SMILE - LEARNING FRAMEWORK FOR THE KNOWLEDGE AGE

R.K.Bagga

M.S.Bhat

A. Vidya Sagar

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Education is the center of the knowledge-based economy, which is characterized by the need for continuous learning and the competencies to apply knowledge to real world tasks. The digital revolution facilitates sharing of codified knowledge through universally accessible digital libraries. It leverages advances in information and communication technologies to create an environment for active, engaging, personalized, collaborative learning that leads to effective knowledge creation and dissemination. Schools need to develop strategies for effective dissemination of knowledge with the vision of life long learning. The management of schools needs to take a strategic approach in developing vision, systems, processes, networks and e-learning materials to empower teachers as well as learners. The strategy should be simple, flexible and responsive to learner’s needs and to integrate the efforts of schools, Government and industry to create and share an environment that helps every student to achieve his/her full potential and prepare them for the knowledge age.

 

LEARNING IN THE KNOWLEDGE AGE

Global networks of the digital age create fluid multi-faceted spaces for learning, which can re-enforce and enhance knowledge dissemination, through the creation of an enriched platform for discourse – an important element of knowledge dissemination. The knowledge-based economy is a hierarchy of networks driven by constant change in technologies and skills that create value. The learning environment is  engaging and effective and  instruction design is appropriate to the learner, the context and the content with right mix of instructional strategies that optimize the learnability of the content. The content design is learner centric and yet flexible to meet the requirements of a wider audience, which is achieved through simple, shareable learning objects. The content so developed is anchored to establish learning theories and instructional design methodology. Innovation and creativity design and develop a learning environment that offers highly satisfying learning experiences with concepts explained in graphics-rich format with relevant applications and interactivity. The learning principles underlying cognitive, constructive, experiential and motivational learning theories are embedded in a technology enabled networked learning environment through an appropriate content design and delivery. Cognitive learning theory views knowledge acquisition as the outcome of an interaction between new experiences and the structures for understanding that have already been created. So building a framework for understanding becomes the learner’s key cognitive challenge. Theories of neuroscience, brain based learning and multiple intelligences suggest that learning environment should be learner centric to accommodate different learning styles and preferences with emphasis on learner’s social context. The emphasis should be on whole ideas, real life experiences and solving real world problems. Constructivist learning environments are learner centric and facilitate knowledge construction in individual contexts through social negotiation, collaboration and experience with due consideration for previous knowledge constructions, beliefs and attitudes of the learner. Teachers play the role of guide, tutor, coach and facilitator by creating an environment with tools and activities that encourage meta cognition, self analysis, regulation, reflection and awareness. Self directed learning through inquiry, exploration and problem solving promotes higher order thinking and deep understanding. Collaborative learning with appreciation for multiple perspectives and alternate view points promotes understanding of conceptual interrelatedness required in multidisciplinary learning to work on projects related to real world context. Experiential learning theory suggests that the learning environment should promote active participation of student in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction and should be based on practical, social, real life situations. This theory also emphasizes the importance of learning to learn and openness to change. Self-evaluation is recommended for assessing progress or success and shall be integrated with the learning process. Experiential learning is participative, interactive and applied. Interactive multimedia supported by innovations in technology has given way to rich interactive applications where the learner is relatively free to explore at her own pace and pursue thought in a free and non-linear fashion. So experiential learning theory and Kolb’s learning styles model suggest a learner centric and interactive environment with lot of scope for learning by doing. Motivational learning theories suggest that the learning environment should accommodate strategies to create and sustain attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction. The four motivational factors that influence learning in technology enabled learning environments are: interest in or attention to the media rich, interactive content; perceived relevance of the content; self-confidence in the ability to access and use the content and resulting satisfaction from successful access and usefulness. SMILE integrates the learning principles to facilitate active learning, learning with understanding and learning how to learn.

 

NEED FOR SMILE  

SMILE is an acronym for simple, motivating, interactive and learner centric environment. It integrates the cognitive, constructive, experiential and motivational learning theories to create a learning environment and transforms learning and teaching by harnessing technology to implement established learning theories with creativity and innovation.

 

Learning with understanding: 

There exists a gap in the education content provision market with respect to active learning concept. There is a limited (if any) attempt at structuring and presentation of content in a manner that addresses the retention of information for a real application. The idea of presenting subject with multiple links (Examples and Demos) with the way students think is virtually ignored. SMILE intends to build (substance) and deliver (sophistication) content that encourages active learning.

 

Learn with SMILE

Creating a highly motivating learning environment calls for re-purposing content to make it interesting and engaging. The content design shall be learner centric and yet flexible to meet the requirements of a wider audience, which may be achieved through simple, shareable learning objects. The content developed shall be anchored to the established learning theories and instructional design methodology to explain learning points in interesting, absorbing and imaginative ways, with emphasis on conceptual understanding, retention and application of knowledge in real life situations. E-learning is most effective when it is combined with more traditional forms of instruction, often called a “blended approach”, providing students with as many learning opportunities as possible. E-learning offers the teacher a whole new set of teaching tools that include digital libraries, multimedia simulations and assessment tools. Innovation and creativity are required to design and develop a learning environment that offers highly satisfying on-line learning experiences. Concepts presented in graphics-rich format with relevant applications and interactivity creates an engaging learning environment. Self–paced learning, anywhere, anytime learning, extends the classroom boundaries and the learning experience.

 

WWK:  Portal for SMILE

“Wonder Whiz Kids” creates an innovative, inquiry based, interactive learning environment to acquire knowledge, gain insights and think intuitively. WWK creates SMILE by integrating cognitive, constructive, experiential and motivational learning theories. WWK is for students of age 12 years and above, parents, teachers and all those who are interested in promotion of science and scientific thinking. The main features of this portal are visualization, concept related content sequencing, interactive and collaborative learning, self-assessment, games and simulations. The content would be informative, interesting and interactive to sustain and enhance the span of attention while helping the student to understand the fundamental concepts of science and apply them gainfully to real world situations. This facilitates students to think effectively - observing, classifying, applying, analyzing, and evaluating.  Students would be different in the following ways when they finish this courseware: *Firm understanding of the basics of the subject, *Think critically, and &Ready to apply the concepts to real world problems

 

Architecture of SMILE

SMILE is like a wikipedia for schools with instruction design anchored in learning theories and principles. Technology enables creation of SMILE in a blended learning environment where in teacher will be at the heart of transformation to empower and enrich students as well as teachers. A well-defined framework, which is flexible and scalable, is required to accommodate and update the knowledge base on a continuous basis. The environment needs to be dynamic and invite contribution from everyone to enrich the knowledge base. Hence a web2.0 framework is required to create SMILE for schools and sharing the SMILE. The framework shall facilitate sharing of knowledge and best practices while defining and directing the teacher’s contribution to the content, lesson plan, feedback in creative and innovative ways while navigating through templates and content repositories. Students can be guided through the learning process and content with appropriate, self-directed navigation and interactive participation for a satisfying and engaging learning experience. Web server in a school with SMILE, presents the course content effectively to enable active learning.

 

How do we share the SMILE?

E-Learning initiative requires know-how, access to state-of-the-art technologies, design of content, preparation of appropriate teaching materials and the support of a set of educators and trainers. We should create networked partnerships among schools to share e-learning resources, and to develop and adopt good practice with the new possibilities presented by greater school-community links. We have to identify projects to develop productive collaboration and identify the optimal conditions for partnerships including partnership with government and industry.

 

Benefits of Sharing the SMILE

The future of education is promising as school learning in the coming years stands to be fruitful, innovative and above all rewarding for teachers and learners. The future needs to be created with vision and conviction that these new goals are worth achieving, along with support and commitment from all.

 

 

Teachers

Innovation in Teaching: Teachers will find their profession joyful and enriching in an environment that stimulates innovation and creativity in designing and creating engaging learning experiences. The teacher can design and develop a lecture presentation based on the lesson plan by aligning the structure and sequence of concepts to be learnt with the learning objectives. Teacher selects relevant media objects to be used in the presentation such as graphics, images, pictures, applets, animations, audio or video files from the media objects repository and interesting videos from the lecture repository to create a motivating and engaging learning experience. Teachers can introduce interactive simulations at an appropriate time during the lecture to encourage the active involvement of students and help them learn by experiencing the outcome of experiments in varying conditions to create interesting and satisfying learning experiences which improve the confidence of the students to apply what they have learnt for solving real life problems in entirely new situations. For example: The teacher can explain the core concepts of light using the ‘Applets’ given in WWK and its applications which are discussed in the ‘Explore’ and ‘Frontiers’ feature.

 

Course Management: The teacher accesses the course information and course documents in the course content pertaining to a class and customizes the lesson plan available in the repository to suit the profile of students in the class. Lesson plan contains the method of delivery, and the specific goals and timelines associated to the delivery of lesson content. A lesson plan is a teacher's detailed description of the course of instruction for an individual lesson and will be a useful guide for the teachers, in that it tells what to do, in what order to do it, and what procedure to use in teaching the material of a lesson. Lesson plan is built on the lesson outline available in the database and includes all the details required for the presentation. The framework and templates help the teacher to maintain quality, consistency and usability in presentation with user-friendly navigation.

 

Student-centered Guidance: Teacher refers to the learner profile available in the database and addresses the learner specific issues like learning prerequisites, learning style, preferences, attitude and interests to help the child improve his/her level of understanding. Once the topic is completed, the teacher prepares an assessment and advises the students to take the test by accessing the ‘Quiz’ link in WWK, the results of which are stored in the ‘Assessment’ table. The teacher sees the performance of the students and estimates the level of understanding. If the teacher feels that some concepts are not clear to the students, she clarifies doubts of the students and improves the lecture with more examples and better explanation if the students still have difficulty in understanding. Teachers upload the homework and assignments in homework shelf of ‘To do list’. The students can access the ‘To do list’ to download the homework sheets and complete them and resubmit them in the ‘Homework shelf’. The teacher discusses and reviews the homework sheets and clarifies the doubts in the class. The teacher can assign projects to group of students who need to explore, inquire, reflect, analyze the information related to the project from various sources. The members of the group need to work as a team, under the guidance of the teacher who defines the problem/project and directs them throughout the whole process. The teacher acts as a guide and encourages the students to learn from one another and from sources beyond the classroom by interacting with experts and participating in discussion forums. This facilitates the students to gain the skills to synthesize and integrate multiple perspectives and views into a whole idea to solve real life problems and teachers would find this a highly challenging and enriching experience.

 

Professional Development: Teachers will get the opportunity to contribute and share the share the knowledge in a networked environment and develop professionally. Teachers can access the lecture repository and best practices for the desired topic to identify appropriate examples, analogies and applications that capture the imagination of students with relevance in their daily life. He can refer to course information and documents in the course content repository, lecture repository, reference books and hyperlinks to educational portals mentioned in the course content to prepare the lecture material which is simple and relevant to facilitate learning with understanding. Teacher can discuss with the other teachers and subject matter experts about the topic through chat, blogs or discussion forums through ‘Community’ link in WWK. The experts can share their ideas and contribute by uploading the text files, audio, video files related to the topic via ‘Contribute’ link in WWK. The teacher can then finalizes his/her lecture material and uploads the prepared lecture into the lecture repository, which can be shared by other teachers also.

 

Students

Enjoy learning: Students can access the course content well before they attend the class and prepare themselves for a highly interactive session. They can access the content repository in the school server as well educational portals suggested in the course content to enrich their knowledge. They will find media rich content much easier to understand, interesting and interactive so that they enjoy the learning process and would be ready to participate in the class with enthusiasm and confidence. Projects, quizzes and games help students to test their own understanding of the concepts and their ability to apply multiple concepts in problem solving.

 

Active Learning: Students will be actively involved in the learning process by participating in discussion and interaction in the classroom as well as working on projects. They would have an opportunity to work on interactive simulations available in the content and media objects to gain more insights and perform experiments, which are otherwise not possible in a typical laboratory. They can understand the relationships between different parameters in varying conditions and learn to apply the concepts learnt to real world problems. They can actively find answers to many doubts that arise during learning by searching the educational portals with features like Know Why, Key word search, Explore and Ask the Expert.

 

Learning how to Learn: Students can have learning flexibility to learn at their own pace and their convenience besides learning according to their preferred learning style. They can access the content in a non linear way so that they can explore the subject matter based on their level of understanding and aptitude with the help of keyword links, explore, hyperlinks and search. Self-assessment with quizzes along with worked out examples and solutions helps students to learn and develop awareness of their own competence, shortcomings and their preferred learning style. Project based learning also helps students to develop meta cognition, that is ability to think about one’s own thinking.

 

Collaborative Learning: Students who work on projects discuss the project among them and gather the information by referring to the related sites and study material already mentioned by the teacher. The group works from home after school hours through application sharing and conferencing. They discuss and share the ideas through e-mail, chat and discussion forums. They even can get the ideas and suggestions from the experts or peers through blogs and discussion forums. The completed project is uploaded in the ‘Projects’ table. The teacher calls for an open discussion of the projects done by each group and evaluates the projects and assigns grades to them. This helps students to develop communication skills, team spirit and the ability to appreciate diverse view points and perspectives while working towards a solution.

 

Parents

The parents know about the courses offered through Curricula. They know about their child’s performance through accessing the assessments and projects done by the child and the grades assigned to the child. Parents can participate in the child’s learning process by expressing their opinions and ideas for improvement of their child’s performance or the overall development of the school through blogs, discussion forums. Parents can be aware of the scheduled dates of important events by accessing the ‘To do list’. They can assist their children in doing projects, assignments and homework. They even can chat with the teachers regarding their child. Parents can even contribute to the knowledge repository by uploading the content. They can actively participate in their child’s development and find it highly rewarding, exciting, enriching and satisfying experience.

 

Proposed strategy: Share the SMILE

The proposed strategy is derived from the strategic vision and purpose that every student should have the opportunity to learn with smile and achieve his/her full potential. ICT in digital age can be leveraged for mobilization of intelligence in a networked world. We can create great value to the learning community of students and teachers by adopting strategies that profit from intelligence migration. Key elements of such a strategy are collaboration, content, access and technology and they need to be integrated in a coherent manner to create and share the SMILE. Collaboration is the common thread connecting all the key elements to enhance the effectiveness of each of those elements. Networked collaborative environment facilitates rewiring information chains and communities to connect experts and institutions with diverse skills and knowledge, to share best practices, communicate and collaborate. So the learning strategies in new economy should aim at creating value by sharing a common infrastructure and resources. We should create networked partnerships among schools to share e-learning resources, and to develop and adopt good practice with the new possibilities presented by greater school-community links. We have to identify projects to develop productive collaboration and identify the optimal conditions for partnerships including partnership with government and industry. Schools will find it more economical to combine and share resources including teacher skills and technology and systems to combine resources. We can look forward to a national school system with shared resources. Share the SMILE strategy empowers teachers to be creative and innovative in teaching by orchestration of varied combinations of learning objects to suit different learning styles and create a unique offering appropriate to the context, the learner and the content. This strategy enables creation of an ideal learning environment, which has the qualities of being high in acceptable challenge; having active participation of learners and being a place where learners can experience a relaxed alertness.

 

MAIN STUDY AND SURVEY

The main study was conducted in six secondary schools in Hyderabad, three of them are following central board syllabus, two of them following State board syllabus and the remaining one following ICSE syllabus. Conducted a survey with representative sample of teachers and students from private as well as government schools to examine the opinions and preferences of students and teachers in creating a learning environment that facilitates learning with smile, learning with understanding and learning how to learn enabling life long learning. A workshop on “The implementation of SMILE and its benefits” with the aid of Wonder whiz kids portal was conducted. An intense and interactive discussion on a selected topic in physical sciences has been carried out in schools for three to four hours.  Multimedia presentations like applets and animations have been extensively used to explore and explain the subject matter. Real world applications of the concepts have been elaborated during the workshop. Students have actively participated in exploring and understanding the subject matter. All the students and teachers who participated in the workshop were given a questionnaire at the end of the workshop to elicit their opinion on SMILE.

 

Data collection procedure

As the selected educational institutes offer secondary education, random sampling method is adopted to collect data from the students to avoid sampling bias. A letter, which explains the purpose of the research study and a confirmation to keep the names of the participants confidential, was enclosed along with each questionnaire. The student questionnaires were handed over to the respective class teachers of all the six educational institutes participated in the study. They in turn distributed the questionnaires to the students with an advice to self-administer the questionnaires. It was requested that questionnaires be filled at a stretch. They were also asked to return the filled in questionnaires to the class teacher. The researcher offered support / clarifications if needed by them. It was assessed that the students took 20 – 25 minutes to fill in the questionnaire. The researcher collected the filled in questionnaires from the class teachers. There were totally 1500 questionnaires distributed and 1470 filled in questionnaires were received back. Out of 1470 filled in questionnaires, one questionnaire was found blank and the other two were not having proper data. Hence 1467 filled in valid questionnaires were used in the study, thus getting a 97.8% rate of return. 107 teachers from the same schools gave their opinion on various aspects of learning in schools by answering the questionnaire provided to them. It took one month to complete the final study in six educational institutes.

 

Data analysis Procedure

The data collected using the structured questionnaires for students and teachers were checked for inconsistencies and computerized by creating structure in standard database package (MS-Access). Quantitative analysis of data has been carried out using the statistical software, Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS Version 10.0) and basic frequency tables and bi-variant cross-tabulations for selected variables have been generated. For example, cross-tabulations were run to study the association between variables related to learning environment (SMILE), benefits, strategic objectives and key elements of the strategy.

 

Analysis of data collected from students

Data collected from all the 1467 students from various Government as well as private schools by using questionnaire were analysed for appropriate grouping of similar factors. Data has been grouped as key elements of strategy, benefits of the strategy /strategic objectives, strategic actions, and the proposed strategy (share the SMILE) and the results are presented in the form of bar charts. Binary logistic regression models were run on the data collected from students using SPSS in order to study the relationship/influence of  (i) key elements of strategy and strategic actions on learning environment (SMILE), (ii) learning environment (SMILE) on benefits of strategy, strategic objectives, and (iii) key elements of strategy and strategic actions on benefits of strategy/ strategic objectives.

 

Reliability

Cronbach’s coefficient “Alpha” of reliability has been computed for the questionnaire collected from students and teachers. The alpha co-efficiencies are computed for aggregate sample (n = 1467 in case of students and n=107 in case of teachers). The alpha value 0.73 obtained for students and 0.732 obtained for teachers indicates the high internal consistency of the questionnaire used in the study.

 

Findings
Key Findings from student’s data:

Findings from analysis of the students’ data suggest that technology assisted blended learning enabled by access to accredited, enriching content in a networked environment supported by training in educational technologies facilitates creation of a simple, motivating, interactive and learner-centric environment. Teacher plays an important role in making learning a joyful experience. The strategic objectives are enjoy learning, active learning, learning how to learn and collaborative learning. Binary logistic regression has been carried out on SPSS to find out the influence of attributes of SMILE on strategic objectives. The results demonstrate a significant influence of SMILE on the strategic objectives. The binary logistic regression of the opinion of students was also carried out by considering the attributes of the  “SMILE” namely “simple”, “motivating”,” interactive” and “learner centric” as dependent variables with key elements of strategy and strategic actions as independent variables. It has been found that the proposed strategic actions such as open access to educational portals with accredited and appropriate content, networking of educational institutions, blended learning and training on technologies have significant influence in creating SMILE.

 

Key findings from teacher’s data
Teacher will be at the heart of transformation in learning to facilitate every student to enjoy learning and achieve his/her potential. Students enjoy learning and learn with understanding, while teachers would be more innovative in a simple, motivating, interactive and collaborative environment. SMILE facilitates teachers to achieve the objectives such as making learning a joyful experience, active involvement of students in the learning process, enabling students to learn how to learn, learn to share and share to learn by learning together. Technology assisted learning also helps teachers to find more time for interaction with students and find the whole experience satisfying and rewarding. Media rich accredited content with simulations and applets help them to be innovative and creative in teaching and there by enjoy teaching. Collaboration helps teachers in being creative and innovative in teaching and thereby find their profession exciting and enriching. Benefits of SMILE include active learning, learning flexibility, collaborative learning and innovation in teaching. Teachers agreed that the strategic actions proposed such as access to accredited educational portals, networking of schools, blended learning with flexibility in curriculum and assessment and training for familiarity and usage of educational technologies and tools helps them to cerate SMILE and achieve the strategic objectives.  There is need for reforms in curriculum and examination system with emphasis on student’s learning with understanding. Common national curriculum with flexibility given to the teachers as well as students in the assessment of learning, selection of content, method of teaching and way of learning to suit the learner and the context. Infrastructure and access to ICT should be improved by providing broad band internet with the associated computer hardware and software to every class room. Educational satellite programs should be made available with video lectures from subject matter experts to facilitate professional development of teachers. Technical support for the network infrastructure and training in educational technologies are required in every school.

 

CONCLUSIONS

Teacher is at the heart of the learning strategy and hence teachers’ commitment is essential for the successful implementation of the strategy. Teachers need to share the vision and drive the strategy to empower students and themselves. Technology should be used only as a means of enabling effective learning along with new paradigms of content design and delivery appropriate to the delivery medium. Technology should be integrated into the learning environment with a sound appreciation of how people learn and how technology can be leveraged to enhance learning experiences. We need to understand learning processes and the impact of ICT on those processes, to create an effective, supportive learning environment that is Simple, Motivating, Interactive and Learner-centric. Majority of the students and teachers agreed that SMILE helps them to enjoy learning and learn with understanding. We need to create and share the SMILE to facilitate every student to learn with smile and achieve his/her full potential by learning how to learn to actively pursue life long learning. SMILE shall provide access to accredited, appropriate and affordable content in a collaborative networked learning environment. Sharing the SMILE facilitates students communicate extensively with their peers and teachers and develop a community of learners who share their knowledge, there by extending learning opportunities to all. Open access to national archive of engaging and accredited e-learning content through educational portals, connecting schools into a collaborative networked environment to share best practices and educational resources, reforms in curriculum and assessment aligned with student centered learning, center for excellence in educational technologies for professional development of teachers are strategic actions to be pursued to create and share the SMILE.