Overcoming Learning Barriers with Digital Technology

Overcoming Learning Barriers with Digital Technology

Future education trends are increasingly utilizing digital technology to personalize learning. However, the digitization of education in Indonesia still faces various challenges in terms of teachers and infrastructure.

Personalized and accessible learning makes learning fun for everyone and enables students to learn independently throughout their lives. This is the future of education that can be benefited from the development of digital technology, including the presence of artificial intelligence.

The Sinombayuga State Junior High School (SMP) located on the coast of Tomini Bay in South Bolaang Mongondow Regency, North Sulawesi, was unable to catch a signal, alias entered the blankspot area for 4G. In fact, even school electricity can go out indefinitely. When teachers need an internet connection, they have to be away from the school.

However, in 2021, schools will receive assistance of 45 units of chromebooks, laptops or portable computers running the ChromeOS operating system from Google, to support learning. In addition, there are routers and projectors sent to schools from a special allocation fund budget.

“Schools are happy, but confused about how to use it for learning because of internet network constraints,” said Salehuddin, Natural Sciences (IPA) teacher at SMP Negeri Sinombayuga, while sharing stories at the Google for Education event, Leader Series Indonesia 2023, in Jakarta, Wednesday (24/5/2023).

Salehuddin and the teachers thought hard about being able to take advantage of digital technology assistance for education. They believe the use of technology will help teachers to encourage students to be happy and interested in learning.

Internet network constraints had discouraged. After thinking hard, Salehuddin succeeded in utilizing the help of a chromebook to present offline or offline learning that felt online or online.

Schools are happy, but are confused about how to use them for learning because they are constrained by the internet network.

Schools also use a network with a local area network (LAN), which so far has only been used to carry out a computer-based national assessment once every year. Furthermore, textbooks and digital reading materials to learning videos are downloaded on chromebooks, including a virtual laboratory from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (Kemendikbudristek) portal.

Even though they are in remote areas, students can already learn with digital technology at school. When studying, the teachers divide students into several groups and distribute chromebooks that are used for learning, while the teacher facilitates discussions.

Salehuddin said he was shocked because the students screamed. At that time, practicum students made electrical circuits in a virtual laboratory which was accessed from a chromebook. There was a student who inserted the wrong battery causing an explosion that shocked the students.

“Fortunately the practice is in a virtual laboratory, so it’s safe. I can repeat again. The teacher also reminded them not to be afraid of making mistakes and to try until they succeed. Learning offline feels like online at school so it’s fun,” said Olpa Manil, one of the students, sharing her experiences via video.

The availability of digital learning in schools provides opportunities for many children to experience learning in a fun way. There are students who don’t have gadgets, have never used a laptop or portable computer, thanks to the Chromebook facility at school, students are getting used to independent learning. When they don’t understand the material, they can play the learning videos repeatedly.

”The digital technology in our school seems simple compared to the one in the city. However, in this way, we can prepare students to be ready to study in cities, no longer strangers to digital technology,” said Salehuddin.

Students with special needs

The use of digital technology to bring equality to access quality and fun learning is not only felt by students in remote areas, even those with limited internet network strength. For children with special needs, the presence of digital technology also overcomes learning barriers.

Darma Kusumah, Social Sciences (IPS) teacher at State 11 Special School (SLB) Jakarta, admitted that he was confused when he had to teach deaf students. Although a bachelor’s degree in special education, he is better equipped to teach students with visual impairments.

Overcoming these obstacles, Darma makes use of the voice typing feature when teaching deaf students. Even in the classroom, the Google Meet application is also used so that Darma can still interact with deaf students without using sign language.

Learning can also be presented with visualizations that interest students. Darma had experienced difficulties getting students with severe mental retardation to want to study. The student often goes out while studying. “Because there is a chromebook facility at school, I try to get students to study. These mentally retarded students become calmer and more active in participating in learning with their friends and are more easily persuaded without excessive emotions,” he said.

However, Darma had difficulty dealing with mentally retarded students’ learning methods when presenting abstract material. When explaining the round earth material, for example, Darma no longer uses a globe. He invited students to open Google Earth which presented an interesting visualization. “I try to ask questions that can captivate. I can use Google’s technological features for student learning,” said Darma.

Support for students with special needs is also carried out through digital technology vocational education programs. One of them is digital skills training support from the Laptop for Builders program conducted by AWS with the Sagasitas Foundation and other organizations. In addition, it is also given to high school/madrasah aliyah students and Islamic boarding schools.

Some time ago, Director of AWS Training and Certification Asia Pacific and Japan Andrew Sklar explained AWS’ efforts to improve talent skills, with an emphasis on a local program specifically for Indonesia, namely Laptop for Builders, starting in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. The program has trained more than 300,000 students.

The Laptop for Builders program is provided free of charge to provide course materials on web design and cloud basics in Indonesian, then donate laptops to support learning infrastructure. Furthermore, these instructors will distribute training materials and laptops to schools across the country.

Education trend

Vice President and General Manager of Google for Education Shantanu Sinha said, the transformation of Indonesian education by utilizing digital technology gives hope to answer education in the future. For the Leader Series event planned by Google for Education in several countries, Indonesia was chosen as the first country to hold this event. The event will also be held in South Korea, Japan, Australia and Taiwan.

On this occasion, the central government, regional leaders, regional education offices, educators, and the business world can learn from each other about the future of learning with the presence of technology, one of which is Google’s commitment. There are various experiences and good practices from Indonesia, Japan, and New Zealand regarding the use of digital technology to support the advancement of education that is relevant in preparing future generations to be different from previous times.

Shantanu added, there are three trends that determine the future of education, namely personalizing the learning process, improving the quality of teachers, and shifting to a lifelong learning mindset. Teachers already understand the need to personalize learning because each person is unique from motivation, learning method, to learning speed. However, doing so is not easy and takes time because of the large number of students and requires more effort.

In meetings, for example, there were complaints from teachers who felt they were not supported regarding strengthening competence in the use of digital technology in learning. The chromebook distribution program to schools has been massive, but school readiness varies.

The benefits of these facilities have been felt by educators and students because they are optimized for learning and administration. On the other hand, there are also many facilities that have not been used, or are only used for administrative matters, because teachers have not been trained to use them.

In order to support the transformation of education in the world, especially in Indonesia which is currently changing, Google released the report “The Future of Indonesian Education: Five Themes”. The five themes include improving the conditions of the learning environment, increasing teacher digital literacy, reducing administrative burdens, contextual learning experiences, and encouraging student-centered independent learning.

Indonesia needs to improve the conditions of the learning environment by supporting the development of digital infrastructure alongside critical thinking training to help students explore the new digital world. Another thing, increasing teachers’ digital literacy so that they better understand technology and apply it in the classroom effectively.

According to Shantanu, Google for Education also helps teachers collaborate with the Google Educators Group. The Ministry of Education and Culture did the same thing with the presence of the Merdeka Teaching Platform. ”Free Learning with Free Curriculum recognizes the uniqueness of each student in learning. Technology was developed to support teachers to be able to personalize learning in a fun way for each student,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology Nadiem Anwar Makarim said Merdeka Learning was the biggest educational transformation in Indonesian history. The Independent Curriculum can be voluntarily implemented in more than 300,000 educational units. There is support for educators and schools to implement it with the Merdeka Mengajar platform. Digital platform support is provided from financial reporting, national assessments, to educational evaluations.

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