Digitized or Digital?

Technology has added a whole new dimension to the world of education. Many organizations and teams are working hard to universalize basic quality education using technology as an enabler. While YouTube and quite a few websites offer a variety of educational content online, there are new platforms like EkStep and Kolibri that make the educational content available offline as well. Soon, open and free educational resources will be made available inside and outside classrooms even in areas where there is no reliable internet access. For example, Maharashtra has around 68,000 government and aided schools and 45% of these schools have some or the other kind of digital facility. If India continues to build the digital infrastructure at the current pace, it won’t be very far in the future when all our schools will have some form of digital education facilities. This is a very encouraging scenario.

Many teachers and educators are creating their own YouTube channels and websites. The government of Maharashtra has also started a wonderful initiative called Mitra portal and Mitra app (using EkStep platform) where school teachers can create, access and use educational resources. With these new tools being created everywhere, it is crucial to have a vast amount of quality content available in Indian languages and context.

A lot of curiosity, excitement, and enthusiasm are seen in the area of content creation. However, most of the efforts today seem to be directed in merely digitizing the existing textbooks. That, in my view, is a very limited and inefficient use of the vast possibilities created by the digital technologies. Many textbooks are nowadays available as pdf files and children already have the hard copies of the books with them. There is no point in reproducing the same text in another format on the digital screens. Digital content should augment, enrich and redefine the textbook learning experience. That is the difference between merely digitizing existing text and creating a digital content that will facilitate learning. For example, theater, and film are different mediums and hence the creative process adapted by artists is different for both the mediums and the experience for the viewers is different as well. Similarly, when a lesson is to be converted into a digital medium, it can be effective if we leverage audio, visual and interactive capabilities of the digital medium.

Eng-BalBharatiAbove are some examples of ‘looking, reading and listening’ given in the Balbharati English textbooks. Children are expected to match the dialogues with the pictures in order to learn English conversation. Rather than scanning and copying the same pictures and sentences into the digital lesson, one can augment the textbook example of “I’m sorry I broke the cup” with additional examples like “I’m sorry I broke the glass” or “I’m sorry I spilled milk on the floor” or “I’m sorry I left the tap open”. Needless to say that there could be an audio playing these sentences and even prompting the students to record the sentences in their voice and play it back to check their progress. Moreover, the pictures could have touch-points marked on them so that when one touches a tap in the picture, for example, it says and shows the word ‘tap’. Subjects like Geography can be made highly interesting by showing interactive maps and audio. It would be great to touch a state in the map and hear a sentence in the language of the state and read some interesting facts about the state in a popup. Videos of children performing science experiments or Maths activities would be fun too.

I hope that a large number of people contribute to content creation. Sometimes armies of people are better than experts. That will bring together creativity, diversity, and breadth of ideas.


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