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Going online to help students learn for the times

Getting muddy at a teacher’s request is not a usual part of school life for most students. But the usual does not apply at the Green School of Bali.

Not far from the sports field is a mud field, where students are urged to spend time on a daily basis. Teachers often have a hard time pulling the kids away from a good-natured mud fight to attend class.

“There’s something about the mud and the dirt that touches many of the students here. Some of them came as B-students with make-up and fancy shoes, and graduated to recording As with smiles and mud on their faces, and dirt on their feet,” said Uliana Efros, a member of the faculty.

The Green School is applying its own creative approach to letting students find their passions and talents. In this tech-driven era of constant and rapidly changing information, institutions are also embracing technology to help develop young minds and, in its own way, also give them free rein to learn.

Emanuel Pratalaharja taught design at several colleges before coming to Bina Nusantara University’s School of Art & Design. An associate lecturer, he is also known as the “iChat lecturer” because the avid multimedia enthusiast has put to good use a decade-old “chat” technology in his classes. Students log in to their Mac desktop and
onto their iChat to transmit their homework files in his lab.

“Before iChat, students delivered homework from their USB disks, which takes time to copy and there’s no way to verify the file’s integrity. iChat allows automatic download queue so I can conduct a lecture while the files are being transmitted to my computer. It even verifies the transmission digitally, so that if a file is broken, I can just
pop a chat to my student and ask them to resend.” said the soft-spoken father of two.

Adopting education online allows access to a greater scope of information, but also provides opportunities for individual-focused teaching that may not be available in a crowded classroom.

“We use visualizers, computers and projectors in each classroom. There is also an e-learning website called Wells that we use to assign homework to students and allow them to post comments on the shared wall,” said Seema Ramchandani, who teaches English as a foreign language at the Pui Tak Canossian Primary School in Hong Kong.

“Bringing education online not only give us access to a wider bank of resources, but also allows us to cater to the individual needs, modalities of each students as well as their learning styles and readiness.”

iPads and tablets have also opened up a new world of content creation and sharing.

As a design student, Emanuel had to produce his artworks physically, which not only cost a fortune but also gave headaches to his professors who needed to haul heavy stacks of papers back and forth for grading.

New technology is changing those inconvenient ways of the past.

“There’s this app called Skitch that my students and I use to explore designs, as well as review artworks,” he said of a web-based software solution to showcase art and allow users to annotate, edit and share.

“It’s amazing what the web and an app like Skitch can do. Commenting on a student’s work is no easy task, so for me to be able to mark and comment on a student’s work and electronically send it to them made my life and also theirs much easier.”

Skitch is now part of Evernote, a popular note-taking app and web services with more than 100 million users worldwide.

Technology is a two-edged sword. As much as it has transformed our world it has also turned us into slaves to its charms. Attention that must be given to our own growth has been lost amid the sea of distracting devices and technological illusions.

Creating a balance between the world of technology and realities is essential – something the Green School appears to have achieved.

Students are taught to grow plants with the same focus as they taught are world history. The Computer Lab looks over an expanse of trees and fields, a tangible reminder of the two worlds we live in.

On one recent day, fourth graders presented a project using computers and projectors; there also were those who chose to draw a timeline on the floor and used tables and desks. They were illustrating the history of the world. Tellingly, for these times, they scrawled “The Information Age”.

Will Wiriawan, Contributor, Jakarta | Supplement | Mon, 06/25/2012 5:10 PM

Source: The Jakarta Post, June 26, 2012

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