The edtech, short for education technology, platforms have become rather popular and is being widely used for remote or digital learning by children across the country as the Covid pandemic forced authorities to shut schools.
There are several companies and start-ups such as BYJU’s, WhiteHat Jr, Unacademy, Class Plus, upGrad, Pesto, Vedantu, Edukart and many more being used by school-going children and others for remote learning. Raising Superstars is the latest kid on the block to have grabbed headlines.
Raising Superstars came into the spotlight through the business-related reality TV show Shark Tank. Shraddha and Raghav Himatsingka, the couple who started Raising Superstars, presented their idea of helping children in the age group of 0-3 years through their digital platform. They claim infants and toddlers can learn basic concepts with zero screen time in just five minutes a day through their platform.
While these edtech platforms have helped children develop and learn several advanced skills and knowledge sets, experts weighed in whether the saying “excess of everything is bad” is becoming too real too soon.
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‘Craving to learn’
While a lot of edtech platforms help develop the practical and theoretical knowledge of children of several age groups, those for infants and toddlers are something rare, if not unheard of.
Raghav Himatsingka believes this is the age when children should be introduced to the world of learning. “When a baby is born, they have the same number of neurons/brain cells as an adult—which is 100 billion neurons—but these neurons are not connected with each other. As soon as they are born into the world from the mother’s wound, they are hit by all kinds of different stimuli,” he explains.
“When it hits them, the brain cells inside their brain all start getting connected very fast. So, all of these are rapid connections and are called synapses,” he adds.
He explains all of these connections are weak and can easily be cut off. However, by the time these connections are formed, usually by the time they turn three, the baby’s brain is already developed 85 per cent. At this age, the brain decides to cut off all non-important connections and keeps the important ones, he adds.
He claims children have a craving to learn and whatever they learn at this age stays with them for a long time.
Even though the creators of Raising Superstars claim their platform is helpful for infants and toddlers, several experts raised doubts about whether using technology and asking children to learn at such a young age is the right decision. They also believe it is difficult to understand how the brain works and thus subjecting such young children to structured learning may not be the best approach.
“At such a young age a child’s motor, visual and auditory perceptions are still being mapped in the brain. The child needs to develop all these sensory perceptions in a healthy way. Biasing it to only visual cues may hamper overall development. Providing a balanced sensory environment and allowing children to explore the world around them is healthier,” says Roopkosh A, HOD, Early Childhood Education R&D, The Narayana Group.
Raghav says his platform does not make the child indulge in screen time at all and content at Raising Superstars is available for parents to use. The platform offers five-minute lessons as instructions and ideas for parents, who can use it as they want without actually exposing their children to the screen, he adds.
He also says there are no benchmarking or tests on their platform and the content is generated on the basis of what the child shows interest in. Their content is individually-tailored and is not the same for everyone every day, he claims. This helps the children gain knowledge and skills about something they like, rather than what their parents want them to learn, Raghav explains.
Refuting this, Allan Andersen, Director of Chaman Bhartiya School says, “Learning is an extremely complicated process. Each child has a different learning style through which he learns, retains and processes information. Hence the correct approach towards ensuring holistic development of a child is to recognise his strengths and weaknesses; what is the methodology through which he assimilates best and tailors his learning accordingly. Hence I am not a proponent of this quick fix ideology – it is not possible that a single learning resource (digital) can develop a genius.”
‘Hybrid model most effective’
Dr Anirban Chakraborti, Dean of Research and Dean of School of Engineering and Technology at BML Munjal University, says it is not necessary for children to be subjected to this training at such a young age.
“The human brain is very complex and we do not understand how the mind works. There are different faculties of the brain that are involved in the learning process. We do not know the effects of these training on the different faculties of the brain, e.g., it might enhance your curiosity but it may cause you to be restless,” he said.
Some experts also feel that digital learning cannot be the only learning medium.
“There is a sudden surge of optimism across India that online learning can replace the physical school. It is essential to understand that learning is a social activity. It is also crucial for the holistic development of the child. Hence, we believe in a hybrid model of analogue and social activities. We use technology as a crucial tool for inquiry and personalised learning. Particularly in the early years, we believe there should be minimal usage of edtech platforms or apps,” says Andersen of Chaman Bhartiya School.
“In the current scenario, online platforms can be a replacement in remote villages. However, in our experience, a hybrid model which combines analogue and digital is the most effective.”
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