At EDC, Shelley Pasnik is a leader in studying how students, educators, and schools make the most effective use of technology. Based in EDC’s New York office, she recently returned from a trip to India.
This was my first trip to India. EDC was hosting a two-day conference in Jaipur, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, for people in education from all parts of India. Our in-country staff hosted this session. I really enjoyed meeting our EDC colleagues who participated. They were so generous and welcoming.
The conference focused on ICTs, that is, information and communication technologies. I was asked to speak about emerging technology trends. While much of the program focused on nearer-term needs and conditions, my talk was meant to be more forward-looking, so I described current trends, those expected over the next 12 months, and then looking ahead to a 2–5-year timeframe.
My talk was based on trends seen principally in the United States and other developed countries. For example, we will be seeing more virtual workplaces for communication, information-sharing, and group work, and these workplaces will not be bound by geography. We’re already familiar with some of these, such as wikis and community websites.
In the next couple of years, we will also be seeing increasingly smart portable devices, chock full of functionality because of built-in cameras, microphones, and GPS-enabled applications. Personal ownership of these devices will continue to expand and so will their popularity.
We’ll also be seeing an increase in collaborative environments, such as Facebook and Google docs, and more and varied online communications tools like Twitter and Skype. Smart devices and Web 2.0 applications like these have the potential to connect teachers located in different parts of India in new ways, allowing them to rely on one another’s expertise.
I think we’ll also be hearing more about cloud computing, which makes file storage and access easier, and about smart objects, which can collect data about their environment and then place that information into a larger data system, a sort of next-generation sensor.
There was a good deal of interest in “what’s next” in the field of education technology as well as pragmatic consideration of what’s happening in schools today. Most of the presenters at this conference were people whose work is based in India. They work with EDC’s T4 project, in the education departments of several Indian states, overseeing the integration of ICTs to improve quality teaching and learning for the primary grades.
It was interesting to give a talk on the latest emerging technologies in a country where, I learned, 120 million households with children have no electricity. Never mind computers—many schools and classrooms have no electricity. I realized how often we make assumptions in our domestic work here in the United States about an infrastructure that is just not available everywhere. I knew this about India. But it’s one thing to know a fact and quite another thing to see the reality.
While in India, I had the opportunity to travel. It’s certainly a different pace and a different volume there—a lot faster and a lot louder! I came back feeling that, in comparison to a bustling city in India, New York is so calm and clean!
I was there during the Kumbha Mela, which is the largest spiritual festival in the world, and this year, 50 million people gathered at the Ganges River. It’s held once every 12 years and is celebrated in four different locations depending on the position of the planet. This year’s gathering was in the northern part of the country in Haridwar. It was really stunning to gather along the river each night as people made their way to the water’s edge to chant and offer prayers.
Travel allows you to confront your assumptions: about yourself, about different ways of life. Dipping into any other culture makes you realize what you take for granted and what you presume to be true.
Originally published on July 16, 2010