the hearts and minds and souls of the learners. It is how well you can connect for learning to happen.

LIN: Would you be open to collaboration with other teachers out there so as to spread the wisdom of authentic learning or whatever you want to propagate in the global stage of enlightening the minds and hearts and souls of everyone, anywhere in the world?

Certainly, as my great pleasure and honour too. I would be very happy to explore the opportunity to train other teachers over WEBINARS/ Skype virtual sessions. Knowledge grows by sharing. I would definitely be more than happy to share information, skills and expertise that I possess with the teachers and try to make whatever little difference I can.

LIN: How would you do that? And if ever, would you like to co-author a book with anybody who is willing to explore possibilities?

As I said, using the power of technology I would like to share my expertise in a big bang way. Yes I would be happy to co-author a book of subject of any taste and tribe. As an author of over 40 books, I do believe in share in that aspect too.

LIN: Away from the limelight, who is Dr. Mehrotra?

A learner for LIFE – Lost In Fight (For) Education!!! That is me, myself. I take pride in working towards Quality Literacy For All. Amen.

LIN: Any piece of advice to teachers out there who are doing their jobs sans thinking of getting an award, but doing it for the Glory of God the Greatest Teacher of All?

My advice to them is ” Remember to be on Learning Spree for I repeat: The more we learn, the more we earn, in terms of Honour, Respect and Pride!!!. Also let us all be IT Strong and not just IT Savvy for we believe in an age where Technology is the way of learning not just the pathway!! Cheers and May GOD bless us all.

So there you go. To know more about Dr. Mehrotra’s passion, you may check out http://dheerajmehrotra.tripod.com

Importance Of Integrated Technology In The Classrooms

In a world of constantly changing technology, educators are working to bring that technology to students. Textbooks are just not able to keep up with technological advances. Teachers are able to help prepare their students for technology and information they will encounter in life after they finish school by using integrated technology in the classrooms.

Technology gives students learning opportunities they would not have otherwise. Through technology teachers are often able to motivate students and give them a new perspective. In addition, technology allows students to interact with other students throughout the world. This can take students on a virtual field trip as they are able to see and participate in activities electronically.

One common challenge in traditional classrooms is helping each student to learn at his own pace. With integrated technology in the classrooms, however, teachers are finding ways to accommodate each student. Software and online programs allow teachers to let each student work on his or her own level. Teachers can monitor their students’ progress and help them progress as they use technology to further their knowledge.

There are a variety of technology applications that can help students at school. Some schools are turning to on-line libraries which allow students to access books from their classroom desks or even from their home computers. Standardized tests are now being offered via computer. Many schools have seen a rise in reading scores as students have begun taking reading comprehension tests on their computers. Math games and programs help students get excited about math, and integrated technology in the classrooms helps students excel in science as well.

More schools are using tablets for each student. Many teachers find it is easier to keep track of students’ progress as they use these tablets in their teaching. As students finish their assignments and tests on the tablets, teachers are immediately given the scores and feedback on what the students need more help with. Many students find this more interactive approach to their learning to be more fun than traditional teaching methods.

Changing technology also requires that teachers keep up with advancements so they can best help their students stay current with the technology. Many school districts offer training programs to help teachers continue their technology education. Collaborating with other educators also helps teachers come up with new ideas for using technology in their classes.

Integrated technology in the classrooms is becoming more important in education. As teachers and students continue to learn together and keep up on technological advancements, teachers will be able to better motivate students and elevate their learning potential.

Effective Planning and Implementation of Computer Technology in Schools

In today’s world, the workplace has been transformed. Computer technology is present to one degree or another in virtually every job or profession. To prepare students adequately for the workplace we must recognize that integrating computer technology into the classroom is essential. To execute this integration properly, careful planning must precede implementation. We must be prepared to explore different means of implementation inasmuch as there is no perfect system or a “one size fits all” software program. Each institution must decide to what degree they will implement technology and how quickly they will do so. It is also important to appeal to educational leaders for support as well as gathering preferences from both teachers and students.

In his article, “Investing in Digital Resources” David McArthur explored the notion that the decision regarding whether or not to use technology as an educational medium has already been made. What must be done is plan carefully to ensure that the long-range goals of technology integration are properly served.

The leaders in higher education must “plan for and invest in e-learning.” (McArthur, 2004, p3) E-learning has become an accepted method of education just as the “Web” has been accepted in business and at home. Integrating the newer technologies to supplement existing learning has become imperative. When planning is performed correctly, the educational environment should be able to use technologies to increase teacher/student communication, enhance faculty morale by use of an “on-line resource center,” (McArthur, 2004, p2) use web-based programs to enhance recruitment, and better prepare students for the workplace.

There are potential problems that must be overcome when planning for technological integration. First, the technological options are myriad and only a few will be appropriate for a given school or college. Second, while many institutions become accustomed to the idea of augmenting their educational system via e-learning, it can be troublesome and radical.

Some key issues in the potential success in the adoption of e-learning can include (but is not limited to) the school or college’s present computer network capacity, the willingness of the school’s leaders to support change, current or probable resources, the potential accessibility of the e-learning services by the students.

In looking at a comprehensive long-range plan, there are a number of options available. One is “Staged Implementation.” (McArthur, 2004, p4) While the critical planning should be virtually complete, not all components of the final plan need be in place at the outset. A planned multi-year plan of implementation can be used. Not only does this allow for the development of resources, it is possible to troubleshoot elements as each stage progresses. Another is “Appropriate Outsourcing.” (McArthur, 2004, p4) Not every educational institution has the in-house resources (personnel, tools, equipment) to implement even a staged plan. Outsourcing can be both cost and time saving. While it may be difficult to convince some leaders of the potential advantage in outsourcing, especially since this type of expertise “is regarded as an educational core asset” (McArthur, 2004, p6), drawing comparisons to the business world may help to demonstrate the benefits.

In his article, “Herding Elephants: Coping with the Technological Revolution in our Schools” Scott Tunison addressed the issues of: 1. the extents to which schools need to visit computer technology and 2. The tactics used to make the most of the potential advantages and diminish the potential pitfalls in the integration of the technology.

His reference regarding “Herding Elephants” is allegorical to managing the coming technology and learning to “integrate it into the educational framework” or moving aside and letting the “technological revolution” pass by. (Tunison, 2004, p7) Either way, educational technology is not to be ignored and it cannot be allowed to manage itself.

Fundamentally speaking, much of education is unchanged from long past. The methods that have been used were for the most part appropriate for the subject at hand. A perception might be that, if the concepts to be learned have not changed then a change in teaching method is not necessary. However, even if some of the concepts have not changed, the application context as well as the learners’ context has. While computers have entered the educational environment they often have been simple substitutes for other tools that already exist and are in place; tools such as blackboards, books, etc. What this means is that the process of learning remains unchanged when new uses for the available technology are not fully utilized.

Educational reform is necessary if we are going to meet the needs of our students. If our culture has developed electronic media, animation, etc. then that is the context through which we must reach our students.

The changes that must be made can make some educators uneasy. The learning paradigm must shift from the teacher as dispenser of knowledge to the student as active learner. Tunison cites Fullan (2001) in an identification of “three broad phases to the change process.” The phases are identified as “initiation, implementation, and institutionalization”

Initiation involves some entity proposing directional change. Sometimes students ask for change and sometimes groups of teachers, administrators, and parents form committees to begin a planning process for technological integration.

Institutionalization includes the perception of importance. One might say this is the stage of “damage control.” Clear policies, well trained teachers and administrators, and a supportive school board are crucial in this stage. It is important in this stage to record relevant data regarding the program for analysis. What was well planned and conceived may still have “bugs” to work out. The analysis of the data can assist in the “tweaking” of the program.

Educators must be aware of the importance of technology in the educational environment and be prepared to integrate it. Technology is extensive in our contemporary culture and reaching our students must involve meeting their needs in the world they know. We may, in fact, reach more students and perhaps stem the tide of dropouts.

In her article, “What Students Want to Learn About Computers” Judith O’Donnell Dooling, has informed the reader that students, parents, and administrators have specific preferences with regard to computer technology.

Over time, the importance of computers and related technology has been realized. However, while spending for computers has risen, some schools have not been as successful in identifying specific computer skills and its power as a tool of learning and teaching.

Student responses were varied. Many reported that they began learning about computers at an early age, usually from a more experienced person. Some students, especially in grades four through seven thought learning independently was the most enjoyable.

Interestingly, students of both genders reported that they had a reasonable confidence in their computer abilities, but some differences in perception were evident. To a degree girls, but primarily boys, thought that computers were too technical for girls.

The experience students had prior to school, the teacher, and computer access had a significant effect on student computer learning. Even if they, at home, had seen the computer more as a toy, they began to see them more as a tool in the school setting. They recognized the importance and power of the computer as their exposure increased.

Perhaps unlike other subjects students learn in school, students exchanged computer tips, recommended hardware and software, and generally discussed the subject of computers during their lunchtime and recess.

The students also saw the importance of computer knowledge as it related to its use in the workplace after their school experiences. They observed that, no matter where you work, you would be using computers to some degree.

The teachers expressed the concern that not all shared the same proficiency. Many mentioned that often the students knew more than the teacher did. Teachers also observed that, though the students had a great deal of computer knowledge, it was often limited to games and software. Another observation was that computer curriculums vary greatly school to school.

Teachers expressed that computer knowledge needs to be relevant. That is, it needs to be applied across the curriculum and used as an integral tool of learning. All agreed that the role of teacher needs redefinition and adequate professional development provided to facilitate the needed change.

In conclusion, we have seen that computer technology in the educational setting is essential for learning in contemporary society. Selecting, planning, and implementing must be done with great care to avoid waste and potential incompatibility with the goals of the educational institution. School leaders must be convinced that paradigm shift is not an option; that teachers and students must assume new roles, and their support for new ideas is essential.

We must also be able to meet students where they are. Our culture has created systems of technology to which students are accustomed. To continue teaching in an antiquated fashion does our students a disservice, especially if we are to prepare them for the workforce following their education. We must also be aware of teacher and student preferences if we are to expect them to fully utilize the new resources.