Well, I have not yet checked in to the NECC conference yet, but as was the case last week at EduComm, great conversations have already happened that have me thinking differently about several things.
I had a chance last night to have dinner and visit at length with a good friend. Pavan worked with me almost the entire time I was the director of distance learning for the College of Education at Texas Tech University, first as a graduate student assistant and later as a full-time employee working in the office of instructional technology support, which I supervised. He now works for an Indian company based in the U.S. which provides software support for PeopleSoft software. Pavan’s most memorable statement of the entire afternoon/evening was:
I’m glad the world is flat, but I wish all the time zones were the same.
The next three days he is on call from 6 pm to 8 am, because he is supporting a group doing a software installation in Singapore. As a computer science gradate at the Master’s level, he felt well prepared for the challenges he faces each day at work. The systems he is working with now are remaining pretty consistent, but his roommates are constantly switching programming languages they have to use for their work. They work for a different company, and are now doing .NET development. They have worked extensively in Java as well as other programming language environments. The dynamism in their working language (programming language) is really striking. This drove home the point to me that students graduating from our schools must be flexible, adaptable, and able to learn new skills readily. The workforce of the 21st century demands this in many cases.
The amount and pace of work can be overwhelming for Pavan sometimes, however. He said one of the project managers he works with regularly just gets 4 hours of sleep per night. One of the people he works with gets so much email, he is constantly on it almost all day long (via his Blackberry and laptop) and regularly works 11-12 hour days. Pavan himself is a contract employee. Although he has full health care benefits, his company provides no vacation time. If he is not working on a contract, he is not earning money. As a H-1 visa holder he is very glad to be employed in the United States, but the road he has to follow to fulltime, salary employment is a long and uncertain one.
Our conversations about the pace of work, lack of vacation time, etc. reminded me often of the book I finished reading this past month, “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore. The unchecked progression of capitalism is exerting a high human toll on many in the workforce.
We also had some interesting discussions about the impact of television and the movie industry on Indian culture. I heard a very interesting BBC – The World podcast several months ago, discussing this tremendous cultural impact of the media in India. As an extremely diverse society, TV and movies are now having a major influence on Indian culture and norms. In just the five years since Pavan has been gone from his home in Hyderabad, cultural norms for dress and behavior have changed in many ways. Pavan thinks a lot of that has to do with the influence of the media.
I was intrigued by the language aspects of media’s influence. Each region of India has its own predominant dialect. In Hyderabad in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh where Pavan grew up and his family still lives, the Telugu language is the local dialect. Almost everyone in India at least understands the Hindi language, however, so most of the television and movie productions are made in Hindi. We ate dinner at a WONDERFUL local Indian restaurant that is a favorite of Pavan, and they played music videos from Indian movies on a large, projector screen all evening. Interestingly, all Indian movies are musicals, and the music made and sold for each movie is a very lucrative part of the industry. Some film producers recoup all their costs on the sales of movie music soundtracks before the movie is even released, since soundtracks are often released first. Very interesting.
Well, I’m off to NECC. I’ll have more reports to share here later in the day!
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