The days of rote learning are over.
Schools are encouraging students to take the reins of learning into their own hands and ride into the digital world around them to discover its wonders. To usher IN this fresh approach to learning, schools will need more than whiteboards, tables and chairs.
Leading the way in this direction is a Singapore-based Global Indian International School (GIIS) with its virtual classrooms -- spaces designed to drive learning beyond physical walls and ensure that students gain critical skills needed to compete in a digital world.
Situated within the Punggol Digital District, the state-of-the-art campus is equipped with the tools and technologies needed to impart education relevant in the 21st century.
“GIIS is taking a proactive approach towards aligning ourselves with the Smart Nation drive. Our virtual classrooms initiative will ensure the campus sits snugly in Singapore’s planned Punggol Digital District which is geared towards being the digital cluster and a town of the future,” said Atul Temurnikar, Co-founder and Chairman, Global Schools Foundation (GSF) Singapore.
Technology as an enabler for holistic learning
Virtual Classrooms will use Zoom technology to connect to educators and peers from around and interact through discussion boards, thus expanding their learning environment beyond the four walls of a physical classroom and helping them build a wider network for future. These classrooms will be fully equipped with high speed connectivity, latest gadgets and ultra-modern audio-visual facilities to enable such virtual connectivity across geographies.
"The focus is to provide our students a learning ground so huge that it gives them enough space to interact, explore and innovate," said Temurnikar.
Leveraging digital tools for engagement and interaction
Touchscreen television screens will be a feature in every class, providing a dynamic digital display between the computers of teachers and students. It will enable them to stream videos, display work and even airdrop personal documents. Audio systems are fitted in each classroom, and a collar microphone is provided for each teacher to ensure audibility for students.
The smart TVs can be used for a variety of learning activities like live transmission of fields trips, or interaction with students in other schools. They can also double up as virtual whiteboards or smartboards for student access. In-class cameras will record lectures, which can be accessed during exam time for revision purposes.
While students will use iPads operating on a 2GB connectivity, teachers will be equipped with a laptop and an iPad, which is not only the basis for an interactive educational experience – but also an effort towards going paperless. All this technology will have a solid backbone support of 40GB fibre broadband - the highest speed available in any premises in Singapore to date.
By expanding the learning environment beyond physical classrooms and the campus, students get to engage in collaborative learning with peers from all around the world.
Advanced understanding of digital technology
Teachers will blend new teaching methods with a participatory culture to help students adapt to the needs of the future. Augmented Reality (AR), which is touted as one of the next big disruptors in technology, will be used in classroom learning to make it more engaging.
Through apps like Jig Space, students will able to enjoy experiential learning at their own pace.
Campus in a garden
Sustainability is one of the core aims of a smart city. In line with being located in a “City in a Garden”, the GIIS SMART Campus has been designed and built to maximise the green footprint.
The campus is strewn with lush, green surroundings, while the building itself is shaped as a nest allowing ample sunlight and natural breeze to stream into the classrooms and learning areas. The architectural design takes advantage of natural sunlight and shade while allowing fresh air to flow through outdoor areas.
There are also systems in place to conserve energy, harvest rainwater and manage waste effectively. Solar panels provide a source of renewable energy, while motion sensors regulate the use of energy by only powering up in the presence of humans in each area.
Smart education in a Smart Nation
Education is one of the key areas of Singapore’s Smart Nation push. To effectively prepare students for a dynamic workplace of the future, the Singapore government has highlighted the need for the education sector to keep up with the changes happening globally.
In a speech last year, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan challenged A-levels students to code an artificial intelligence (AI) programme that could take the exams for them. The way exams are conducted today is "archaic and belongs to the previous industrial revolution," he said. As we move into the fourth industrial revolution, there is a need to seriously rethink the way education is being delivered.
“The GIIS SMART Campus merges NextGen techniques with our holistic pedagogy for 21st century learning outcomes. We want to provide our students with the latest tools and methodology at hand to learn skills that will equip them fully so they effectively take on the challenges of the digital future,” said Temurnikar.
As an outcome, students get different perspectives, learn about different cultures, and can get a glimpse into how fellow students live, how they think, and how they learn. Another advantage of using virtual classrooms is that students also gain valuable computer and digital skills they need to compete in the 21st century.