Technology is really coming of age. Gone are the days when programming and gadgetry were confined to geeks, nerds and their ilk. What often differentiates an expert from an amateur is merely access to information and the ability to find it and understand it. Access to information is fast improving, and so is the ability to find information. As the worldwide web increases in its depth and coverage, the only barrier to learning seems to be disinterest.
That fascinating, yet false theory of ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the animal world, is wonderfully represented in the 80’s Indian child’s introduction to
technology. The scientific calculator fiercely used to be guarded as precious gadgets that may be “spoilt” by us kids when I was in primary school; the ZX spectrum when it made its entry into computer labs was fastened to a television and a tape-recorder. It was only when I was well into high school that the computer started looking serious (and personal!) with the IBM PCs running 8086 processors. As far as I can remember, the evolution of computing could be judged by the last 3 digits – the 286, 386 and the 486 with this SXs and the DX models. Friends with computers in those days were quite precious – you never messed with them. What started with Nibbles or Digger in Babu’s house in 7th grade progressed to learning games such as Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego and that favorite of ours, Prince of Persia in Shrenik’s house in later years and finally to Dave in Juggy’s house as the computers evolved. Strategy games and shooting games were to still come. Until the playstations of our days came, evolution of computing often could be easily understood through the games that the computers could support. What needed the best 386 machine in those days can be played on a browser even as I run my analysis on Excel these days – here is a site where it can still be played!
Anyway, the 80s child grew up watching the computing and the telecom revolution progressing by leaps and bounds through every single birthday of his. And I cannot help but think of technology as a lifestyle rather than a profession or a discipline. Even as I went through medical school, I kept the spirit alive doing my bits of web-design in html and that (then) awful Dreamweaver and that still awful Frontpage – those days of “Welcome to my homepage” websites with shadows and bevelled buttons!
2010’s is another story. Online learning has come of age and in spite of HPs claims that the computer is personal again, it is clearly the tablet that has become personal. And in spite of years and years of talk on eLearning, the movement towards good quality online education remained limited to videos of lectures and free courseware; there was not much teaching, but merely passive learning by interested students. That is all slowly changing. And one such is of course the University of the People – the tuition-free online University, where I registered for my Bachelors degree in computer science. And after all these years of being a doctor, never did I think I can also register for an engineering course. The course is built on the open-source learning management system, Moodle and is quite well thought through pedagogically. And whether a doctor can engineer? – time will tell. Earlier last year, the official Moodle app for mobile was released – here’s a review of that and it has been piloted too by some friends at ITM, Antwerp.
All said and done, these high funda technologies are only for the few who could afford. Contrast India, where education is yet to be realized as a birth right, leave alone health with some other parts of the world where access to the internet is already a birth right, global inequities will continue to restrict the gains from technology to most people at the global level. Even as I am fascinated by information technology, I am mindful of its limited access. But, perhaps will there be a day when this ‘tech-stuff’ will help improve health care, education and such? My interest in “tech stuff” continues – in hope that it may also help and contribute to public health. And hence this collection of tech-talks on daktre.com.