Networking of Teacher Education Institutions

Using ICT and Ku-Band Satellite EduSat


A. N. Maheshwari



    Our teacher educators are isolated. Is it possible for us to network them with one another and create one of the world’s largest teacher education system, so that instead of working in isolation, institutions will work in tandem and will be linked in real time?

    The country has made tremendous progress in space research. Various satellites have been put up for communication, video and audio transmissions, remote sensing etc. India’s expertise in space sciences has been globally acknowledged. Now there is a vision and commitment to have a satellite called EduSat. All this is going to happen in a short period. It will have implications on education system at all levels, including on school education, particularly the elementary education level. It may be possible for us to reach out to the block level and the type of teaching-learning which for all of us are like a dream today will become a reality. As of now, because of the developments in communication technology, we are inundated with information, which comes to us on television. There are advertisements like "Kar lo Duniya muthi mein". We are living at a time when for getting a landline connection one no longer has to wait in a queue. One can obtain a mobile. Different communication technologies are being offered to customers. No matter in which part of the country we are, it is possible for us to link with the global communication network.

    These developments in information and communication technology have offered possibilities for raising the quality of school education. By introducing new instructional technology, which will use multi-media, we can make learner-centred pedagogy. Umpteen numbers of possibilities have emerged, which are changing the lifestyle. In walks of life other than in education, we can see the impact of ICT. All of us carry plastic cards for banking purposes. We are able to get our train bookings done through computerised system. There is a central computer system to tell us, if we want to travel from Chennai to Tiruchi, whether we can get the booking from Delhi itself. So, in almost all walks of life, there is a significant impact of information and communication technology.

    The challenge is to use the ICT for education. If this has to happen in education, the change has to begin from the teacher education system. Teacher educators will have to assume new responsibilities and come out of phobia of the machine that it is something which has to be touched by somebody else. The reality is that it is so user-friendly that we can easily use it ourselves without requiring assistance of IT professionals. It involves no greater mystery than handling a remote control of television with which we shuffle channels for selecting programmes that we want to watch. For using ICT in education, a paradigm shift would be needed in our approach to teaching-learning, which so far relies on learning material in print form, like the text-books or the workbooks for children. The teacher will now use much less expensive and much more powerful multi-media for enhancing learning by customising it to suit the needs of individual learner. We have to prepare ourselves for it.

    What can we do to realise it during the Tenth Plan. In planning the perspective plans we will have to take note of it. NCTE has carried out an exercise and visualised how 3000 teacher education institutions would be networked, how 25,000 teacher educators would be made computer literate and how these 25,000 teacher educators would reach out to 30 lakh teachers in service.

    There are two schemes – (1) networking of teacher education institutions using the Internet; and (2) use of the EduSat.  Both schemes are going to take off during the 10th plan period. Therefore, while making State Plans and Budgets (SPB), the States shall have to take note of them. These schemes will also help in breaking our isolation. We will no longer say, "I am located in Nagaland, you are here in Delhi and another person is in Chattisgarh". The NCTE during the past three years has taken upon itself the challenge of doing the groundwork so that the teacher education system can absorb the ICT initiatives.

    The NCTE has developed thus far a set of 8 CD ROMs, which have been sent to all the recognized teacher education institutions. These CD ROMs are exemplars on how teacher educators can prepare learning material, resource material in multi-media that too inexpensively. The point that the NCTE wants to make is that the human brain can be used for storing information, and more significantly for thinking. Information can now be readily stored on raw material like silicon, which is purified common sand. Information storage devices do not require precious metals. On a twenty rupee blank CD, 650 MB of information can be stored. And, 650 MB of information, to give an idea, is sufficient for storing all the 36 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica! The full text of the Encyclopedia Britannica is available on one CD ROM. So, what is the price of storing 36 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica? Twenty rupees. The cost that the NCTE has incurred in preparing its CD ROM – not the development cost, i.e. the expert time, but once a master is available - is within thirty rupees, which covers the cost of the basic CD, replication, cost of printing of inlay card etc.

    Never before such opportunities were available, which now offer themselves for effective teaching-learning. So far in our country the ICT has been largely used by the entertainment industry and for business and commerce. Instead of purchasing music on a cassette, we prefer to buy it on a CD : Instead of seeing movies which require a VCR, we see them using the DVD and the VCD players. So, changes have taken place in our lifestyle. But what is the effect of these changes on teacher education? Are we prepared for taking advantage of it? If not, what do we have to do and how do we prepare ourselves for it?

    The NCTE has created one of the biggest portals on the teacher education system. One can access from the Internet some 20 publications of the NCTE in a user-friendly form. Suppose, one is interested in consulting any one of the NCTE publications, and wants to select some pages out of it for some specific purpose, that one can do now directly from the Internet. Profiles of 2600 teacher education institutions are available on the NCTE website. Many of you would have also seen them on the NCTE CD-ROM, which contains mirror image of the NCTE website. When one is on the NCTE website or is browsing the NCTE CD, what opens up first is its Home Page. Once one is on the NCTE Home Page, from it one can easily find information, say, about teacher education in one of the North Eastern States, to know what is happening in teacher education in that State. Let us say we pick up Mizoram. Now in Mizoram, three programmes are being offered – B.Ed., Diploma in teacher education and Hindi diploma. Now, let us see how many institutions are offering B.Ed. in Mizoram? There is only one. It is the College of Teacher Education (CTE) in Aizawl. All information about this institution such as its address, telephone number etc. are available to anyone at anytime from the NCTE website. This institution has 12 full-time teachers, it was established in 1975, its management is government, it is affiliated to the North-Eastern Hill University, it offers B.Ed. secondary programme, fee charged is Rs. 290, and minimum eligibility for admission is 45% in graduation etc.

    We may move on to the scheme for networking of teacher education institutions under the Tenth Plan scheme and professional development in ICT of teacher educators and teachers. We have visualised that all teacher educators will be made ICT literate. That means, not only those who are in IASEs, DIETs, CTEs but also those who are working in unaided private institutions. All 25,000 teacher educators, we have visualised, will be made ICT literate. Once that happens, it will create a multiplier impact because each year the teacher education system gives 200 thousand new teachers to the nation. The challenge is to give to the nation such teachers as can handle ICT with facility and can prepare using it teaching-learning materials, access information from the Internet, customise lessons by not only consulting books in their own library but also the world library available on the world wide web.

    What we have planned to arrange shortly is that there will be an Internet server connected to a centralised server and each institution will be allotted a web account. So the NCTE would like every teacher educator to be able to handle Internet, create database of his/her institution. Any innovation that one does can be put by that person on the institution’s Home Page. 3000 Universal Resource Locator (URL) will be given through a centralised system. Once all of us get connected through the Internet, then we will prepare web pages, create forum for chat etc. Like-minded people, instead of all coming to Delhi or some other city, which is difficult to arrange, will be able to interact with each other in real time, once it is announced that we should be on the Internet at such and such time, on such and such date. Then all like-minded people would be able to hold conference, on-line and in real time, can chat, can take part in discussion forum, news groups, contact each other through e-mail etc. NCTE will provide server support; it can be dial-up networking or through some other mode. This is what is going to happen under the ICT scheme. Let us prepare ourselves for it.

    Under the scheme, hardware will be provided only to NCTE, SCERT, IASE, DIET. Hardware will not be provided to institutions not covered under the scheme. But the training of their faculty is provided in it. We will develop ICT based instructional packages for teacher educators and implement a programme for its incorporation in the curricula of pre-service teacher education courses. The in-service education of all teacher educators will be arranged with the help of master-trainers drawn from the universities, the private sector organisations involved with ICT education, individual experts drawn from professional societies such as the Computer Society of India etc. There are a number of professionals who can help us. We will take the help of whoever is willing to render help to NCTE in promoting the use of ICT by the teacher educators. There are some details which we have visualised – such as the type of professional support that will be provided to the SCERT, IASEs and DIETs etc. We will formulate a committee of experts. The software for teaching-learning available in the market may not be suitable for us. It is expected that when 25,000 professionals working in about 3000 teacher education institutions with nearly two hundred thousand student-teachers start preparing multi-media lessons on teaching-learning etc., vast amount of software would get generated. We would like to capture from the pool of software innovative practices, which are worth being disseminated to the teacher educations system. The committee of experts will examine the software contributions and make selections from the software pool for nation-wide distribution.

    Then comes the training. We will start with five ICT professionals, who will develop the training material and train the master-trainers. After preparing the master-trainers teacher educators will be trained. There will be 250 master-trainers who will in turn train 25000 teacher educators. It is all manageable. Each master-trainer will train hundred teacher educators. As and when 25,000 teacher educators who know how to use ICT in teaching-learning become available to the teacher education system, we can then go to the 30 lakh teachers. That will be the next phase.

    Now the other proposal – the KU-band EduSAT. This is already in the last stages of approval by the Government. Not going into technicalities as to what KU-band is, it would serve our purpose if we would have heard of the DTH (direct to home). So far, the "Gyan Darshan", signals come on the extended C-band. For receiving the extended C-band, a large paraboliadal dish is required, something like the dish antenna that cable distributors have. They receive the signal and then distribute it. That is very cumbersome. INSET of teacher educators of DIETs was tried out using the IGNOU tele-conferencing facilities. The same approach is being used by Karnataka and Gujarat for in-service education of teachers. Two-way audio and one-way video interactivity are being used. For that also, the extended C-band is being used. But once the KU-band become available, only 1.2 meter dish antenna will be required for receiving signals. What we are visualising is that we will reach down to the block level. The Ku-Band antenna can be fixed towards the satellite without involving professional support. The KU-band has a bigger bandwidth than the C-band. Its reach is not necessarily the entire country, and its different beams can be focussed on different states. Once, there is a state level hub, it will not only be used for elementary teacher education and secondary teacher education, but it will also be used by the higher education sector, professional education sector etc.. So let us not worry about all the target groups who would be covered. But what we should be concerned with is what we are going to do with it for teacher education. We would like to reach to the block level. At the block centres hardware required will be mainly a 1.2 meter dish, a telephone and a computer with printer etc. It will increase the reach of education to the remote areas, strengthen the distance education effort, provide effective training to teachers – in-service and pre-service. It can be used to supplement the curriculum based teaching, provide access to experts and sharing of quality resources. This is going beyond networking of 3000 teacher education institutions. This is what KU-band would enable us to achieve.

    What is the vision? Number of districts in the country is about 500; on an average there are 10 blocks in each district, thus there are 5000 blocks, number of teachers located in each block is about 600, so the intention is to reach out to 30 lakh teachers through the KU-band satellite.

    What are the technical possibilities of using EduSat? We can download programmes directly in our computers, arrange on-line education with the Internet, create audio interactivity using telephone as the return link, delivery of video lessons etc. All this will be arranged using the studio of each State with an uplink hub. The studio will have an uplink facility to the satellite. We may not concern ourselves with what is going to happen at the studio, which will be located in each State. Programmes will be generated and beamed in local languages. This scenario is as real as the claim that now everybody can be potentially connected with the cell-phone technology! We have to prepare ourselves for taking advantage of the EduSat for teaching-learning.

    What has been said above should make us think, and plan the use of advanced technologies for teacher education, so that we do not miss this opportunity. Let us not feel intimidated by technology. What we would like to do with it is teaching-learning. Knowledge about the technology of EduSat or that of the Internet, may be left to the professionals. What we want with them is to be able to interact with each other and use them for teaching-learning. We will then be able to communicate in real time without involving journeys for having face-to-face meetings for exchanging our experiences.