In 8th grade, our English teacher read us the story “The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov. The story revolves around two children Margie and Tommy in the 2157. They find a old diary entry in their attic that talks about how school used to be in the ‘old’ days. The children are awed by the diary entry which talks about children running around in a building, taught by a single teacher.
This lies in sharp contrast to their current education system where each student studies alone in their rooms with their individual ‘mechanical teacher’ who displays the lessons for the day, and the students insert and submit their homework. The story was written in jest by Issac, to emphasize the irony behind the two scenarios.
In 8th grade, we enjoyed the irony too. We laughed and imagined school in a hundred or so years. We even had an assignment where we drew up schools in the future. It was a joke to us, still an unimaginable future.
Who knew that would be our reality in less that three years?
The irony has not aged very well. When I re-read the story a few weeks ago, I laughed again. Just this time, the laugh was filled with mirth and irony instead of amusement. Oh how times have changed so fast!
Now, the entire world is in the same situation, at least in all the places where normal education has not yet been reinstated. We learn alone in our rooms, with our lessons flashing on screens and we deliver our assignments to our mechanical teachers (our computers).
The scenario is understandably a trying and confusing time and unfortunately incredibly boring. As the children in the book reminisce about the fun the older generations must have had, I too reminisce about how school used to be something I actually used to look forward to, (this is a fact i would never admit to in public). Online learning seems to have squeezed every drop of fun in school, and thrown it away.
In our classroom, we always relied on troublemakers to either ask hilariously stupid questions or amuse us with their antics when the class got too boring. Our class had children who were so trustworthy in their actions, that when they spoke up, you could immediately close your books and get ready for a show.
Now, as our classroom has been put on mute and we no longer see each others faces, opportunities for such shenanigans are definitely low. And its definitely hard to make jokes in class, while your mom stands right behind you.In my entire three months of online learning, the only opportunity for comedy was one time when my teacher forgot the call had begun and was busy dancing to music. Our entire class watched in amusement as he shook his head to the beat.
Nevertheless, the memories are not the same. Schools are now reopening again, and maybe we soon might return to normal. But at the same time, we are the beginning of a new era. Our brief stint with online learning has definitely put e-learning on the map for the future.
Many companies have begun to change the way the workplace has historically worked. There is a huge shift to moving academics to the online platform. This isn’t limited only to education. Shopping, food, socialization and many such things have already moved from their face to face norm to an online one, and work and education are soon to follow. Educational institutes have already begun developing apps and software to bring e-learning to the mainstream arena.
With the exponential growth of technology and the realization that our world is changing fast, the day where learning becomes completely like Isaac Asimov’s writing isn’t as far away as we once imagined. We would be the writers of the diary, the last generation that remembers schools as it currently is, before it all changes. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, remains up to debate.