Human Technology Learning

Humanistic Education & the human element #EDCMOOC

I watched Steve Fuller’s talk and read the article on “Humanistic Education” and I was genuinely surprised and confused! They were talking about a kind of thinking about education, that I had never heard of. Having studied philosophy, worked with learning for years and being in teaching and learning #edtech since 2008 I was puzzled…

But reading the “advanced reading” cleared it up: It seems you English speakers DO know something about “dannelse” – even though you talk about an education that will lead to reaching dannelse/Bildung, rather than the result as we do.

When we talk about education in Scandinavia a central term has always been “dannelse” – it literally means “Formation” – when trying to explain the concept to english speakers we often resort to the German term “Bildung” – which is even explained in the english Wikipedia here. It has always been central to most educational debates over the years – the conflict between teaching “skills” and teaching to “form the individual intellectually”. And naturally there has been enormous debates over the years about HOW one should teach to reach this goal. But even so, the danish schools has since the 70s (and until recently at least) strived to educate the children to be whole human beings, with a general knowledge to be good citizens. – This may be the utopian ideal of the public school system, but it has to some extent been upheld, as seen for example in that there has been little testing and no grading until the 7th grade. Lately PISA-testing and the culture of measuring has won out. But none the less dannelse/Bildung stands as a central concept in any educational debate.

When discussing education with english speakers a mention of “Bildung” usually leaves then looking puzzled – but the mystery has now been solved: The concept which has been central to the educational debate in Scandinavia (and Germany as far as I know) has not in fact been completely absent from the English speaking world, it’s just been a noun for the process to get there, not for the intended goal. Thank you #EDCMOOC for clearing that up!

In light of this I see Monke’s “The Human Touch” as a strange combination of technology-bashing and a cry for Bildung, in the form of digital literacy that makes children creative and competent technology users. But he only reaches that conclusion after blaming technology for everything that has gone wrong with education and society (from stunting “true” experience of the world to… well almost school shootings – although he does not say the words). It seems if schools didn’t buy computers it would be easy to fix poverty, racism and all the other problems in Gods own country. I do agree the we should teach digital literacy and using technology with human values – but being a product of a Scandinavian school system, I have a hard time seeing how one could teach technology without values or context. But maybe things looked different to an american ten years ago, or maybe I’m just lucky and had the education he’s wishing for?


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