Smart Education and use of Direct Media Service for Bridging the Digital Divide

A. N. Maheshwari


Schools which support students' learning and thinking skills with programs, infrastructure, tools, teachers and management aided by information and communication technologies are Smart Schools.

In a Smart School, students are autonomous learners; they learn how to learn. Smart Schools enable children to acquire abilities of constructing knowledge from available information. These abilities are crucial to a learning society.

The role of Information Technology (IT) in education, training and human resource development has been well recognized in the IT Action Plan of the Government of India. The Task Force on IT perceives information technology as a tool that has the power to transform the country into a prosperous and self-confident nation.

For the field of education, a promotional campaign, aptly named Operation Knowledge, proposes to universalize IT and IT-enabled education as a tool for processing and assimilating knowledge. This is a comprehensive approach for integration of technology into the classroom and further into the entire educational process.

The Smart School initiative is a significant component in the IT Action Plan (1998) for making the school system relevant to the changing nature of tomorrow's workplace, which will increasingly use information and communication technologies.

In the wake of recent developments in IT and communication technologies, Smart Schools have been established in a number of countries. These schools operate on the premise that

Smart Schools for enhancing the learning of students have effectively used computers, the Internet and other high band communication technology such as video-conferencing and now satellite data streaming and satellite radio.

In sharp contrast to traditional schools, Smart Schools offer an open environment for learning. Students function as autonomous learners. In a Smart School, the emphasis of learning shifts from acquiring discrete pieces of information to acquiring abilities by students such as constructing their own knowledge from information.

Why is this shift in the schooling process required? Because with advancements in science and technology, the world of work is changing and so are occupations. New skills are required to cope with these changes in the workplace. Each person, therefore, should have the ability to continuously update his or her skills and knowledge. To survive professionally in this fast changing world, one has to be a lifelong learner. Learning how to learn, therefore, is basic to all other skills that should be acquired at the school. Schools which support students' learning and thinking skills with programs, infrastructure, tools, teachers and management by using information and communication technologies will be the Smart Schools.

Different countries have different visions of Smart Schools but their mission goals are similar.

IT in Schools: General Expectations

Information technology embodies processes, applications and equipment by which information can be accessed, created, communicated, organized, analyzed or presented.

IT-enriched schooling ensures that children are IT-literate and that learning technologies are integrated into the schooling process. Children benefit from this integration as they develop skills of (a) performing specific functions using information technology and (b) using the global network for communicating and for collecting and organizing information obtained from the world wide sources and using it in the curricular context.

The Smart Schools Concept

The concept of Smart Schools is to be seen from the above perspective. With access to the state-of-the-art information and communication technologies, Smart Schools will provide a learning environment where the pupils will develop the ability to construct their own knowledge. All pupils have this ability. It can be enhanced by the use of computers, the Internet and other learning technologies.

Smart Schools shall function on the premise that learning how to learn is the ultimate skill (Learning : The Treasure Within, UNESCO, 1996). Pupils in Smart Schools will be autonomous learners and learn how to learn. This skill will be crucial to a learning society. Learning in Smart Schools will redefine the content, process and outcome of schooling. Students, teachers and the school management in each Smart School will be totally committed to the above concept.

The teacher's role in a Smart School shall be that of a navigator who will provide pupils with learning maps to chart out their learning paths. Learning will take place as pupils think, solve problems and make decisions through collaborative efforts.

The aims of the Smart Schools will be to promote balanced development, help integrate knowledge, skills and values, enable multidisciplinary, thematic and continuous learning and help acquire competencies to cope with the Information Age.


The role of the teacher

The role of the teacher in the Smart School has to be necessarily different from the traditional role. All Smart School teachers will

The school

The school as a whole will undergo changes in order to support the new practices. It will

The program

The schooling process in the Smart School will

Outcome of Smart Schooling

The skills and abilities which an IT-rich environment promotes can bring about change in the teaching-learning process. Research says those learning technologies in general

In the environment of Smart Schools, these skills and abilities will lead to a perceptible shift from


Imperatives for teachers

The most crucial factor in implementing and maintaining any innovation in the school is the teacher. Smart School teachers will require training so that they are



Use of Direct Media Service for Bridging the Digital Divide


Some recent developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) have emerged as viable alternatives that can be effectively used in bridging the digital divide and for delivering learning resources at near zero cost to learners across an entire continent. One such technology that has recently emerged on the scene is the satellite radio services. The Satellite Radio System combines Digital Audio and Digital Data transmission (Direct Media Service), two of the most powerful technologies of the Information Age, in the Direct-To-Home (DTH) mode.

The WorldSpace Radio employs satellite technologies of transmission and geographic reach with a footprint of 14 million square kilometres. That is all users within this area can receive digital sound and digital data with a 10 cm wide satellite antenna.

The WorldSpace offers Direct Media Service (DMS), a unique facility of delivering huge amounts of web enabled data to a user's PC by transmission from a satellite. The user's PC is connected to a WorldSpace digital receiver coupled with a PC Adapter or is provided with a PC Receiver Card. Data is loaded directly in the hard drive of the user's Pentium-class PC, without the need for a telephone line or connection to an Internet Service Provider. DMS is a one-way broadcast system and is not an interactive Internet system.

DMS supplements traditional Internet services by offering delivery of gigabytes of popular, educational and informative web-style content without "per-minute" telephone line charges. It is like getting a CD-ROM filled with web content, delivered right to your PC every day. Regarding the speed of delivery of data, the download rate can be as high as 128 kbps. The download occurs automatically and that too unattended, while user may be at work or otherwise engaged. Access to cached content, therefore, seems virtually instantaneous, like a high-speed connection or a CD-ROM.

Combining DMS with terrestrial Radio broadcast opens up yet another possibility for distance education. FM broadcast is an alternative voice delivery mode. It has an advantage over the satellite radio as it can be used for arranging interaction of listeners located within the range of the broadcast station with experts through phone-in facility.