Confined to our homes waiting for the Covid-19 pandemic to wane, a substantial percentage of the working population is now forced to work from home. This population is born in the previous century and can’t be included in the category of digital natives. It’s but natural that the majority is not comfortable with online platforms that are mandatory for work from home. And it is here that the younger generation is being seen as a guiding force.
For once, it’s the time when elders have to listen to what children are teaching them. Whether it’s a grandchild, a son or a daughter or a much younger cousin, a colleague or a neighbourhood friendly chap who we keep pestering with our frantic phone calls, they have all risen to the occasion. They teach, guide and advise their parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, or other figures in authority about how to download apps, make groups, fix meetings, create videos, send content and connect with their workplace team to keep the official and social communication channels open without hassle.
While attending online classes, youngsters watch their fumbling and ill-at-ease teachers with sympathy and patience, helpfully offering suggestions for correcting the glitches. A Kuchipudi dancer, who has gone digital and is conducting online classes, while acknowledging the technical support of her daughter admits: “It sure helps to have tech-savvy youngsters in the family.”
These are the tech warriors doubling up as laptop and cellphone mechanics and go-to saviours when in doubt or logged out.
It is not only on the home front that the young are teaching the old, the reverse learning trend is visible in the academic departments also. For once, the junior most colleagues are getting all the authority to run the department from home. They are now the busiest and the most active, innovative and creative figures, conceiving and executing online classes, training programmes, webinars and digital learning solutions. For once, seniors save a few who have kept themselves abreast with technology, have taken the backseat twiddling their tech-phobic thumbs.
Irrespective of the cadre, the most sought-after person in the staff is the member with information technology (IT) skills to troubleshoot for their bosses, who have been too engrossed in routine administration to jump on the online bandwagon.
I recently came across an online seminar for faculty members being coordinated by a PhD scholar, who is managing the technical paraphernalia. This was unthinkable in a traditional setting two months ago.
We, the seniors and experienced are now humbled, our arrogance has bitten the dust and no more will we use such absurd statements: “I know more because I am… your senior/older than you/your mother/your teacher.”
Let us salute the young tech warriors who are contributing to running the world from home in this critical period. Life would have ground to a halt without them.
The writer is an associate professor at Panjab University, Chandigarh