I was planning to write an OPEN Letter to Shri Kapil Sibal Ji, and then decided against it, for the sheer futility of the exercise. But given the controversy that has been stirred by the Minister’s comments on regulating social media and internet, I felt that it would be meaningful to give an education and learning twist to this raging matter. My current understanding of this entire controversy is based on this NDTV video , the debate conducted by @sardesairajdeep on CNN IBN, a few blogs and numerous tweets (mostly unpleasant).
I run an education start-up that develops and distributes online short videos on web 2.0 and social media for education and learning purposes. Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the other Web 2.0 tools hold tremendous application potential for education and learning. All lend themselves to good pedagogy as web 2.0 is all about ‘doing’, thus supporting the ‘learning by doing’ theory. Extensive research by many Universities in the west points to increased student engagement through the application of Web 2.0 tools for class non-class teaching learning activities. Increased engagement improves chances to enhance learning outcomes and eventually quality – the bane of Indian higher education. And in an extremely lucky coincidence, students and young learners are by default skilled in social media, thus creating a favourable environment for influencing learning outcomes positively. Social Media and the Internet also present individuals with a unique opportunity to create “Personal Learning Environments” to support continuous lifelong learning. The copious availability of affordable personal internet devices is expected to support this phenomenon.
Ironically, it was the Honourable Union HRD Minister, Government of India who launched the World’s cheapest tablet Aakash ($ 35 in Oct’11, now $ 30) with a lot of fanfare. At one end, Shri Kapil Sibal wants to democratise access to internet and content, and on the other hand direct its usage. This confused posturing is unfortunately demoralising. While there is merit – though limited - in the concerns raised by Shri Sibal, it would have been encouraging had he also highlighted the learning quotient of the Internet in the same breath. This would have put the matter in balance and saved the Manmohan Singh Government further embarrassment.In the end, as a representative of India’s higher education system, I would like to remind Shri Kapil Sibal that we are still awaiting all the blockbuster education reforms that were promised in the summer of 2009.
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