Dr. Shishir Kumar Jha is associate professor at Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, IIT, Bombay. In this interview with Dr. Jitha T. J., the then Project Fellow with CCMG, Dr. Jha talks about his research on the challenges that information abundance poses to pedagogy and how the same asks for a change in the role of the educators. Excerpts:
JITHA T J: What is your fellowship under Media Policy & Law Project is about?
SHISHIR KUMAR JHA: It is on looking at the issues of pedagogy. I am trying to explore what are the kinds of issues that can be taken to the classroom to catch students more engaged. My attempt is to understand the structural issues underlying what they consume on daily basis. Let me give you an example, in the case of publications, what they get is a published book which is the end product. Actually, behind the publisher a lot more activities go in the process which ends up in the final product of the publication of a book. The introduction of shift to digital economy began to unravel that process. Now the author can directly reach the audience may be, for instance, through social media. There is a pressure on the publisher, like if they adopt digital mode of publication, in terms of lessening cost and so on. So my interest is in exploring the industries which are more on the frontiers of knowledge production; it could be music, may be movie, publishing of books, journals, or software, or newspaper and what are their impact on digital economy and how can I use them as content to take it to the class room to show the students what kind of transformation that is happening. Thus using them as content to build on certain kind of pedagogy.
JITHA: What are the challenges before the teachers in the era of information abundance?
SHISHIR: The challenge may be for the last ten years and compounded in every year now, is that the sensibilities of the students are radically shifting. Information abundance is creating all sorts of attitudinal changes, students have lot more access to content and so the role of the teachers or faculties and their authority as knowledge providers is getting decentralized. Another kind of shift is that along with these plenitudes they are getting more stimulated may be by their conversations or through the new devices, and my opinion is that as teachers we need to take those conversations (of the students) seriously and not as a moment of distraction.
JITHA: Would you like to explain with the help of an example?
SHISHIR: I always show an urge when my students use their mobile in the classroom. When I find them sending an SMS, I can also ask them to put it away. But that shall not be my only kind of response. It can also be an occasion for me to build upon and suggest that your distraction is actually revealing to me an alternative form of engagement that you find more compelling than what I am teaching in the class room. And I try to find out what that compulsion is or what is more interesting about it with which he/she wants to be engaged in.
This also may be an act that discloses what is happening outside the classroom. What is happening outside the classroom too has changed rapidly to say for the last ten years. While my point of contention is that our teaching style is not adequately responding to or come to grip with the changed scenario. What is happening in the classroom is that there is some exhaustion in logically building up an argument which should be convincing to someone.
JITHA: Does the development of information society necessitate a shift in the role of teacher?
SHISHIR: For me, the critical mentality of the students rests on two ways of responding:
- One is the conventional way or the way we all are accustomed to which is the rational way of argumentation and one which depends on evidence. I would argue that is not enough.
- The other response is that of desire, pain, and pleasure.
A student may critique Walt Disney very well and get an A grade and then go enjoy world Disney. I understand if one can go enjoy what they critique there is some gap in our approach we have had so far. It seems to have reached only one layer i.e., of building rational arguments.
The abundance we are presently witnessing, is not just information abundance, but it in turn creates other types of surpluses; surpluses in terms of desires and other kinds of stimulations. For example, when one is watching a movie instead of going with friends to a movie hall; the person is engaging with the screen and stimulation is happening with the screen. And I do not think we are trying to capture that sensibility. How is that affecting students? These are some of the issues I address when I design the content of a course. Can that intersect with the sensibility of the student, is one of my central concern.
The teacher, say about thirty years back, due to lack of options, had more authoritative role. For the students the source of knowledge was exclusively the teacher. Now the scenario is changing. The role of the teacher is decentered. It also creates a double problem. The role of teacher as an aggregator or someone who can simplify things for the students is changing and diminished, because there is more access for the students to other contents.
The other change is what these surpluses do to the students also. And the problem lies when I as a teacher may react more to the decentering because of my ego. The decentering would go away as an issue if I focus more on how more imaginatively engage with the students. This is what is actually lacking in today’s pedagogy.
As an MPL Fellow, Dr. Shishir Kumar Jha is working on “Collaborative Pedagogy in the Age of Information Abundance: The Case of Digitisation in the Publishing & Music Industries”. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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