The current conversation about Education Technology (or, Education Technologies, we should claim) is both poised with possibilities and depressingly limited.
Despite all the billions of dollars channeled into exciting new start-ups, the headline technology companies such as Google and Microsoft making Education as one of their main focus areas and mobile computing extending the reach of content and culture far beyond the obvious, the scope of Ed-Tech still remains superficial and focused on extending the norms of Scientific Management, the very same paradigm that we are expected to leave behind in the post-industrial age, to classrooms. The focus of educational technology enterprises were to adopt key 'corporate' technologies, databases, remote communication technologies, walled-garden networks (apps) and measurement systems, for educational use. The keywords of the Education Technology community, accordingly, have been information, content, predictive modelling, communication, and costs, but rarely the ones Educators are used to - character, learning, and indeed education - outside the presentation slides and marketing campaigns.
This is broadly reflective of the trends in technology development in itself. The current claims that we have achieved the highest stage of technological nirvanna (or perhaps not, as we are awaiting the day when technology will create itself) are designed to stop us from asking - what does technology do? The benefits of Ed-Tech are sold mainly in terms of cost - that it would make things efficient by making one teacher teach many more students (answering the 'cost disease' problem posed by William Baumol) - and that it may solve the great problem to state finances posed by the advent of mass education. We simply can not educate so many people, the Ed-Tech evangelists would say, claiming that Ed-Tech is that white knight we are all praying for. Closely related to this is the efficiency argument, which posits that Ed-Tech can make education more personally tailored, predictively modelled and informationally communicative, so that we all know who is going to make it early in the cycle. This could sound like a tool of social engineering, like all technologies could be, and this as the sole theme of Ed-Tech conversation is a rather disturbing phenomenon.
Another kind of conversation is, however, eminently possible and one should make its case. What if one approached Ed-Tech not with the objective of making it efficient but try to make it effective instead? The difference will be to approach the technology from an understanding what teachers do, and what they are seeking to do, rather than trying to import business best practices into the classroom. This may sound obvious to some, but it is not common sense, as most technologists and investors are programmed to think that everything is business. They are blind to the possibility that any other value system, any other objectives, any other modes of relationship can exist in any other domain, or even if they accept its existence, they merely think of it as an ancient, inefficient way of doing things. It is this paradigm that restricts our view what technology could do and how it could be used. This lack of perspective is indeed what we see when the Ed-Tech start-ups complain of 'politics' and 'resistance' in imposing the system - they are perfectly innocent that what they propose may often be alien to those who teach and learn (as students, too, disengage) and that they are merely imposing a value system that may be at odds with the basic values of a classroom.
What are the teachers trying to do? Many, most, teachers embraced the profession because they took pleasure in seeing the transformation of their pupils, in making their successes possible. They are hardly going to be resistant if they find a way to achieve this better, particularly if they are to find an easier way of doing it. But, anyone who has ever taught knows that one of the effects of Ed-Tech on teachers is not to save their time or make them more creative; in most cases, it is about creating a corporate-style all-intrusive environment, taking the thinking out of the work and making the teachers delivery-drones of a pre-programmed curricula. It is more about responding to status-alerts at the middle of the night than being able to connect one's student with an exciting new possibility, at least more commonly so!
What would happen if this new variety of education technology was possible? Rather than revolving around the questions of predictive modelling and faculty-to-teacher ratio, Ed-Tech conversations then would focus on making connections across universities and countries (making credits transferable by making learning more transparent, anyone?), making education and experience interchangeable, making student work visible to employers and so on. It would be about liberating students from single-discipline thinking and from the eccentricities of time-tables. It would be about freeing up time to travel and to interact with more people than about creating Facebook pages. This, exploring the varieties of Education Technologies, should be the key challenge facing an Education Innovator, and to do so, one must transcend our ways of seeing it.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The Creativity Imperative Businesses today consider creativity of their staff as a critical, possibly the most critical, factor for their ongoing survival. This is because the environment, political, social and commercial, has become so fluid; as Yogi Berra put it, “the future isn’t what it used to be”. Constant change, demanding and more aware customers and citizens, rapid information dissemination through new technologies of information and communication, and intense competitive and regulatory pressures, are pushing companies and people who work for them to innovate and adapt continuously. Set in this context, employee creativity has a whole new meaning. It is traditionally understood as people thinking about products and services, which did not exist before, or tweaking and improving the existing ones. Competitive pressures add to this creativity imperative. Information is fast and cheap, and communication technology is driving the costs of production and distribution
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.