The potentials of digital education in India

Florian Sochatzy

Once a year the Jump Start Fes­ti­val takes pla­ce in New Del­hi and Ben­gal­u­ru. This year’s fes­ti­val took a spe­cial turn – from a forum for crea­tors of child­rens’ con­tent it deve­lo­ped to a plat­form for (digi­tal) edu­ca­tio­nal ques­ti­ons. I was invi­ted as a ‘digi­tal inno­va­tor’ to pre­sent an ‘edtalk – inno­va­ti­on in edu­ca­ti­on’ and to teach the mas­ter­class ‘Digi­tal Learning Desi­gn’.

As I had never been to India befo­re, my know­led­ge of the coun­try deri­ved from books and docu­men­ta­ries. Here are my first impres­si­ons of the coun­try, its peop­le and the edu­ca­tio­nal poten­ti­al. And yes, of cour­se, my view is limi­ted, the peop­le I met are the edu­ca­tio­nal eli­te and so on…

  • The con­cepts of skills based learning and con­struc­tivism are well known and I dis­co­ver­ed inte­res­ting con­cepts of how the­se ide­as find their way into Indian schools – from dra­ma clas­ses to sin­ging expe­ri­en­ces.
  • The peop­le I met had a won­der­ful sen­se of humor and a capa­bi­li­ty of self-cri­ti­cism. Both are necessa­ry to make major chan­ges in edu­ca­ti­on.
  • Toge­ther we crea­ted chap­ters for a mul­ti­me­dia school­book (mBook) on Indian his­to­ry. A task that requi­res know­led­ge about theo­ry, con­tent, tech­no­lo­gy and desi­gn. Both mas­ter­clas­ses in Ben­gal­u­ru and Del­hi were excep­tio­nal­ly moti­va­ted to deve­lop their task in the mas­ter­class in order to tell Indian his­to­ry in a dif­fe­rent way. The results were extra­or­di­na­ry.
  • The peop­le have a necessa­ry and well deve­lo­ped skill of impro­vi­sa­ti­on: “No inter­net?” – “No pro­blem, we will find some work­a­round.”
  • This con­stant need for impro­vi­sa­ti­on is also a big impe­di­ment for fur­ther deve­lop­ment.
  • The com­bi­na­ti­on of a high moti­va­ti­on in edu­ca­ti­on, an excep­tio­nal opti­mism in the tech­ni­cal future and the will to impro­ve edu­ca­ti­on make India a very inte­res­ting digi­tal mar­ket for edu­ca­ti­on in the future.
  • If India will be able to get rid of the obst­a­cles that still hold it back, the coun­try will wit­ness an excep­tio­nal edu­ca­tio­nal boost. And this edu­ca­tio­nal revo­lu­ti­on will be a digi­tal one.

To elaborate some of my views on the topic, I have added an interview with the Magazine ‘Career 360’:

360: In what way is digi­tal learning impac­ting the learning land­scape?
Sochat­zy: Digi­tal learning has a lot of poten­ti­al if you know how to use it and add value to it. Digi­tal solu­ti­ons per se have nor­mal­ly no advan­ta­ges. It can chan­ge the learning land­scape into the direc­tion of col­la­bo­ra­ti­on, com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and cri­ti­cal thin­king.

360: In the con­text of e-learning, how will the inten­ti­on of the nar­ra­ti­on form a desi­gn stra­te­gy to bring in inno­va­ti­on?
Sochat­zy: Theo­ry and inten­ti­on form con­tent and con­tent forms tech­no­lo­gy and desi­gn. First you have to know why you want to tell a sto­ry, then deci­de what the sto­ry is about and only then you deci­de what media or what form of (digi­tal) publis­hing you will use. This order ensu­res the qua­li­ty and the­re­fo­re rele­van­ce of the con­tent. Digi­tal publis­hing solu­ti­ons and media should only be used if you can crea­te real added value for the users, in our case teachers and pupils. 

360: What are the requi­re­ments of digi­tal learning?
Sochat­zy: If I dream about an ide­al digi­tal learning-envi­ron­ment it con­sists of the fol­lo­wing ingre­dients.

  1. well trai­ned and skil­led teachers who love to teach their sub­jects and know how to use tech­no­lo­gy
  2. a school sys­tem that fos­ters crea­ti­ve and col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve learning envi­ron­ments
  3. stu­dents with digi­tal skills and the metho­di­cal know­led­ge who are able to crea­te and com­mu­ni­ca­te
  4. par­ents who are not afraid of the digi­tal future 
  5. easy access to devices and inter­net

Only few schools have all the­se ingre­dients at the moment, but the num­bers are increa­sing.
Don’t let you stop by a imper­fect learning sur­roun­ding. The more peop­le use the poten­ti­als of digi­tal learning, the fas­ter we will be able to impro­ve edu­ca­ti­on.

360: You said, “Sel­dom­ly revo­lu­ti­ons begin at the top” in the con­text of brin­ging in digi­tal con­cepts in edu­ca­ti­on. Can you ela­bo­ra­te with examp­les from Ger­many?
Sochat­zy: Minis­tries and edu­ca­tio­nal aut­ho­ri­ties in Ger­many are very slow in sup­porting digi­tal learning in schools. Many teachers and pupils are unhap­py about this situa­ti­on and begin chan­ging school on their own. This will hope­ful­ly beco­me a strong move­ment. Do not wait until the govern­ment sol­ves the pro­blem, start your own digi­tal edu­ca­ti­on revo­lu­ti­on from the bot­tom.  

360: Is India pre­pa­red for a para­digm shift in learning with the help of digi­tal learning? What all nee­ds to be put in pla­ce befo­re we can think of posi­ti­ve impact of digi­tal learning in India?
Sochat­zy: A digi­tal and skills based learning shift is a labor-inten­se task. But, are the­re rea­li­s­tic alter­na­ti­ves? I do not think so. Con­di­ti­ons for a digi­tal shift in edu­ca­ti­on are not ide­al in many pla­ces. But this can not be the argu­ment for not begin­ning a para­digm shift. 
Just think about what chan­ged wit­hin the last 20 years. For the chan­ge in the next 20 years you have to be well pre­pa­red, other­wi­se the future will take pla­ce somew­he­re else. The basis for this chan­ge are well trai­ned teachers and a tech­ni­cal infra­struc­tu­re.  India has great poten­ti­al to beco­me one of the import­ant play­ers of the digi­tal future — if it does not miss to chan­ge edu­ca­ti­on as soon as pos­si­ble.

360: Any other idea you would like to ela­bo­ra­te on rela­ted to digi­tal learning?
Sochat­zy: The digi­tal revo­lu­ti­on can not be tur­ned back. This is a fact we have to accept in edu­ca­ti­on. In the future, facts based learning will not help you, as facts are instant­ly avail­able ever­yw­he­re. What you will need are skills — skills to crea­te, to inno­va­te, to com­mu­ni­ca­te. Let us com­pre­hend the digi­tal revo­lu­ti­on as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to impro­ve edu­ca­ti­on and the­re­fo­re our lives. 

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