Computers@schools in non-digital era

My daughters  started to work with laptop, iPad, internet, emails, Kindle and have access to computers in schools and teacher communicate over Compute devices.  Earlier, I attempted to discourage my daughters not to use emails for knowing what is Homework or test next day and write home work in diary. With more inputs send by teacher via online media, my wife registered with online portal and coordinates teacher interaction. Kids also have started using WhatsApp on mom’s mobile.

The school has set up online fee payment portal. Till now my elder daughter used to find fees for her and her younger sister. Collecting cheque, she verifies the amount, take cheque safely to drop in the school and also collect the receipt.  While online payment reduces work of school staff,  how my younger daughter will learn about school fees, due date to pay and responsibility to carry cheque & collect receipt.

School provides books and notebooks with comfort to get all things under one roof. I see lost opportunity to perform  self research, research for notebooks to purchase, store to purchase notebooks, the price paid, whether  notebook/book is worth the price.  School makes every student in class purchase same additional practice book. In 90s,additional books were bought to suit our interest.  when different books are bought, possibility of knowledge sharing  increases  with peers. What is the impact of all students learning from same additional book? 

My daughters have their email address and use them as tool for some years.  Not easy to explain children Should children learn using computer as tool or learn to be tool in hands of the computer?”  I fail with word attempts like “Computer helps to consume more content and makes you lazy to create your own content. how to focus to create content rather than consume content? ” or “Leverage computer for things other than school work. For school work,  search books and self-learn to collect content”.

My first brush with computers was in 1990 at my father’s office computer room, where computer operator was present. Learnt to input content, do some mathematics like complex multiplication and print typed content in dot matrix printer.

In 1991, I was not sure whether to join Computer section for 11th standard. Those days in Neyveli, every child was under pressure to become doctor or engineer. Anyone who chose computer section makes a choice not to become a doctor. Another challenge was my close school friends were in Biology section.(5 sections in 11th , 4 were biology).

When our 10th standard results came, all 11th standard students were to sit in assembly place when teachers read marks in public. This gave us a joint time where we could discuss as individual about our own interests and what we want to do and what we were actually doing. After 1 month in  Biology, 10 of us walked over to computer section.

While no one wants to wait 10 days to obtain original mark sheet, and today, students find it cool to view marks on internet at instant the results are declared. I want to appreciate  that experience where one waits patiently to know marks for their friends and their own, creating the collaborative space between students to discuss with less intervention and make joint decision.

Today, with women representation in IT industry is going less,  my computer journey started with two women teachers, Geetha & Praveena. Geetha helped to learn to write programs, when programming was not in 11th book. I also remember the privilege to be in air-conditioned computer room, where principal had no air-condition in Neyevli’s scorching heat.

My  school had 2 PCs and one computer teacher for both 11th and 12th,a count of 60 (25 seniors + 35 in my class)students. After programming using Fortran and Basic, I found programming more like solving statement sum problems in mathematics, which I always enjoyed.  I found maths and physics more challenging than computers.

Geetha drove to think open and creative exposing to a one day excursion to VGP Golden beach, Chennai.  First of its kind in school after many years in midst of concerns of school and parents.  This experience enabled students with confidence to organize and plan a 3-day excursion to Bangalore, Mysore and Ooty, during 12th standard. I am reminded of being cashier for both excursions.

In 1990s, knowing calls for admission of educational institutions was cumbersome.

  • See notification for admission in newspaper If you miss to see notification in newspaper, you missed the admission as the application date gets expired.
  • No one was sure whether all newspaper will carry notification for admission. Go to library and check all newspapers whether they carry admission notification.
  • On finding notification, inform all friends of the same. No easy way like Google to search or Facebook to post notification so that other friends can easily learn.

In 2017, While I am happy about better experience, I observer that students in 90s performed what Google does today to collect information and collaborate to share information with others. Today information is less shared by individual collaboration and is more shared by search engines.

In 1990s, college application submission was also cumbersome,not easy  similar to

  1. Read notification and understand what needs to be done. if you have doubt, you need to go to your friend place or senior place to get clarity.
  2. Obtain D.D in Bank and send to educational institution to get the application by post. Different educational institutions tied with different banks. To apply for 3 institutions, one may end up going to 3 different banks to get Demand Draft.
  3. Fill application and attach Xerox’s and sometimes additional D.D and send to educational institution. Then you get hall ticket to write exam or called for interview for admission.

In 2017,  I admire the speed and comfort to perform submission and payments online, I question myself whether learning opportunities are created to students, when parent makes payment online. There is no opportunity to make errors and learn from failures.  Even in my school days, parents denied students to learn from errors. Lot of friend’s father used to take office leave to submit application for children and accompany children till the room where entrance examinations happened.

This is opportunity I got from the application process. Treat reading notification as equivalent to read and interpret statement sum problem in Maths . The application process provides first visit opportunity to banks, fill D.D request forms, carry cash safely and obtain Demand Draft (D.D) and also visit post office to drop filled applications and D.D in envelope and send by post. When they travel alone to write entrance examinations, they find how to stay at relative place in Chennai for short time, carry hall-ticket safe. Effectively learning to be disciplined and organized, essential for students staying in hostel, away from parents.

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