Schools looking to better harness technology to aid learning

Schools looking to better harness technology to aid learning

Schools which Channel NewsAsia spoke with hope students will become critical thinkers and innovators, who can drive the country's vision of becoming a Smart Nation.

SINGAPORE: From ICT tools to high-tech facilities, schools in the Republic are looking to better harness technology to aid learning.

Educators whom Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they hope students will become critical thinkers and innovators, who can drive the country's vision of becoming a Smart Nation.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Jurong West Secondary School students are among the first to use an online annotation tool to analyse visual text, such as advertisements. The programme facilitates collaborative learning. With the tool, students can key in comments, which can be viewed instantly by their peers, before they present their group's views to the class.

It is one of the latest pilots by Edulab, which has been tasked to develop ICT innovations for schools. Edulab is an initiative by the Education Ministry and National Institute of Education and is supported by the National Research Foundation.

“We have found higher engagement, higher motivation,” said Dr Victor Lim, deputy director of Technologies for Learning at the Ministry of Education. “Our students today are living in a digital world, where they are confronted with a range of different types of texts, and we want to help our students to become critical and discerning readers."

Pilots are typically tested around one to two years before they are assessed and offered to more schools.

NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR TEACHERS

But at the end of the day, the goal is for technology to aid teachers, not replace them.

“The teacher is the key and that's why we focus a lot of efforts in the professional development of our teachers,” said Dr Lim. “When we run workshops like that, we are helping to build up our teachers' competencies to be able to use the technology meaningfully in the classroom.”

One example is a physics simulation tool, which more teachers are being trained to use. The computer programme can help students better visualise scientific concepts.

HONING SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE

Over at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), there are realistic test-bedding facilities to take training a step further.

For example, a water treatment laboratory will allow student researchers to programme and test their own solutions to guard against cyberattacks on a water facility. By April, the lab will be expanded to include a water distribution facility, so students can develop solutions against water contamination or leakage.

It is part of efforts to equip students with innovation and problem-solving skills for the future.

“Realism is very important, realism enables people thinking to go in different directions, and I have seen test beds in other universities, which are nowhere like this, they are about 50 times smaller than this,” said Professor Aditya Mathur, head of Information Systems Technology and Design at SUTD.

“When the students go out of the university, when they graduate, they will be immersed in technology all over... we want them to feel comfortable with that technology and one way to do that is to immerse them in technology right here in the university and that's what we are trying to do.

“Laboratory facilities like this - where they are able to develop their skill sets - the most important skill that our students get, is the skill to learn new things on their own, because when they go out, they will see new technology, new tools, they should be able to learn to use those tools.”

Professor Chong Tow Chong, a provost at SUTD, added: “Since we talk about knowledge-based economy, we want our students to be creative and innovative, and that can only be achieved if we have the right pedagogy. So our pedagogy will be quite different, so we can achieve this goal.

“So one thing that is important is that we should not use very passive way of learning, so we call it interactive and active learning in SUTD. What is important is that we use the classroom time for students to acquire important skills, so this is what is related to lifelong learning. The skill that we are talking about here is thinking skills, to think creatively, the problem-solving skills, like how you approach problems and how you come up with solutions, based on sound foundation, so that is the emphasis on SUTD's pedagogy.”

SMART NATION DRIVE

In line with Singapore's drive to be a Smart Nation, the university will also introduce Internet of Things (IoT) into its curriculum for first-year students, from this year. This was previously offered only to those in their second year.

Students can develop IoT devices like a smart suitcase that can send alerts to users.

Such applied learning strategies are also gaining ground among the younger ones.

All of the 1,400 students at Fuhua Primary School will be taught coding and programming this year. Students can use the Scratch programme to create animations and games. They will also tinker with microcontrollers and robotics.

“We learn how to use coding to solve problems and we also learn how to do programming to program various robots,” said Avanie Josh, a student at the primary school. “We learn troubleshooting skills, our teachers will give us the basic guidelines and leave us to explore.”

The Code for Fun enrichment programme by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Education Ministry is one of the initiatives under the Code@SG movement. It aims to get more students excited about technology, and develop a base of technology professionals.

Currently, 107 schools are on the programme, up from 24 when it was piloted in 2014.

“Children are finding that their learning is very authentic and therefore there is an element of fun and discovery and they are curious about a lot of things,” said Mr Phua Kia Wang, Fuhua Primary School’s principal. “And it opens them up into a whole new area of asking their teachers for support and they are learning and researching by themselves, rather than depending on their teacher's didactic teaching only.”

IDA said coding and computational skills are important 21st-century skills, and that the knowledge of these skills will better prepare students to take on future jobs in a knowledge-based economy.

IDA added that it will reach out to more schools over the next three years.

Source: CNA/ek

Bookmark