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
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
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
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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