Using technology effectively for research in an IB Classroom

An Extended Essay Coordinator finds unexpected benefits when using technology in the IB diploma programme

The debate rages on about the use of technology in a classroom but Deeksha Pathak, at the Aga Khan Academy, is able to reap very specific benefits from it. She has spent 7 years working with the IB and IGCSE curricula, prior to which she worked in the IT sector. This combination gives her an instinct with technology and how it can be integrated into lessons, without making it the centre of student learning.


At the Aga Khan Academy, Deeksha is very passionate about her role as an extended essay coordinator and looks at every moment or obstacle as a teachable one. “I believe that learning happens both ways,” she says. “My students have taught me a lot too! I look forward to many more DP 2 batches that will graduate successfully.” One of the hottest conversations in the education space, for instance, is about technology and whether it aids or hinder learning. Deeksha, with her background in working with different technological applications and software, looks at technology as a tool and not just a toy.

“It provides excellent learning opportunities not just for students but also for the teachers. There is a lot of creativity involved, a lot of innovation!” she says.

Deeksha thinks that the technology in education depends on the context, the curriculum and the implementation. It is perfect for the International Baccalaureate because it is such a layered and cross-disciplinary programme. With technology being used, it has become easy for teachers to collaborate, communicate and implement. All that the teachers have to do is to sit and plan.


Technology produces unexpected outcomes


In an inquiry-driven programme like the IB, technology further aids development. Deeksha gives us an example, drawn from her personal experience of also being a BHP teacher. The Big History Project (BHP) was started by Bill and Melinda Gates to encourage students to look at history in a unified manner. In 2017, the IB piloted a collaboration with the Big History Project to teach history in an interdisciplinary manner. Deeksha insists that the cross-pollination of disciplines, skills and sensibilities needed for a programme like BHP is possible due to technology.

“The students of grade 8 and grade 9 really benefit a lot by the focus that BHP provides us. This is why we do not restrict BHP, and extend its framework and resources to other classes and use it to motivate other teachers. Teachers come back to us sharing how the resources are helpful and about the interactive technology that makes the children want to hold on to its learning experience for a long time.”

Technology, therefore, works beautifully in terms of easing pressure of teachers, lesson planning and assistance for activities. Easy assessments are possible and exam-like situations can be simulated. However, she cautions, “of course, we must be careful about how much time a student spends with gadgets. We can develop and implement other strategies in the classroom to regulate this effectively.”


Ways to develop critical thinking skills


Deeksha insists that a platform like Callido’s EE Companion helps both in expected and unexpected ways. The expected outcomes include the students enjoying the platform immensely. They also become independent learners, learn to teach themselves through the modules, and branch out to explore new resources.


There have been unexpected outcomes too.

“I feel that ATL skills are very important for children, especially critical thinking,” she says. “I believe that these skills cannot suddenly develop when the students enter DP 1 or DP 2. These skills should be harnessed in the PYP and MYP programmes, and this is possible with Callido’s resources. Students develop those critical thinking skills through the use of the resources and I have seen in class how students use their knowledge along with their thinking skills, communication skills and social skills.”

Closer to her role, when it comes to the extended essay, critical thinking can pose half the challenge. With the right technologies and platform, students find it easy to construct an argument map, construct better ideas to support it and have a better sense of what they want to achieve. Callido’s EE Companion helped her by enabling students to acquire and demonstrate these skills by providing a structured roadmap, as a result freeing up supervisor time for essay-specific individual guidance.


“These days, when I receive the first draft, the quality of the work is better than what it used to be before. Previously, students would come up to me very late, asking to change their topic. Now I find that this has reduced, and students are able to finalise their hypotheses more effectively,” says Deeksha.

Raising learner profiles


Technology benefits students who are a little weak and find DP to be difficult. In addition, it reduces the workload on the supervisors, and they are able to spend time helping students and adapting to them. She adds, “This allows me to take my student forward. I develop a good rapport with the supervisor, my time is never wasted, and the students don’t miss deadlines. They can cope. In fact, students now write their first draft and argument at the right time.”


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