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
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
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
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.
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,
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.