IT is an undeniable fact that globalisation and the rapid emergence of the digital age have, in every aspect, drastically transformed the education landscapes the world over.
The knowledge industry has witnessed a charming and magical face-lift in terms of the production, distribution and consumption of skills products. At the centre of these developments is the deep-rooted quest for sustainable learning; which recognises the convenience of embracing dynamic multimedia-articulated learning platforms.
It is a fact that the contemporary digital revolution, weird and mesmerising as it may seem, is here to stay. Skeptics who initially thought that this phenomenon was just another global hype, which, with time, would dissipate, have suddenly woken up to a rude reality, which has outpaced old learning systems. The traditional concept of schooling inside the walls of brick and mortar has been superseded by the phenomenon of schooling without walls.
Conventional learning set-ups have been overtaken by digital environments and the face-to-face mode of tuition delivery is fast being challenged and replaced by online articulated methods. Paper environments have been eclipsed by “green-friendly” paperless platforms, which are environmentally sensitive and hence sustainable in the long run. Straightjacket and rigid set-ups are fast giving way to flexible and creative e-habits of knowledge making and knowledge dispensing never seen before.
The world has witnessed a massive showdown between physical infrastructure; where governments have poured massive funding thus making it difficult to let go, versus the ubiquitous multimedia learning formats and platforms, which have made those who are technophobic schizophrenic, especially regulators of learning institutions. Hard learning spaces have been eclipsed by soft learning spaces, tangible texts have been superseded by virtual texts, printouts have been outpaced by cyber resources and traditional pedagogies have given way to webagogies in the new fast paced digital knowledge ecosystem.
Educationists have realised that these developments are as fast and furious as they are stunning. We either have to shape up and embrace the new phenomenon or fossilise in our cocoons of cowardice, inertia or become moribund. It is true that Africa was a lame duck when the historic agriculture revolution took place. Likewise when the industrial revolution took place, Africa had no barley harvest to showcase or industrial charm to write home about. The digital revolution and its associated ecosystem has finally come, but Africa remains a bystander. It is painful to realise that despite the enormous unquestionable benefits that the digital revolution posits Africa is somewhat still mesmerised while other nations are busy wielding their sickles to a bumper “barley harvest”.
The lack of clarity in understanding which way the digital winds are blowing, coupled with the intransigent demon of technophobia dressed in jeans and vests of cynicism, skepticism and afro-pessimism has not done us any good as a continent. Whenever there is a dance we are quick to abstain because for us we are conditioned to think that every dance is a monkey dance. We are too smart to get ourselves entangled with monkey tails. Academics, curriculum planners and even the wielders of the flag are collectively guilty of this habit.
I draw inspiration from Buckminster Fuller when he says: “I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.”
We should instead realise that yesterday’s conquests and the means by which we used to conquer the world should not necessarily be the right tools in fighting today’s wars and challenges.
Charles Kettering observes: “All human development, no matter what form it takes, must be outside the rules; otherwise we would never have anything new.”
Ordinarily, people should be scared of old ideas rather than running away from new ideas. Multimedia articulated learning platforms have effectively become the creative launch pads into the vast and inexhaustible expanse of potential in the global village today. Through these platforms some have become “chiefs” and without these platforms some have become mere spectators and “commoners”, scrounging for their bearings at the fringes of the global village.
These virtual platforms make information readily available for anybody in need of it in ways that make it easier to use, share, store, retrieve and access with ease by the click of a mouse. The world has become an information supper-highway which requires digital literacy and webagogy.
Marshal McLuhan foresaw this phenomenon in the 1970s. Critics and skeptics dismissed him as overly ambitious and a futurist of the madness category.
Today his pronouncements have become the cornerstone of the digital terrain. Virtual multimedia platforms such as e-libraries, e-journals, e-lectures among others have offered us compelling and unquestionable advantages in the production, surfing, distribution and utilisation of knowledge products.
For the first time in history the information highway has been overly and dynamically portable, easily retrievable and readily accessible with the magical click of a mouse. In the past, researchers would torturously plough through mountains of archives and frighteningly shelved libraries.
As an academic foot-soldier, who has summered and wintered in this knowledge industry, I am convinced that the only way for Zimbabwe to extricate itself from the morass of digital illiteracy is through the adoption of multimedia-articulated learning platforms.
Mufaro Gunduza is rector at Mount Carmel Institute of Business Intelligence. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
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