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Buildings No More: Long Live The Digital Equaliser
Information is useful only if it stands on 3 A’s. Access, Affordability and Application. While ‘Access’ to information is ubiquitous and very ‘Affordable’, the ‘Application’ part of it comes only from Knowledge or Knowing what to do with information.
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The advent of the printing press expanded the world in more ways than one. A significant outcome of that machine was that the Church came home and the Sunday Mass became socially distanced. In that sense it also caused a heavenly disruption. While the tower of Babel was being built, Jesus had come home, leaving the high priest high and dry.
In a similar way, Covid has short circuited the Pre-covid stupor and haze of and around our lives. Life is sustained chiefly through trade and learning environments. Both these provide our basic needs. In the current context with that environment short circuited, it is time for us to reorient, re-purpose and realign our lives. What got us here, will not take us there. This is a reset button pressed hy Nature. Long Live the
If the traffic on roads and super highways is curtailed, it has ballooned the information highways. While the world is still trying to understand, “what just happened?” We have a rather ominous thought. “What if the next virus was on its way? What if it had a life of just seven days and would claim a life it touched” Who has ever been able to insure a menacing and direful oracle? That said; life must score!
This refers to the new life appearing through the kaleidoscope of education and trade. Let’s examine a case. Traditional music from the LP records, to the audio cassettes and the near forgotten CDs saw a new medium in the internet. A cassette that wound 40 songs in its belly and sold for Rs 40/- a piece, was replaced by the mere ringtone of a single song that sells for Rs 10/- a piece. A quantum leap of 10 times. In the frame of life on earth, each transition has been chaotic and claimed several legacies equally, as it has expanded the world.
Webinars at home have replaced the Mass at the church. An invention such as the Printing press caused chaos too; its interpretation free from the priest’s sermon raised Protestants and the world expanded for the better. Thomas Friedman defended in “The world is flat” the right to make money in a world that has nearly removed the information arbitrages of yore and the inequities of life because of that.
Information is useful only if it stands on 3 A’s. Access, Affordability and Application. While ‘Access’ to information is ubiquitous and very ‘Affordable’, the ‘Application’ part of it comes only from Knowledge or Knowing what to do with information. Information is something we ‘consume’, it is the Knowledge that ‘creates’ applications from available information. In the Indian context, where the syllabus and the pattern of education is designed and decided by a central agency and is uniform, its dissemination, however has remained at ransom. The more grandiose the school, the higher the ransom charged from its users.
While the bigger captors at large, public schools and colleges are still trying to hold on to their buildings and infrastructure, meanwhile, education for once is getting a new lease of life through the several webinars that are underway. There is a surfeit of noise and chaos of webinars too; with thousands attending it and no opportunity for interaction between the attendees and the presenters. This will come to pass as the new order becomes more apparent from its attendant dust at this time.
It is time that the schools and colleges reconcile to the fact that their large buildings are rendered merely captive hollow shells or even useless in the face of the current or an impending pandemic. That rather than hold a student in a class for 30 minutes on a subject, this is the time to truly put their best teaching talents forward by recording lessons in interesting ways by their more promising teachers and lending these lessons for multiple viewing by the students for complete assimilation. That from the large savings on infrastructure such as Air-conditioning, power, transportation etc, and while not reducing the fees, the teachers are equipped with laptops and allowances to recreate their channels, some schools are sadly asking the teachers to pay for these tools. While the schools are making major savings on their expenses, the teachers are being asked to unfairly equip themselves with their own laptops and means.
If the invention of the printing press had freed the Bible from the church to reach a home, why should it remain subservient to the owners who won’t give up acting as the high priests only at the Eton and the Harvards? Why won’t they let themselves be recorded, narrating the stories or their management fables, or do they fear that they would have to vie for space on shelves selling books and curriculum from all over including Eton?
Welcome to this equalizer. The sooner institutions realise this the better for them. Won’t that be a more equal and a flat world? “If this Covid -19 had to stay, it wasn’t going to be long before the professors crawled out into the open from behind and beneath their mahogany woodwork”.
Consider this other chicanery. If the purpose of knowledge in the marketplace is to support commerce and trade and acquire money, it would also be prudent to know how much and what to do with it. “Between Bill gates and Steve Jobs who never went to these colleges, they both hold nearly 2 trillion Dollars captive today.”.
“More! with Covid -19, this was the time for them to reconsider redeeming their audacious claims or wonder if there is blasphemy in it, when they talk about their mission of making a better world.”. “Let alone Covid. That kind of money could change the face of Sierra Leone, Burundi, South Sudan, Mozambique or Mali.”. “Perhaps because, God Almighty is white and Timbuktu, more than being the capital of Mali, is who knows where?”. Those two conditions make these countries unapproachable and unknowable, internet notwithstanding here!
Perhaps, do both Steve, and Bill fear that by spending this money on such missions, their future revenue pipelines will run dry? Really? But their cash counters are ringing faster than ever. So, they will again make it. What do they fear? Surely, they haven’t lost the sense of adventure they had when starting out in garages. Perhaps, it is an opportune time for these big boys to unstrap the stockpiles of money more generously than they have been doing through their foundations. Perhaps, a garage is insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things. Its too tiny to be seen from outer space. And if they saved that money for apocalypse, this could be the time, as good as any for them, to unleash it all to build the arc. (Steve, you are immortal and will live for us, for ever)
If they do that and humanity survives, they will have worshipers and not just product shippers for them waiting in that dawn. But this puts paid to the fact that, “Imagination is bigger than money. That the intangible imagination is larger than the tangible Money that lies unattended and locked up in a vault waiting for imagination or inspiration to strike even as the pandemic arrives to render it useless.
It is time for a teacher to record all her lessons from the defined curriculum and host them forever on a YouTube channel that students can refer to at will. It is time that the churches realise that the Bible has moved out. The stables realise that the horses have bolted. The schools and colleges realise that education ahead will be online, taking into account the current or an impending pandemic. More; that the 2 Trn $, tad less than the entire GDP of India, in the banks of Microsoft and Apple must be released to feed bites to the hungry as much as access and affordability will generate enough bytes for education.
It is time that the Government takes at hand a Digital Education policy to ensure that its institutions remain relevant which otherwise stand to lose their caliber to a smart teacher who is already recording her lessons in the Garrage as you read this.
There is also a webinar that may be underway cutting through the dust and noise that surrounds this fury of the Covid. This is David Vs Goliath. There is more too; there is wisdom. If information is knowing Tomato as a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.