Published: 16th April 2020
Why schools can learn from Allan Kjaer Andersen's 100% digital school
Allan Kjaer Andersen's 100 per cent digital school in Denmark is an example of many schools in India who wants to change their teaching methods and switch to smart or digital classrooms
Meet Allan Kjaer Andersen, the Founder and Principal of the globally recognised Orestad Gymnasium School in Copenhagen, Denmark - widely acclaimed as it is a 100 per cent digital school. Currently, founder member of the Chaman Bhartiya School and he is actively working to set up a similar digital model in Bengaluru. He believes that prepping students to succeed in a rapidly changing 21st-century environment begins at schools.
However, he also believes in following digital ethics. He says, "While we teach children how to use technology, we need to teach them when to use technology and when not to use it. We can just implement a lot of technology and leave it to them. We need to be strict about their screen time. Because, if we don't teach these things then children will never learn. They must understand the social values and our school curriculum has a seperate subject on teaching values like caring, love and empathy."
We speak to him about lessons from his digital school and what features they consist of. Excerpts from an interview:
Can you tell us about your journey of making a 100 per cent digital school?
When we talk about the 100 per cent digital school it is all about different resources of learning. Until university level, schools must not go online but they must be digital. It means they need to digitalise resources to study including textbooks. The school was formed with a philosophy of making classrooms more interactive and felicitate the group learning process. Even our teachers were trained to use the digital classrooms and new technology that we introduced. All our lessons in different subjects have also gone digital. Now, the teachers share the lesson plan and other materials through a particular iPad that we provide them.
Do you think technology can replace teachers?
Absolutely not! Technology is important in the direction of more personalised learning and group learning for projects, teachers are essential for students in terms of emotional and social development. One of the important takeaways from a situation like COVID-19 is that schools are not only places of learning but they are important for the emotional and social development of the child. Meanwhile, during situations like lockdown or when students are travelling from one place to another, online sources play an important role. But technology cannot replace a social entity like schools where teachers and children are together teaching and learning new things. I am happy that many schools resumed teaching through the online medium but they must not consider it as the future for children.
Chaman Bhartiya School in Bengaluru
When did you realise that traditional learning alone was not going to help children?
They are two sides to traditional learning. I feel it is not an efficient form of teaching or learning for the students because the teachers teach the average students or below-average students. However, the smart students who already know or have read everything that the teacher teaches in the classroom have to be there to while away the time. Similarly, the students who don't understand anything that the teacher teaches go to sleep.
Some schools give access to online learning but they follow the same method of mugging up text and concepts rather than understanding.
How should a digital school be equipped?
I feel that every teacher and student must have a gadget and internet to connect with each other and use it for learning purposes. In our school, we have spaces for individual talks and discussion rather than one-sided learning or teaching. Digital classrooms can run only if there is active participation by the students. They can write blogs, produce podcast shows and promote individual or group work. This way, they can express their thoughts.
How are you introducing children, at an early age, to technology?
For the nursery, LKG and UKG students, the digital classrooms are equipped with short stories or rhymes but from class I, each student has their own iPad to operate and learn lessons, do activities or homework etc given by teachers. Most of the learning resources will be available on the iPad. We also have an app that sends information to the parents about the progress of the child. Similarly, parents need not worry about the screen time in a 100 per cent digital school like ours. For example, if they have a study tour about some chapter in Biology then they use the iPad to click pictures of plants, flowers and animals. Then they use these pictures to study the characteristics, uses and so on.
How are you training teachers to use this technology?
We know that we can't get teachers who have already used technology. So we have a partnership with a private company that trains teachers every day for two hours on how to use new features on the iPad and the software that exists. Our teachers need not be technology experts but they must be experts in using technology to teach.