Teacher and Technology in the Digital World

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan came to my parents' wedding. We heard of his scholarship, and he lived with books literally all the time. When other children were pampered with toys, lavish birthday parties we were treated to home cooked food. My grandfather typed the menu on the typewriter and mother had to cook those dishes. That is the closest we knew about technology. When my father wrote books and articles the typist was pampered lavishly because dad wrote on huge registers with his own pen in beautiful handwriting.  

Then they were typed out and proof reading was a major task. There was the first round, second round and the final draft was prepared till the writer and those who read with him knew the book by heart. 

It was similar with studying. We had to memorise poems, lessons, songs and almost everything.  

In college we took down class lectures by hand. We kept carbon papers for friends if they were absent. Our world was different. We entered our friends' houses if we were bored. ln the lane we lived, one in twenty houses had a phone or television. We had to run and call the neighbouring aunty or uncle whose phone call came. For watching television on Sunday when a film was telecast, we were treated to orange squash or lemon juice along with the film show.  

In school we were taught how to use the encyclopaedia by looking up the index. Maps were drawn and practiced free hand by using tracing paper. If we could not get it right, heaven help those who could not get it right! We had to practice repeatedly. Teachers came to class with large maps first and taught us how to point out places on maps- first physical map, then important cities, places, ports, kingdoms. ln geography class we made little packets of crops which grew places. In science class plants, flowers, seeds were stuck carefully in practical notebooks. We collected everything from our own garden and parks. The gardener always shooed us away, but we pampered him, called him bhaiya and told him that teacher would scold us if we didn't stick them in our books. That is how we learnt from nature and the world around us. We loved it if our teacher was absent, and a substitute teacher came to make us sing and recite poetry. 

That world changed with xerox machines. We were amazed by the Photostat machine. We stopped copying notes. The zerox machine did all the copying. We had to read- that was all. But we had to read and write.  

Suddenly, we heard of computers. Banks went on strike for the first time. They thought computers would replace people. Computer engineering became the most sought-after subject. Parents proudly declared that their child was a computer scientist or engineer in America. One teacher in our college said that her daughter was attending an interview on computer. We gaped at her in awe. Parents bought huge computers with large tables, drawers, wires because homework for computer class was important. Lots of computer teachers and cafes came up in every nook and corner of the country.

Playgrounds were empty, children were learning computers instead of music, dancing and sports. 

Abroad little children knew computers. 

Then people started selling desktops. You didn't need a table- balance it on your lap- laptop! 

In between someone said little phones were coming running on battery. Everyone had a cell phone. You could call almost everyone on tiny phones in your pocket. Long ago my dad had said that we would hold the computer in the palm of our hand! It happened!! 

The computer and cell phone combined.

College organized computer classes to upload attendance. I arranged for a computer teacher. He became a close family friend. My mother wanted to arrange for grandson's marriage. Someone said you must find match on computer. So, we had a computer teacher to teach us. 

Then covid happened. Schools' colleges closed. The world seemed to crash. One young teacher said she was taking zoom classes from home. Then a senior teacher posted pictures of taking classes on the same platform. There was great excitement all around. There was hope in the teaching learning experience. College organized Google classes for teachers. We could take lectures. Students and young teachers came forward to teach seniors on how to use smartphones and computers. Learning became exciting in a new way. We missed meeting students, but those who wanted to learn responded. Many of course switched us on and attended dance practice and answered during attendance time!! Yet open book exams were held. Everyone learnt to upload answers, download question paper. Large meetings were held on schools, colleges and universities. A whole generation came to be known as online students. But the world came closer. Online lectures allowed teachers and students not only to share technology but also information. One click away and every kind of knowledge is there now. 

Yet when the covid fear passed, students were eager to go to school and college. Meeting teachers and friends had a new meaning. Everything that was taken for granted till then was no longer true. 

The world is not the same. The movie hall cannot replace you tube. Live performance is not the same. Meeting a friend eye to eye is precious. Social distancing was traumatic. Technology is here for good, but human interaction through a loving what's app message, school, college reunions, job offers on the net and information can never be overloaded enough. Old times are over, but Google maps, pictures, shared photos, online shopping is all fun. Long live technology, let us be friends.

About the Author

Professor Ranjana Bhattacharya has been teaching History in Maitreyi College since 1987.She teaches the History of the United States of America and the History of early India. Her publications include Grants and Gods in Gujarat. She has published articles in academic journals. Her other interests include Rabindra Sangeet and Bharata Natyam.

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