Education and ICT

Hi Pam, Your chat with me this morning set me thinking about ICT. As I told you, I have been toying with the idea of studying further and adding to my knowledge and skills. But it almost seems impossible for me, since most of the online courses (I am not even thinking of proper, offline courses) seem unaffordable, in term of time and money. Some of the best online courses in UK and US cost a bomb for somebody like me in India. This is where I think ICT can play a crucial role in filling the gap for many like me who want to learn even as they earn. And also, importantly, I want to do a course where learning is constant sharing, fun and enlightenment. Structured courses and manuals are not for me. So do you think ICT can change the way we learn? Should we at Dadamac be thinking of it and doing something about it? Vijay

Open Letters: 


Hi Vijay This is something very dear to my heart (which is why I have decided to reply here rather than in my blog. I want to keep all our thoughts about Education and ICT together in an easy to follow way.)

I think there are two ways to look at ICT and education. One is to look at traditional ways of getting an education and then see how ICT can add something extra (as a shorthand I call that a "20th century" approach). The other way is to look at ICT and see how it can add to our strategies of learning (a "21st century" approach). In reality there is overlap - but for the sake of discussion I am oversimplifying the issues.

I wonder what you want to study. It seems to me that (in the areas of learning which interest me) it is possible to take a 20th century approach or a 21st century approach. (Obviously if I wanted to learn something practical like being a brain surgeon then the situation would be rather different).

Like you I have looked at the possibility of additional formal study in recent years (my interest was a higher degree related to ICT education and development) and like you I concluded that I did not have the resources of time and money to enrole anywhere. I have therefore continued my "learning journey" in a 21st century self-directed way.I have been amazed at the opportunities for learning, and the help and support I have been given along the way by people online. Of course I am not getting any accreditation, but I am learning.

I wonder how relevant my experiences are to your situation. Please tell me more about your own "learning journey" and your hopes for its future direction.


Hi Pam, Thanks for replying. I have just started on my 'learning journey' in the development sector. I want to do an integrated package on climate change, food security, agriculture, water, community health, nutrition and education. I doubt whether I will get a package like that with the 20th century approach. Nor am I hopeful of getting anything like that in a proper online format. So I think I have to opt for the 21st century self-directed way, where I get 'educated' through the Net, through chats and emails with experts, through blogs and educational materials gleaned from the web.

Of course, nobody in the current academic world would recognise this as learning. But I am sure not only would I 'learn' but also rub minds and connect with people on the ground and people in the know of things. I would call this holistic, wholesome and comprehensive learning. Of course, I would miss out on getting regular inputs from the academic world. But, on an optimistic note, I would like to hope that experts and educationists would also join me in my initiative to learn and share with my fellow travellers on the ICT bandwagon. Vijay


I love your reply. It seems we are largely of one mind here. There is only one area where I would disagree. You say "Of course, I would miss out on getting regular inputs from the academic world."

I think it depends what you mean. If you mean that you will not be submitting formal assignments and getting them marked then, yes, of course I must agree with you. But if you mean you will not be able to enter into discussion with academics then I would disagree.

In my experience one of the great benefits of being a 21st century self directed learner is that you can join in discussions with academics through online groups. If you have something relevant to offer to the discussion then you can offer it. In such a group you are accepted for the qulaity of what you bring, not for your status in the academic world.

No-one has ever aksed me in an online group if I am a professor or an undergaduate, or anything in between. If I have written something useful then it has got a response. If what I have written has not been useful then it has been ignored. Simple as that. So I would say that it is possible to get very high quality feedback from the academic world through discussion, which I think is much better than just getting an assessment marked.

Of course there are often culture gap problems and areas of potential misunderstanding in online discussions - but even a misunderstanding can in itself be part of the learning experience. For example, in my area of interest (ICT and education) I often forget that most other people are not including "non-formal education" when they talk about education while  I am nearly always thinking about "non-formal".

There is huge overlap between formal and non-formal in terms of access to information, use of the Internet and suchlike, but of course there is a big difference when it comes to assessment. As a self- directed student I judge for myself when I have learned enough (for the time being) about what I am trying to learn. As a result i tend to forget that assessment is such an important issue for most other people who are discussing ICT and education.

I would like to discuss the issue of assessment further with you sometime.

I am also very interested in your choice of subjects. They are all very appropriate for online self-directed learning. I look forward to exploring further with you possible routes for your learning journey.



Hi Pam, By formal, I was referring to 'submitting formal assignments' and getting them assessed by academics. So even though I would miss those inputs in a non-formal mode of education, I would still prefer a platform where I could join discussions with academics and learn through a serendipitous cycle of 'ignorance, misunderstanding and revelations'. But I really wonder how many professors or domain experts will have the patience to go through this 'painful' cycle (for them) of educating the learners.

Interestingly, I am a member of a knowledge platform incubated by UN in India (it is also there in other places) called the Solutions Exchange (on various issues from maternal health to disaster management to ICT). It is definitely a great idea. But most people who come here are professionals and experts. All they come here for is to update and upgrade their knowledge from practical examples. Since I look upon myself as a learner, I often find myself totally out of synch in the discussions. Please go to

Look foward to your views. I would hope that others also join in. Also, I would soon like to take this discussion to the next level of how to start and move an ICT-driven module on development issues (that I mentioned in my earlier post). It is a module which should be built on the best principles of collaborative learning and sharing.


Vijay - you say you would like others to join in.

At present this is just a discussion between the two of us and it is unlikely that any one will stumble across it. You will need to seek people out. We could think who might be interested and then invite them to join us.Our early discussion can serve as a kind of framework for what we are interested in (a bit like a keynote at a conference).

You could try referring to our discussion on Twitter, or if you have other online contacts you could mention it to them in an email or online chat. It might be best if you raise a particular question, write about that, give the link, and then encourage your contact(s) to respond to it. Online chats are good, especially if you have the link to your page readily to hand, in case the person you are chatting to seems interested. Even if none of your contacts leave a comment (very few people actually write comments) you might get some kind of response online which you can include here later.

What do you think?


Hi Vijay

I am doing some work over in the discussion forums, experimenting with the structure of the forums. You may find some of what I am writing there relevant to ICT and education.