In the past couple of decades, the leaps and bounds in digital media technology has radically changed the means of distribution of information and entertainment. There has been and still is a continuing exodus of printed information, books, news, the visual arts and entertainment into the digital platform on a global scale. As internet and computing devices driven by algorithms which establish user patterns and behaviour, offer solutions to our needs, the deeper we get entrenched into this digital age.
As the latest advances in media technology continue to collide and lock arms with the ever growing informative content in the cyber highways, it is inevitable that most if not all education institutions and other centers of higher learning as well, will be swayed into this global paradigm shift in information and skills training delivery. The Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) has enticed thousands upon thousands of students who learn skills and knowledge from a broad spectrum of online courses and ever since Stanford University opened the first MOOC program in 2011. Today, online delivery centers like Coursera and Udemy have rosters of educational institutions under their wings and offer hundreds of thousands of courses to millions of students worldwide.In 2014, Duke University offered an online course entitled “The History and Future of Higher Education” which was followed by 18,000 participants from all over the world. The course traced and outlined the development of educational systems from the ancients to the Harvadian model of training the mind in creating adequate intellectual filters, the French educational system which is disciplinary and hierarchical learning of the arts and crafts, the British educational system that adapted the French system and the German Humboldtian model of focusing in the production of new knowledge through research and experimentation. All these systems produced the underpinning system of education that we know today and are carried on in today’s delivery of knowledge that is rapidly migrating to full digital platform. Public sites like Wikipedia alone boasts of 23 million articles translated in 300 languages being updated continuously by a global community of knowledge producers. Google has 20 million online books and more are published daily. This deluge of information online resulted in an unprecedented scale of engagement both from the users and producers of information.
Indeed, the global educational scenario is being restructured at a pace never imagined before. It might be just a matter of time when classrooms and contact sessions will be meant more as research facilities and for guidance of what was acquired outside the classroom and not anymore for direct learning. What used to be complementary knowledge acquired from online resources may become the main source of education while contact sessions in the premises of institutions may later serve as mere reinforcements of what was learned online. Day by day, the growing popularity and advantages of what you may call digital pedagogy are convincing more and more people. To name a few advantages, the digital education platform raises social intelligence that results from a deeper and more direct way of getting and eliciting reactions among online peers in the learning process through forums and community interactions online. Adaptive and cross-cultural competencies are honed as the ability to operate in different cultural settings develops and proficiency in thinking rises, in dealing with solutions beyond rote and repetition that traditional education systems offer. The new-media literacy brings about critical thought, a higher level of thinking that uses new media forms and techniques in assessing knowledge received.
Yet despite the innumerable positive changes that the digital paradigm offers, a question begs to be answered. Beyond the revolutionary shift and the overwhelming rivers of information and knowledge flooding the cyberspace that benefits everyone and anyone, how does this global digitization of education resolve the inculcation of the affective dimension of learning. While we agree that gargantuan leaps have been made in raising the bar of knowledge acquisition and skills development through a democratised and easy to reach media, can we do the same for the development of common and core attitudes vital in the formation of a professional in any field of endeavour in this digital era? Are we risking a future of cyber educated world population in with sky-high “S” and “K” but without an “A”?
How can digital pedagogy assure us that even without the presence of a warm bodied mentor in front of a student, the proper affective and moral components of a holistic education, be instilled with the upcoming digital world order? This is a question which up to now, no concrete and valid answer has been arrived at. No hard data and valid statistics are available to provide response to this question. New and emerging technologies are discovered but the human aspect and tangible life of a teacher who understands and appreciates his sacrifices, patience and love have not yet been challenged or replaced inside the classroom. The teacher’s ability to touch the lives of the students; the molding and honing the character of the students to become upright individuals; the creativity and innovativeness of the teachers in imparting knowledge with utmost enthusiasm and motivation for effective teaching and learning are the many facets of a teacher which cannot be equated or replaced by a nonhuman technology. It is still the human person like a teacher can create this technology and approaches work to maximise its impact when utilised or applied in the teaching and learning process. On the other hand, technology aided teaching and learning becomes interesting, facilitating and stimulating. However, the improper use of these technologies like those in the social media has misled the students in their study habits and imbalance way of life. They have forgotten the rudiments of learning which creates a strong foundation for sustainable and continuous application of the 3 learning domains: cognitive knowledge, psychomotor skills and affective or attitude/behaviour. Learners become dependent on these gadgets rather than becoming self-reliant and independent thinker. When these technologies become dysfunctional, students are at a loss and the application of knowledge becomes difficult. It is, therefore, necessary to repackage this technology to suit the needs of the learners and according to the requirements of the teachers. Operationally, pedagogy is an emergent expression of teaching, actual situation that takes place when a teacher begins to interact with students; the process of implementing and conducting the planned instructional experience. For me, it is more of an art rather than a science. Sometimes, it is the combination of both depending on how you impart knowledge to make sure that learning takes place in the learners. In this regard, let the use of technology in the digital pedagogy compliment with the traditional method or approach of teaching adhering to some principles of teaching that the students are the centerpiece of all the efforts of development in the university. Start teaching where the child is. Make instruction interactive and participatory to allow students to express their ideas. Consider or understand individual differences; always start teaching with motivation to arouse the interest of the learners. These principles of teaching cannot be provided by just applying digital pedagogy. In short, teacher knows best. With this context, under the able and competent teachers, learning becomes more enriched, interesting and challenging. The critical and analytical minds of the students should be cultivated using both the traditional and digital pedagogy, the end result is a learned individual who is ready to match or respond to the complex demands and requirements of the job market and the society.
The writers are VP Academics and Animation Specialist respectively at American International University-Bangladesh