With today's children being more techno-savvy than their predecessors, education becomes more entertaining. Jayashree Arunachalam finds out more
Times are a-changing, and even childhood isn't the same. The world of the modern child is more hectic and hi-tech, which reflects on the manner in which they play and learn. Education and educational material are keeping pace with the new trend, and learning for kids has never been so much fun.
The dreary textbook is no longer a study in black and white. “Nowadays, we're looking at adding digital content for the modern child into textbooks,” explains Rema A., managing editor of publishing house Pearson Longman. “Kids today are more techno-savvy so reading is made accessible in different media: e-books, interactive exercises, multimedia and games built into the textbooks, and so on. Online links are also provided for the written content.”
Keeping kids engaged is the order of the day. Over the past 15 years, educational software in the form of games have been made available, starting off with old favourites like Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego and Mecc's line-up that included The Amazon Trail and The Oregon Trail. History, science, geography and literature share space in an interactive interface that combines sound, movement, colour and fun.
“Most kids today use computers at home on a daily basis, so we have to challenge them the same way in a school environment,” says teacher Vandana Ravi. “Blackboards have been replaced by interactive whiteboards which also double up as monitors. Companies like Educomp have also done a lot towards digitalising the classroom.”
Some of the educational material goes beyond the actual textbook. Some publishing houses have come out with bilingual books -- books in English which have the Hindi translation for some words, allowing kids who aren't proficient in Hindi to learn the language as they read. Some books also incorporate traditional art onto their pages, such as Worli and Kalamkari, just to open children up to different ideas. Children's magazines also take an effort to include stories on living legends, past heroes and science fun facts in the form of games, stories and puzzles. Comic books tell stories of gods and warriors, usually with a careful moral tagged onto the end, just to drive the message home.
“I look at my eight-year-old daughter's study material and I'm rather envious,” laughs parent Smita Menon. “When I was in school, I'd have a boring book with pages of text. Maybe a graph or diagram or two to liven things up. Today, she's got sound and light and interactivity which challenge her and make her think.”
The flipside is inevitable: when previous generations managed just fine, is this really necessary? What about the importance of outdoor play? Vandana says, “Obviously one can't replace the other, and that isn't even what's being suggested. I still encourage my students to get out, shake off their lethargy, read, explore. But we're also offering them the chance to learn so much more beyond the prescribed syllabus. And that can never be a bad thing.”