Saturday, 21 January 2012

Kindles, books, and plain paper - pen?

sI look wistfully at a well written note or a letter lying in front of me, appreciating the strokes of the pen, the regularity of movement, and the preciseness of the lines, neither drifting down, nor up or sideways! My parents, both teachers of repute in their times used to tell me that a person’s character was reflected in the writing, so I often tried to mend my hand writing to within accepted standards! During my early teens, especially when I was about thirteen or fourteen, there was a great craze about having pen-friends, so I too had pen friends from all over the world. Each letter was a work of art, especially since it was the culmination of  a large number of discarded attempts, crushed and forlorn, dumped in the dust-bin, the result of an error which could not be deleted with the press of a key! The paper was special, it came in a costly letter-pad! In those days, my fingers and the entire wrist danced a graceful dance as they wrote in a beautiful hand, today, my fingers fly or flit over the key-board, but then there can’t be any grace in the rather swift-staccato pecking of the key-board!
One can argue, however, that use of technology has benefitted everyone by making work easier, faster and more convenient! The fact that I am writing a blog, and that you are reading it might never have taken place if I had to write the same in pen and paper. It would never have the reach that the internet has given me! However, the grace of a beautifully hand-written letter has had to give way, to the soft-copy, the bytes that have been entered with the help of the key-board! I still marvel at the beauty of a handwritten application over a typed application, because the handwritten work is a work of art, a mirror into the personality of the person who has written so well. Unfortunately,  now I use the key-board more than my pen!
The use of technology, computers and computer peripherals in education has been increasing steadily, making the use of the blackboard, the manual type-writer, and that ubiquitous cyclostyling machine (where you had to cut a stencil, Kores or Gestener) rather obsolete! There was a lot of excitement when I was asked by my then Manager, Mr. Anil Virmani, to go for the Intel Teach to the Future programme, a programme aimed at training teachers in the use of computers as teaching tools. I was selected for the Master’s Level, became a teacher-trainer, helped set up a computer lab in the school where I was then teaching. I developed PowerPoint slides for teaching of Formal Letters, Report Writing, Process Essays…etc to students. Today, things have progressed further, and you have interactive blackboards, you have Smart Classes, and in higher education, the use of a lap-top has become the norm! Now we have come to know about how the Kindle and the Tablets might make a foray into the sphere of Education, with the  low cost of the Akash tablet making it an affordable option! You can have whole text books on a Kindle, and you can use Wi-Fi to connect to a server on the Akash and access a resource of textbooks! Today we have E-books on computers and even mobiles. I have a few E-Books on my lap-top and even on my Android Mobile Phone, but have never been able to read more than a couple of pages! Nothing beats the sensation of paper on your fingers, and the convenience of putting the book away only to pick it up later on! The weight of a book is reassuring and satisfying!
I wonder if the advent of cheap technology and the use of Tablet P.Cs. might not spell a doom for text books, and other books as we know them? I wonder if the days of beautiful Hand writing are finally over! The L.P. record (vinyl record) gave way to the compact disk, which in turn has given way to the Blue-Ray, so, does it mean that the book will soon give way to the Kindle? Soon, schools will become obsolete, and computers will become teachers, and the teacher as we know him or her will become a thing of the past, and a book will become a curio and my writing will become the ranting of a puritan, an Orthodox, and old fashioned Teacher! Today, as in the past, I continue to be a book worm and I continue to be a Member of the British Council library in Delhi. I can’t think of a life without books. I love reading books, and especially fiction,Science-fiction, History,Para-Sciences, and anything worth reading!  I enjoy browsing through magazines on science, computers and photography.Although I have a Master’s Degree in English, I remain interested in Physics, Biology, and Chemistry! This interest in diverse fields has resulted  not  from the presence of Tablet P.Cs. or Kindles, or perhaps Lap-tops, but rather from the number of books and magazines that I like to surround myself with!
So then does all this technology mean the end of schools and teachers and class rooms and libraries and text books as we know them? Will we stop going to school, and instead will our teachers be very much at home, as computers that teach us and assess us as we progress into our studies? God forbid, that the human element in the teaching process should be eliminated! Such an eventuality would rob us of our essential human element, and transform us into machines and robots, without individuality or identity. It is good to use technology to improve the quality of Education, but then we should beware of the possibility where technology begins to use us! The lesson, “The Fun they Had” appearing in the C.B.S.E. class seven English Literature  text book( a short story by the famous Science Fiction writer Issac Assimov) describes a world where no one goes to school, and teachers have been replaced by computers, and a book is a quaint, if rather strange object for Margie!

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1 comment:

  1. I have finally bought myself an Apple I Pad mini which has a slew of books in the electronic format, but then although I might read a couple of pages on the device out of curiosity, I still read books in the hard copy format. I have published a couple of books with the Partridge Publishing company and the two versions being sold are the softcover version and the e-book version and do you know what? A colleague who had once worked with me and now lectures in Columbia sent me a message on facebook telling me that she had bought my second book in the e-book format and that she was going to read it in college. I guess the E-Book version cannot after all be written off!