Human Technology Learning

#EDCMOOC w2: Visions of education

In the near future children will think of nothing but their learning from they wake up, dying to get to school until they hand in their homework and fall asleep. Teachers are essentially large (sideways) scroll wheels with an audiotrack. Learning is achieved by sitting attentively and listening – or, when it gets really interactive, holding up a piece of glass.

Learning can be achieved by show and tell – there is no frustration, hard work, analysis or solving problems involved. And it’s so much fun even your parents love to watch the dinosaurs when you get home at night. (A Day Made of Glass by Corning)

Learning is primarily done by sitting and listening – or looking at pictures. Technology is not just showing us beautiful pictures, which explain everything, it is also all about control and security: Teachers can monitor student activity and progress. Security sweeps are frequent and quick (but still not done on down-time?) Students are motivated by assignment credits and quizzes.
When real applied knowledge is needed you call an expert, who will tell you how it’s done. There is no boring learning the principles and math behind bridge building, or failing and having to try again. Oh, and 3D print is solid and stable (I am looking forward to that one!). And by doing this you’ll be winning over the other schools (who didn’t have the fancy glass screens or an engineer to call?). (Bridging Our Future by Intel)

What happened to learning?

They are both cases of showing off the wonders of technology in the 21st century, but their view of education looks like it might as well be the 1920s. Having taught for many years all I see is fun stuff for the already engaged and motivated learner – and those are lovely to teach, but not the real challenge of teaching: I see nothing that will help motivate the not-so-engaged learner (there are more of those), or help the struggling learner, who didn’t get it on the first scroll. Also nothing about the technology seems to be modernizing the teacher’s job – unless it’s implying that teaching can now be replaced by a Google Image search.

As an educational technologist who actually believe that technology has a lot of potential to support and enhance learning – so it’s heartbreaking how little potential the tech companies are seeing in this area. My verdict is, those are both dystopias, since they are both showing how decades of research showing how learning can take place is still being ignored – and by the very people who should be supporting us with new solutions.


This week’s read: B. Stewart: Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? (best thing I’ve read in the MOOC debate, read it now if you haven’t!!) adresses exactly this problematic (in my opinion) view of education – she distinguishes between information-centered and communications-centered view of learning (quoting Gur and Wiley):

On the surface it might seem as if the bridge builders are doing more collaborative learning, and they may be – but it’s still the teacher supplying information, and when you run into trouble you call another expert to tell you how it’s done (information: Answers delivered ready-made, not you having to go through a process og figuring out what went wrong, what the underlying principles are, do the math/geometry and figure it out yourself (or with your group.) 

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