In the last decade, education technology has experienced exponential growth in terms of its reach and its user diversity. The last couple of years of COVID-19 has increased the EdTech consumption exponentially. This has impacted the perspective on how EdTech space is perceived and utilised. However, one challenge that remains to be solved is the availability of tech-based solutions in regional languages. While there has been a surge in the voice of having EdTech content regulations and frameworks, what remains to be achieved is the right mix of content and technology along with customised pedagogy for regional contextualisation. Through our student assessment and learning data, deeper understanding of EdTech space and a greater focus on contextual pedagogy, we are creating content in regional languages that can help children learn effectively with or without teacher assistance.
Contextual use of Pedagogy, Content & Technology:
Revised Technological- Pedagogical- Content- Knowledge Framework, Mishra, 2019
The initial PCK framework given by Shulman (1986) emphasized the importance of three aspects for effective teaching: Pedagogy & Content Knowledge. He also emphasized the importance of instructional strategies and skills. This framework was designed more to understand the role of classroom instructions in the traditional classroom set-up.
With the advent of technology, Mishra and Koehler (2006) utilised the PCK framework to build a more advanced framework of TPACK (Technology, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge) to emphasize and include the role of technology in imparting effective education. Thus, this revised TPACK framework focused on three main components to make learning in EdTech space more effective: Content knowledge (CK) that refers to any subject-matter knowledge, Pedagogical knowledge (PK) refers to teacher knowledge about a variety of instructional practices, strategies, and methods to promote students’ learning & Technology knowledge (TK) which refers to teacher knowledge about traditional and new technologies that can be integrated into the curriculum.
Over the years, with the advancement of technological interventions, this framework kept getting evolved. Earlier while technology was an aid, as years passed by, technology started playing a central role and made some difficult pedagogies simpler through tech interventions and made teaching more real-time and effective. This can be tracked as the framework later on elaborated different pathways that can contribute towards a successful TPACK framework where pedagogy-driven, content-driven or technology-driven possible pathways were visualised. Ultimately in 2019, one of the co-authors who initiated this framework- Mishra, again revised the TPACK framework to put the whole TPACK framework inside the realm of contextual knowledge. Through this, he emphasized the importance of Contextual knowledge as the driving indicator of effective teaching through TPACK. In this revision paper, Mishra argues in favour of context being a very important aspect of effective learning. The framework highlights how an effective EdTech programme is not merely driven or accelerated by content made available through the technology platform but is also dependent on how content and pedagogical principles are enabled using technology in the realm of the context. While within India and worldwide, EdTech is in high demand, most of these platforms are learning content repositories. In the overall EdTech context, the right blend of pedagogy, content and technology is required to achieve effective learning. The approach of pedagogical content changes when in the tech environment.
Especially when looking through the lens of socio-economic demographics, creating effective EdTech content for children studying in regional languages requires a different and more nuanced approach. Let us look at pedagogy and content aspects in the context of regional needs in detail and also review the challenges that we are trying to overcome while creating regional content.
Content that can enhance learning:
Rethinking learning in the space of EdTech also requires reimagining the role of teaching instructions. In a conventional classroom, the instructions can be customised and repeated to suit the child’s need; the teacher can choose to extend the dialogue, re-explain the lesson and bring the children to pace. In short, there are more opportunities for a teacher to course-correct/ customise the instructions in the conventional classroom to enable learning. There is verbal and non-verbal feedback from children that the teacher can utilise to change the course and to make teaching possible.
In the case of technology-enabled learning, since all these aspects of teaching are predominantly done by technology, adaptivity of the content both in terms of the pedagogical level of the child and the interaction with the tech platform through instructions can become challenging. Thus, for various learning concepts, ensuring the relevance, simplicity and universality of the instructions becomes a key component while designing the content.
Hence, the regional context for technical concepts doesn’t only have to undergo translation, but it also has to be contextualised. This is a very challenging task. The aspects of contextualization are discussed in greater detail later in the article.
Providing content in regional languages: Pedagogy & content challenge:
- Regional demographics and their unique pre-concept learning needs: A huge number of children who use the regional content are from Government schools. Many of these children are either first-generation learners or have parents who do not play an active role in their child’s learning. These children start their schooling directly from grade-1 at the Government school and hence, the pre-school activities that orient children towards scholastic needs are also not fully aligned. Hence, learning content or bridge content that can provide more hand-holding with pre- concept learning is required for the children to jumpstart with their grade-specific learning. This content is required to be engaging, simple and should be aided with visuals and sounds.
More emphasis needs to be put on the foundational concepts of literacy and numeracy for children to develop early literacy and numeracy more scientifically. Thus, EdTech content requires to follow pedagogical research trends, to innovate, pilot and formalize the learning modules/ units before it goes live.
These children may also require special support on how to handle a computer/ a tablet and how to interact with the learning platform.
- Regional Languages and their unique linguistic profiles: While different subject content requires different types of content flow and approaches, for a subject like Language, the content creation needs can be unique depending on the Linguistic profile of the regional language. While a very small part of the content can be translated and used across languages, most of the grammatical concepts require content that is created in that language. In such cases, keeping the learning hierarchy uniform across various languages can become very complex.
For some languages like Hindi that are spoken across states, with different demographics, specific words and meanings take a different contextual viewpoint needing further customization.
Regional Content and the need to have customised translation:
Unlike Languages, for technical subjects like Mathematics and Science, most of the content remains universal across states. What often requires a close review is the grade alignment as different states choose to introduce some particular topics at different grade levels.
However, translation itself requires customisation to make the content more inclusive. In the deep rural villages of North India, a question using Idli or Pizza as an item to check for application of mathematical concept can stand defeated due to the non-familiarity of these food items. In such cases, utilising items that are universally available/ used or further region-wise customisation is required. This is especially true for lower grades.
Thus, the approach to translation often requires trans-creation of the technical content where the context is customised and appropriate mathematical and scientific terms are used. E.g. While a Triangle can be translated as त्रिकोण in Hindi, the textbooks use the term त्रिभुज for the same which is where a slight difference in the translation can confuse the children and they may find it difficult to attempt such questions or be unable to understand the content related to these terms.
Understanding learning patterns and gaps based on student responses:
To understand the alternate mental models that children might have that impact their learning or hinder concept mastery, it is important to have student responses that can help us identify prevalent learning gaps. This becomes more challenging when there is a unique content creation approach for different regions/ states.
This requires taking a different stance to see how content can be designed in a way that while it continues to cater to the unique learning needs of each region, it also has anchor points that can allow us to build an understanding about the areas where children generally struggle.
For this, a detailed analysis of common and unique skills is required and once the common skills are identified across regions, with pedagogical acumen, skills that are important for learning are identified and a sub-set of content is kept uniform across the regional languages. This can make learning trend analysis possible.
Mindspark’s approach to addressing these specific regional needs:
Educational Initiatives has focused on PEdTech (Pedagogy + Technology) which is utilising core pedagogical principles to provide a rich learning experience to children through a Tech medium. Educational Initiatives’ Mindspark is a learning Programme that is available in 9 languages with 8 being regional Indian languages.
The content has been curated, customised, contextualised, translated, trans-created and also freshly created to cater to the unique regional needs. At present around 2,00,000 children across India are learning through Mindspark content. There are key concepts identified where content is kept universal and common across regions to provide more information to the education fraternity on the learning gaps and the remedy thereof.
Through regular internal content reviews, data-driven review of questions, student interactions and feedback from teachers/ children, the content is continuously improvised to provide meaningful learning opportunities to children.
Way Forward through student feedback:
The challenges explained here are not easy to solve. These require constant review and feedback not just from the subject or pedagogy experts, but also from teachers, from the field team ensuring the implementation and uptake of the learning programme and last but most importantly, from the students who are learning through the programme.
To make the content more meaningful, we must monitor the learning gains. And while learning gains can be a great quantitative parameter, regular, frequent interactions with children can help us understand how students perceive, process, predict and perform using the content provided to them.
Thus, the way forward for us is to create the content in more regional languages and seek constant feedback and inputs from the end-user who is a student in this case.
Shulman, L. E. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Research, 15 (2), 4–14.
Punya Mishra (2019): Considering Contextual Knowledge: The TPACK Diagram Gets an Upgrade, Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education
Matthew J. Koehler, Punya Mishra, Kristen Kereluik, Tae Seob Shin, and Charles R. Graham (2014) The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework. In: J.M. Spector et al. (eds.) Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. Springer Science & Business Media, New York.
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