Contrary to what some might believe, the concept of a smart classroom isn’t exactly new. Recently, EWIS launched its smart classroom solution at Ladies College. It was reported as being the first such classroom in the country by DailyFT. Yet, only a few weeks ago, the list of Sri Lankan smart classrooms expanded thanks to Abans. It too was reported as the first of its kind by Ceylon Today.
But three months ago, we saw CodGen’s XOLO smart classroom. Ironically this was also reported by DailyFT as the first of its kind. And a bit of Googling will also introduce you to Guru.lk’s Smarts Schools initiative. And the list goes on. Classrooms, where technology is utilized to help students learn, was once thought of as only being in the western world. But over the course of this year, it’s become a reality in quite a few schools in Sri Lanka.
The beauty of smart classrooms
What makes smart classrooms so attractive? Just watch the video below.
What makes smart classrooms so attractive is that technology opens up new possibilities. However, at the moment Sri Lankan smart classrooms have yet to take its students on VR field trips. Right now, many of the systems focus on tackling the immediate constraints of offline learning. As such, they allow students to access notes online and teachers can conduct lessons with interactive multimedia tools.
Introducing such technologies into the classroom is tricky. But when done successfully, it has been noted that the performance of students increases. This success can be attributed to many effects. One of them is that students can now freely listen to the teacher without focusing on taking down notes. Another being that they now have access to even more information. This, in turn, helps them better understand the lessons that were taught in class.
But most importantly, smart classrooms help make learning fun for students. Ruvin Rashintha – a Grade 7 student studying with CodeGen’s XOLO smart classroom explains this saying, “I like this system a lot. It encourages and motivates me to learn. I like coming to school every day now rather than before. We can download and read storybooks too during our leisure time.”
The challenges of the future
As challenging as it is to build a smart classroom, maintaining it is even more challenging. And maintaining computers in schools isn’t something Sri Lanka is famous for. We’ve seen our fair share of computer labs in schools where only one computer is available for an entire grade of students. Could such a thing happen to these smart classrooms? It’s possible.
Over time, many of the computers and devices in these classrooms will become antiques and stop working. As such, it’s imperative that the organizations that built these smart classrooms, ensure a mechanism is in place to maintain them. And in an ideal world, it would be the students in these schools that play an active role in maintaining them.
But simple maintenance will not be enough. Over time, new technologies will appear. Perhaps a teacher or a student will want to use them in the classroom. If so, they should be able to do it with ease. Because in the end, a classroom should be a place that helps students adapt to change.
But maintenance is only one of the challenges Sri Lankan smart classrooms will face going into the future. Another challenge they’ll face is with regards to security. With every student have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone in a smart classroom, ensuring they stay safe online will be a daunting task.
Should a hacker gain access to the system there could be dire consequences. It could be as a simple as stealing their private information. It could be as complex as using the devices of students to carry out cyber attacks. The possibilities are deadly and consequences dire. As such strong security measures should be in place with children also being taught how to stay safe online.
But outside the technical challenges, there are also cultural challenges that must be addressed. For every teacher that embraces technology, there are ten others that see it as the devil. It’s not uncommon for schools to punish students for bringing their phones to school.
The argument is that they would distract students from studying and they’d only use it for mischief. However, if they were integrated into the lessons, then the results would be the exact opposite. Yet unless this challenge is addressed, it’s impossible for smart classrooms to become the norm, even with the government’s backing.
The future of Sri Lankan smart classrooms
At the end of the day, Sri Lankan smart classrooms are a noble step forward. Technology is a powerful force that helps children learn. However, as we proceed down this road, it’s important to remember that there are other challenges ahead. To ensure these smart classrooms remain successful would mean facing these challenges head-on and conquering them.