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Future Classroom: BRAC initiatives for Computer Aided Learning (CAL)


II we talk about the sustainability oI the traditional arrangements inside the classroom, can we
conIidently say that it will exist Ior the next 20 years? Or is it Iragile enough to give way to the
incarnation oI a brand-new system? Will the traditional teacher-centered classroom be eIIective in
the rapid development oI the technology and learning oIIering/curriculum? Will the present
educational tools & practices be able to prepare the students to enter and successIully cope with the
high-tech global world? Will the present learning environment ensure skills at high standard at
diIIerent areas and levels so that learners can successIully compete at the global context?
All these questions peep into mind when we come across with the present lamentable condition oI
the teaching-learning environment, especially in the rural area oI Bangladesh. While exploring the
remedies and causes behind this, we came to realize that some existing contents oI the textbooks,
irrespective oI subjects, are very diIIicult Ior the students to internalize. Even the teachers Iace
diIIiculty in giving the students a clear understanding oI these contents.
Education is a dynamic concept. Keeping pace with the development oI knowledge and technology,
the process oI adaptation and modernization should be continued. Ensuring education Ior all is a
great challenge and qualitative change in education system is the most important priority oI the time.
The most important Iorce behind quality education and development oI skilled human resource is a
team oI qualiIied, skilled and committed teachers.
Evidence is mounting around the world to support technology in education. Advocates` claim that
21st-century inIormation and communication tools as well as more computer aided instructional
applications can positively inIluence student learning processes and outcomes. InIormation
Technology has become inseparable and most important part oI education all over the world.
Considering all these, BRAC started working in the Iield oI ICT in education to supplement the
endeavors oI the government. Introduced in 2005, Computer Aided Learning (CAL) Programme is
being used a teacheing tool in the classroom. The main task oI the program is to develop interactive
education soItware based on the national curriculum. These are to improve the teaching quality and
improve learning oI the students while making the classes more interesting and exciting Ior the
students.
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The basic objectives of CAL are:
to move the classroom Irom teacher centered to a more interactive and engaging one
to ensure conceptual clarity and better application
to increase teachers` understanding oI the lessons
to create selI learning provision Ior both teachers and students
to enable teachers to use technology as an eIIective tool Ior educating students, and
to prepare the students to enter and successIully cope with the ever-expanding high-tech
global environment
Traditional Classroom - Present approach:
It won`t be an exaggeration saying that most oI the schools in the rural areas are worth demanding oI
reconstruction Irom the point oI view oI providing adequate Iacilities needed Ior the pupils.
Considering the present scenario it seems a Iar cry reaching the ascertain goal oI getting all the
students well-educated. Hence, iI we talk about a radical change oI the whole situation over night it
would sound unrealistic. What we can venture is to bring about some changes in teaching-learning
system, needless to say, through CAL.
First, let us take into account the number oI students in a classroom. In most cases what so happens
is really alarming. The average number oI students in a large classroom is 70. Sometime it exceeds
100. Consequently, when a teacher tries
to engage all the students into a particular
lesson it is nipped in the bud. A certain
number oI regular students may grasp
what the teacher delivers, but the rest is
deprived due to the lack oI Ieasible
arrangement and eventually, by the end oI
a class a little output is derived giving
way to a boisterous environment. As a
matter oI Iact the ultimate result becomes really detrimental. Most oI the students can neither leave
the school due to Iilial pressure nor can they add any remarkable credit to the result board. Thus, the
number oI unskilled, incompetent and unemployed people is increasing day by day. The
management committee also cannot help the situation Ior lack oI Iund.
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Now, let us dive into the teaching-learning system. Traditional classrooms are basically lecture
based. It is a one way system oI teaching and the scope oI students` participation is very meager
amount. As a result, students cannot enter deep into a particular lesson and pick up the gist out oI it.
When the teacher gives lectures most oI the students are reluctant to listen to him, rather they Ieel at
ease to get involved in other activities devoid oI learning. In some cases, they cannot even say what
the class is about. In this way at the end oI a year students are seen to run aIter coaching centers,
private tutors and guide books. Though this is possible Ior comparatively well oII students the under
privileged ones Iall into tremendous doldrums. The text items are always leIt behind. Obtaining a
satisIactory score by hook or crook becomes the only goal oI studies. As there is no involvement oI
the students in the class it becomes monotonous to a great extent and students cease to have the
interest oI coming to school. There is hardly any practice oI group work, pair work, chain drill, etc.
in a traditional classroom. Scope oI interaction with each-other and with teacher is not upto the
expected level as well. Students cannot interact with each-other and with the teacher as well. In the
prevailing teaching-learning system there are a Iew scopes Ior using audio-visual aids. Instead oI
having a deep insight oI particular lesson students have to be contented with a hazy idea. At the same
time the proper nourishment oI auditory and verbal organs in the constructive genres are barely
materialized. But, steps have been taken by the Government to change the present scenario.
Another massive drawback oI our traditional classroom is deIiciency oI trainings oI the teachers.
That is why they do not know the diIIerent techniques oI Iacilitation. Compelling the students
memorize some selected items Irom the text book becomes the only duty while at class room. How
to engage every single students, how to have a Ilash back oI the previous class, how to make the
students interact with each-other, how to help the students practice Iour skills, is a long way to
achieve in a traditional class room system. Besides, making a bridge with the text and the
surroundings oI the students is totally absent. Consequently, the learning does not give any vent to
the bent oI minds oI the students.
CAL Classroom - Future Approach:
In such hazardous condition oI education the epoch-making knight in shining armor is none other
than CAL. It is such a teaching-learning that aims at wiping out most oI the short comings oI a
traditional classroom. Incorporation oI technologies in one hand makes the students acquainted with
the advanced world and on the other hand it helps to internalize the contents with total satisIaction.
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At Iirst let us have a look at the sitting arrangement oI a CAL classroom. In a CAL classroom there
are two systems. One is teaching through multimedia projector with a huge screen and the other is
teaching with a single computer connecting 5-7 monitors. In a multimedia classroom seats are
arranged in two or three rows. Students can participate in the class altogether with rapt attention. The
teacher can elicit answers Irom the class concentrating all at the same time. The opportunity oI chain
drill is much higher in this system. Management oI a large number oI students at a time is much
easier in this system. The other system oIIers a U-shaped sitting arrangement comprising 4-5
students in a single bench. In this way an equal distribution oI teaching is made sure.
II we come across with the Iamiliarization with technologies during school level education CAL
should be the best choice. Making the students Iamiliar with the use oI computer and internet is a
great advantage at this stage oI their liIe. Along with the operation oI computer and multimedia
projector dealing with the diIIerent parts oI it becomes the part and parcel oI their liIe which
deIinitely helps them to grasp a brighter Iuture in the competitive job market in the near Iuture.
CAL materials are immensely interesting as these are jam-packed with cartoons and animations.
Inclusion oI lots oI exercises makes it even IruitIul as the suIIicient scope Ior practice is there.
Another noteworthy Ieather to the crown oI CAL prosperity is variegated types oI games. It makes
the students spell bound to the text elements more than ever beIore. Besides, designing the material
with scope Ior group work, pair work, chain drill, and individual elicitation makes it possible to
make the best use oI the material. Engagement oI every single student is assured applying these
techniques. In the math and science classes drawing, which consumes a huge amount oI time oI the
teachers, is done perIectly within a short time and in an easier way. It helps the students with the
process oI creation through audio-visual descriptions. Here one thing should be noted that even the
shy students are inspired to Ieel Iree to participate in the class. For the poor & girl students who are
deprived oI various Iacilities due to enormous social bindings CAL is undoubtedly a savior.
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CAL materials are designed in such a way that Iour language skills & vocabulary oI English; and
practice with practical elements in Math & Science are done. When real liIe elements are
incorporated with text book materials it helps the students to have a better understanding. They can
then link the text book items to the environment they are Iamiliar with and they don`t Ieel alienated.
Again, when an item is heard and at the same time is visualized it becomes easier to understand. This
is kept in mind while designing a CAL material.
In a CAL classroom only the students are not beneIited, but also the stature oI the teachers is
changed altogether. He/she becomes more adept in class Iacilitation and deriving a good harvest
Irom the class. Their conceptual clarity on a particular lesson is expedited Irom an inert condition.
They learn how to use technology as an eIIective tool Ior educating students.
In a nut-shell, along with increasing the pass rate oI the students CAL decreases the rate oI drop out
to a great extent as well. It is the mean oI Iuture education as education and technology intertwined
here with great enjoyment and eIIectiveness.
CAL helps to create a teaching learning environment that contains indigenous spirit and elements
and which will lead to a liIe- oriented development oI knowledge oI the learners and to stimulate the
intellectual and practical qualities oI the students. CAL materials can also be used as a
supplementary tool in Teachers` Training, as a selI-learning tool Ior teachers and as learning
Iacilitation tool Ior classroom teaching. It helps to ensure the marginal competencies oI students at
each level so that they are discouraged Irom rote learning and encouraged to use their own
thoughtIulness, imagination and urge Ior curiosity.
CAL is also to attach substantial importance to inIormation and communication technology (ICT)
along with Mathematics, Science and English in order to build up a nation based on knowledge-
orientation and cultivation oI ICT. CAL ensures a creative, Iavourable and joyIul environment Ior
the students Ior their proper protection and congenial development. All oI this, in turns, will
deIinitely increase learning objectives and will improve the teaching-learning environment.
Experience shows that CAL programme is bringing drastic changes in schools. Students are much
motivated and can learn eIIectively through computer aided learning. It is observed that the
acceptance and appreciation oI the CAL among the head teachers, subject teachers and students are
encouraging. The teachers oI pilot schools state that now they Ieel more comIortable in managing a
large class. In addition, it is evident that Students have become more attentive in classes and they
enjoy the CAL sessions to a great extent. In a nut-shell, CAL approach has done an epoch-making
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deed in the Iield oI understanding a subject Irom the students` end and teaching Iacilitation
techniques Irom the teachers` end.
The CAL teaching contents compensate the shortage oI expert teachers. The prepared contents save
teachers` time and energy and stimulate teachers` creativity to give examples Irom real liIe situation.
This is evident Irom the response and appreciation by the head teachers, School Management
Committee members and the teachers oI the schools where CAL programme is implemented.
As the Government is committed to incorporate IT in every possible avenue including education, we
are very optimistic that BRAC will be able to play the supportive but signiIicant role in converting
the traditional classroom into a technology based one. A huge investment is needed in order to
expand and implement ICT in increasing learning achievements. Investment in education means
investment Ior a brighter Iuture.