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Developing Digital Content for School Education; What Edupreneurs Need to Know.

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Once a mystic identified a young man who was curious to know about heaven. He promised to show him the gateway to heaven. He claimed that the heaven had all the pleasures one could detail by imagination and beyond; and claimed that the road to heaven is not very far or difficult, provided the young man could spend a substantial part of his earnings as a compensation to understand the depth of his advocacy. The mystic was quite tempting but the young man, though thrilled and excited with the idea of a short cut to heaven, applied his common sense – which told him that he didn’t have relevant skills to walk through that path with comfort. A big NO from the young man did disappoint the mystic. The young man saved himself from getting exposed to a fake heaven!

In the last one decade, I have received a number of edupreneurs in digital technology (who did a job much closer or even better to what those mystics did, promising to end all evils of education through their digital designs) – Well, indeed they had praiseworthy dreams to transform education and contribute their bit. While saluting them for all they could do or think in that direction, I had also felt that in a number of cases there has been a total mismatch between what they had in their baskets and what their consumers needed. A number of products lacked synergy between the content, the pedagogy and the technology.

While they focused in one of them, they missed the bus in respect of the rest. Their El-

Dorado crashed even before they could complete their structures nor could their products

become the Elixir-de-Life for all the ills of school education. They were like the Alchemists,

who could not turn other elements into gold, but they also got a number of new by-

products in their journey towards their chase for gold. These by-products did have a value

and a purpose in school education.

Though the Digital technology has witnessed substantial growth both in terms of quality and volume since its genesis from late seventies, some basic misgivings have haunted this

industry. Adequate and authentic research in this direction is not visible. With my proximity with techno-based learning for the last four decades in school education, I intend to make a few observations for consideration to the edupreneurs.

Content development for technology enabled learning is entirely a different ball

game and is different from the style and design of the content development for

textbooks. The basic approach has to be different because it is not a replacement to

a hard print. The technology brings a blended approach to content delivery and this

blending should be harmonious. It is just not putting things together but it is weaving

them together. It is not a chorus but it is an orchestrated philharmonic. Oftentimes,

the content designs do create perception differences and do give rise to multiplicity

of perceptions and meanings.

The role of technology in personalizing learning is quite significant as compared to

other modes of content delivery. Hence the pedagogical designs and offerings

through technology have to be constructed in a carefully articulated manner so that

every learner feels a sense of belongingness to the content and is able to engage

with the content effectively at a personal level.

Logistic development of content needs a great attention. In a number of cases, the

simulations, exemplifications and illustrations tend to defy logic. Possibly it is an

outcome of the curiosity of the designer to reach out to the learner; too much of

simplification in the content design gives a narrative that has a logistic mismatch

with the core idea.

Sound and flashes of light do not necessarily trigger attention to the concepts. In

many cases, they tend to deviate the attention of the learner to auxiliary learning;

they distract the attention of the learner from the main concept. Edutainment is

indeed an excellent option, but gaming is only peripheral to learning.

Pedagogical validity of the content is very critical. Designers need to understand that

the objective is not an information delivery. It is a travelogue towards cognition and

experience. It needs to be built on credible, established and valid pedagogical

concepts. In a number of cases, authenticity of the pedagogy becomes questionable.

Dialogue and collaborative thinking of the designer and the pedagogue is required to

ensure this.

The teacher-facilitative technological designs do vary from those what the learners

would use. Hence the designers need to understand the variance in the conceptual

construct in their products knowing fully well the users.

The success of any technology enabled product depends on their ability to provoke

thinking, application and curiosity. Hence every lesson, every concept has to be

modelled keeping in view the geography and culture to which the products would

cater to.

The success of any technology enabled product depends on the competence and

mindset of the teachers. Leveraging technology is an art and hence the users need to

undergo a preliminary exposure on its mindful use in the classroom.

The design of techno-enabled educational products should note that every learner is

unique and comes with different intelligences in his basket. The digital content

should help in catering to the intellectual curiosity of a spectrum of learners.

The technology inputs should be proximate to local cultures, socio-economic

conditions and relate to native knowledge as much as it opens gateways to global

knowledge access.

Another major issue with the production and marketing of digital technology is the large

gap between the content developers and market advocates. Largely the market managers

are not adequately briefed about the “what and why” of the product. Hence, they have poor knowledge about the worth of the product in the market in real terms; they seem to be promoting the products more with a superficial knowledge, thus unable to reach out to the school heads. Oftentimes, false hopes and false assurances help in market promotion, but the sustainability of the products is doubtful; further, it does invisible harm to the learning process and quality of learning.

Digital technology needs to evolve and mature to become active partner in transforming

education. Edupreneurs need to invest in a lot of thinking and research before they invest in their products. While one could see many green pastures for growing digital technology in schools, it calls for more synergy from like-minded people and stakeholders.


About the Author

G. Balasubramanian is the Chairperson of Board of Adivsors to International Council for School Leadership (ICSL)


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