Rapid globalisation and emerging technological advancements continually influence education around the world. Educational leaders are not only required to develop student learning in present scenarios but also prepare them for future challenges, such as working for jobs and working with technologies that have not been invented yet. Most recently, the pandemic paved the way for the monumental shift to online learning across continents.
Studying and teaching online requires little or no access to printed learning resources such as textbooks and notebooks for writing. For millions of students this transition from paper-based learning to digital learning has been sudden. However, the long-term absence of access to physical learning resources presents us with the opportunity to reflect on current educational practices and gives that much needed courage to the community to break the glass-ceiling to improve for the greater good.
For decades, traditional note-taking and assessment methods have been pen-paper based. There is enough evidence to suggest positive correlation between effective longhand note-taking in the classroom and its impact on information encoding, recall and retention. However, most of these research studies date back to the 70s and the 80s when laptop usage in the classroom was not prevalent. With advancement in technology and its wider access in the educational setting, students taking notes on their laptops is now a common practice and an often-essential part of learning in schools and universities with initiatives such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop).
Interestingly with the evolution of technology, students can now write on their laptops using active stylus while benefitting from longhand note-taking for deeper processing skills. These pen-enabled laptops are capable of supporting seamless integration of modern technology such as cloud computing for convenient storage, retrieval, and sharing of information, while providing the similar neuroscientific benefits of traditional pen-paper based writing.
Now, the real question we need to ask ourselves would be ‘Is integrating pen-enabled laptops in education that once in a century opportunity, the silver lining created by this pandemic to reimagine the future of education for the decades to come?’
Is an independent and personal device where students can read and write with a stylus, appear for an assessment, store and upload files, communicate and collaborate with peers and teachers without using even a sheet of paper or sharing a single piece of stationery, all the while supporting safety and hygiene standards, a perfect companion for the blended learning model that most schools are looking at? After all in the current scenario there is an added risk of transmission for both educators and students when physically handling resources.
For educators, who are now spending multiple hours a day downloading, marking and uploading student work using traditional keyboard laptops, a pen-enabled device could be the answer for reduced workloadand efficient collaboration in online, blended or face-to-face learning models. Is this the missing part of the puzzle we are searching for forthe whole community wellbeing?
Opponents of digital devices in education will question the increased screen time with pen-enabled laptops if students and teachers were to access all their learning materials through these devices. Further,latest academic research shows significantly higher levels of reading comprehension with paper based resources. The recent studies comparing reading modes concluded that with easy annotation capacity and slow reading speed, there is a significant advantage of reading on paper as compared to reading text on digital screens, irrespective of the typeof deviceused.
This brings us back to the same question, why do we access pen-enabled laptops if they do not provide the same learning experience as paper based resources? The answer is simple. Pen-enabled laptops are research based tools for learning. With their advanced capacity to write while producing similar neuron connections in the brain as pen-paper, they should be used as and when required by trained educators to complement deeper learning experiences derived from paper-based learning. The main focus and the strategy here is to create and complement the best possible learning environment for students irrespective of online, face to face or blended learning models.
With blended learning as one of the most pragmatic solutions for the future of learning, it isour ethical and moral responsibility to provide the best possible access to education based on latest research and pedagogical approaches. The educational community must recognise and cater to the rapidly evolving educational landscape in the post-COVID world. The pandemic is an opportunity to facilitate access to improved pedagogical strategies and learning tools such as pen-enabled laptops for students and their families to support learning benefits of paper-based resources in the closest possible way. Therefore, going forward, it is the need of the hour to reimagine the future of education and provide equity of access, personalised instruction and promote wellbeing for all stakeholders while developing frameworks for future of education in the post-COVID era.