How To Educate In The Digital Age?

Saurabh Jain, Vice President, PaytmHeadquartered in Noida, Paytm offers an array of services, including mobile recharges, bill payments, along with a full marketplace to consumers on its mobile apps.

Thousands of years ago man was living in forests and small settlements. The world had still not progressed enough to have towns and cities. Kids used to be free to play for the whole day. Only for few hours a day they had to assist their parents and elders to find food and other necessities of daily life. Learning was always on the job. The jobs were mostly related to finding food, clothing, safety and shelter. There were no books and no formal schools. This was the age when kids were free.

As society progressed we began to have formal learning and handwritten books. We progressed so much that specialized learning was needed. Slowly some forms of schools and universities began to emerge around the world. Up till 20th century books, schools and universities were the main ways to get specialized knowledge.

Our genes have changed only a little but the environment around our kids has changed dramatically over last few thousand years. Kids still want to play, listen to stories, make things, sing songs and dance around. The environment around them demands them to read and write. Society demands them to sit in formal time tables. There is a constant mismatch be-tween our genes and our environment. Kids need to learn the society's way. The kids need to walk down the straight path set by the education system. Slowly kids begin to close their mind and start walking the pre-set path. They start confirming to the school and college
so that eventually they can confirm to the company which will give them the job.

I was in a conference where the CTO of a big MNC said that how can you get people who can think freely when for whole life people are taught to walk on a pre-set path. Proactive companies want employees who can create their own path but still manage to work in teams. Books and lectures should be like a vaccine which prepares a person for the whole life with just minimum input. Hands on education should be like staple food which a person needs to eat daily to be healthy.

Books and lectures should be like a vaccine which prepares a person for the whole life with just minimum input

When you study standards like Common Core State Standards in U.S. and National Curriculum Framework 2005 in India you get the feel that curriculum is designed with this in mind. Nowhere does the curriculum specify that only books and lectures will be used for teaching. Teachers are free to use various media and materials to teach the kids. If you study the work of Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner, Seymour Papert, John Dewey and Maria Montessori you feel the same.

Unfortunately somewhere while executing on the ground the education system messes things up. The curriculum is good. Things can always be improved but my research into school curriculum around the world tells me that curriculum is not the reason for the state of affairs in school education. Governments and educators have been proactive and have always tried to give the best they could provide.

Money is also not the biggest problem. Even the government of a developing country like India spends more than $50 billion a year on education. Worldwide education (both private and public) spending is more than $3.5 trillion dollars. Thus even money is not the reason for poor education. Yes more money is always helpful for improving the infrastructure but had money been the only issue then all the students in good schools would have been ace students.

Education is not like the data in a pen drive. Till a student does not absorb learning you cannot teach him or her. Jean Piaget had shown this many decades ago. Many parents and teachers still believe that kid can be educated by sending him or her to a big school or college. What is needed is a way to make kid reach a state of flow while studying.

Kids can reach flow state if we give them autonomy, competence and related-ness. Digital age demands a redesign of education. Education has to be made fun for kids.