Revisiting Digital Pedagogy and the Culture of Learning in the Age of Information Technology

The article delves deep into the need for rethinking digitalised teaching-learning in the age of information technology especially at a time when we are moving towards an extensive use of virtual classroom spaces.

Virtual learning becoming the widespread method of knowledge transaction, but is it worth it?
Virtual learning becoming the widespread method of knowledge transaction, but is it worth it?

With the advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) our lives and relationships with the world have become increasingly computerized and digital. It has almost infiltrated into every domain of our lives in one form or another. In the age of information, new technologies are fast changing our lifestyles, ways of thinking, living and working. The emerging economies too, demand new vistas of knowledge, skills and attitudes under which technology is the prime mover. Never have multimedia resources been so vital for the cohesion of education and the community of learners than they have become during the pandemic.  

Amid the human tragedy, the ruling regime without much discussion in the Indian parliament has approved the new educational policy that reiterated the integration of ICT in the entire education in order to ratify the global demand of the knowledge economy. The new social formations that began to shape in this age define the characteristics of knowledge society enforcing everyone to make an investment in human intellect and creativity. It is not surprising to notice that large sections of the poor in our society, as recent statistics show, exercise their choice to invest in learning aid to acquire the so-called good quality of education for their children. The implications of such undercurrents of the neo-liberal policy frameworks showcase that the choices to achieve massification of education as if it aims to transcend the boundaries of material conditions and class positions. Other than the cultural reproduction of inequality in education, the forces of information technology leave behind many sociological blind spots and scope for a critical enquiry on the culture of learning. One of the revolutionary transformations taking place in education has been the adoption of technological applications, the evolution of digital pedagogical tools and the development of e-learning artefacts. 

As against the causal analysis on the problem and content of education, this essay unpacks the complex terrains of communication in the backdrop of adopting ICT in the teaching and learning process. Besides critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative learning skills highlighted in the current educational reforms, technological changes and development are viewed as a new language in the culture of learning. Moreover, the new features of classroom instructions create a technology-based learning environment in the virtual world. In this context, this debate focuses on the vulnerabilities of human being in relation to the world that appears to be grossly instrumentalised. The emergent properties attached with ICT hardly reverts to what we already knew.  Given the fact that every advancement in education is the result of the constant interaction between human beings and the world, our aim here is to further explore the mediation of technology and how it implicates the culture of learning. The usage of technology in teaching and learning has not only redefined the conceptions of pedagogy, the location of a teacher, the process of teaching and the teaching outcomes but also learning theories recasted. It signals the predicaments of the young learners and their experiences of learning in a formal educational system aided by rich digital technologies. The current generation of learners is generally labelled as ‘digital natives’, a generation which is characterized by their everyday usage of multimedia resources for their studies, leaving far behind the life at school and deviating from the educational context. No wonder, the new technological competency acquired through ‘instructional designs’ complicates the educational practices, research priorities and new conceptual formations in educational theory. The pedagogical processes always mediate with external relations especially on the content and forms of knowledge. Similarly, an investigation into the theory of knowledge begins with certain sociological facts. The advancements in technological innovation and adaptations in education open up new epistemic relation between pedagogy and multimedia resources. It is the very nature of digital pedagogy that potentially demands some sociological descriptions.

Digital pedagogy seeks to explain how multimedia resources are substantially utilized for shaping instructional qualities to transform both teaching practices and learning experiences. ICT brings out many fresh ideas and initiatives into the field of education and different new educational experiences in the domain of pedagogy. Hence, it appears to be more than a tool in the classroom and it has changed the way we were taught and the way we learned. Usage of multimedia technologies constitutes the new opportunities that enable our ability to learn differently and assist to access and acquire complex terrains of knowledge. Though the application of ICT’ has not been a new phenomenon, its desirability for the educational objectives brought about new excitement to experiment in education. But apprehension about the multimedia replacing teachers is not devoid of a wider criticism of virtual classroom situations. Apart from this valid criticism, educators have also sought to creatively engage with the potentials of new technology in teaching and learning. The diffusion of technology has further opened up new possibilities for researchers to examine how an independent and student-oriented enquiry mode of learning takes place. It had also redefined the role of teachers as co-collaborators or moderators or facilitators. It indicates that beyond sheer adoption of technological apparatuses, we need to understand the place of ICT in education and how it converse with curriculum and pedagogical practices. Integrating ICT in education changes the nature of students and the context of teaching and learning. Apart from these internal dynamics, adoption of new technologies in the classrooms, affective involvement in teaching processes and acquisition of new skill in digital technologies also guide to assess the learning outcomes in tune with the current (market) demands. However, technological skills are not adequate to explain the defining characteristics of effective digital pedagogy. Instead, it underlines the question of cultivating a pedagogical attitude towards and aptitude with digital technologies. Further, it acknowledges the possible impact on social theories of learning. Hence, digital pedagogy entails the teachers’ willingness to use it in the classroom effectively and understand how and why it affects the lives of learners and the learning process and how it determine learning outcomes. The ICT in other words will redefine the very culture and texture of learning as the domain of new experience.

If the system of knowledge in the formative stage were codified in diverse ways of expressions and reflected in human action, in our times it is credited with the length and speed of such utterances aided by technological advancements in the means of communication. One may hardly get to know, sense and assess the foundational knowledge that claims to inform a principled understanding of the world because we have already access to opinion, rationalization and descriptions with the gratification of information today. At the level of epistemology, it is marked by a paradigmatic shift from the foundational theory of knowledge to the field of information theory as an offshoot of empirical science. Exaggerating the relevance of ICT in education by the current market demands we were neither let to grasp the traditional problems nor understand our genuine need of the day. This characterizes the post-truth world of which facts are being fully circulated conveniently in the world of mass media without providing credible evidence to prove the very facts. Similarly, with the outgrowth of serving machines and automation, the burden of being educated eventually makes human lives more monotonous. It rings the bell of diminishing the human factor. 

The question of whether technology enables social progress or whether undermines human potential has been a long debate in the realm of art/culture and education. Technological innovations, adaptation and diffusion are quite fundamental to the way the education system evolved and the knowledge system advanced. The changes in the properties of knowledge brought about by development in ICT such as the internet allowed for the expansion of information or more codified forms of scientific knowledge. Policymakers were invited to focus on the distributive power of the innovation systems through the adoption of information resources such as e-library, e-learning etc. Though internet resources are useful skill for supporting people’s views and assist people’s current awareness, who maintain such links and resources for the public is a pertinent question. While maintaining subscription resources, e-libraries hardly store contemporary materials that are useful for social science references. This reminds us of the invisible hands of the digital gatekeepers. It is true that the properties of knowledge are not easily captured by information. Since some of the knowledge systems remain in tacit forms, people know more than what they express especially through codified language. Development and disposition of tacit knowledge require an extensive learning process subjected to the acquisition of a range of faculties and capabilities. It is the experiences accumulated and sediment over the years of effort that exhibits the domain of tacit knowledge. Beyond the taking for granted approach, it is imperative to look at critically to unpack the implications of digital knowledge in the field of education. 

The prevailing condition of India’s democratic system provides an interesting check on theories of political economy being followed by the present ruling regime. It illuminates the strain of power discursively produced between cognitive, technocratic and bureaucratic structures and imposition of experimenting with a ‘conservative’ revolutionary ideology. The great tragedy of India is that amidst the possibilities of communication offered by the media technology and ever-growing users of digital resources, the quality of public opinion is fast eroding because of the surveillance culture. In this context, how to make use of ICTs to democratize knowledge is a real challenge for working towards creating a new culture for India’s education system. 

Suresh Babu G.S teaches at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, JNU, New Delhi.

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