An article from long-time tech writer Steven Levy tells the fascinating story of a bet from more than 25 years ago.
Back when I was still working for the overly-large school district, I routinely attended several edtech conferences every year. That included the one produced by our state organization VSTE1, usually the huge ISTE event, and always EduCon.
But those three were the very small tip of a very large iceberg. If I had an unlimited budget, and didn’t have to do an actual job, I could have traveled to a couple hundred conferences. And far more if you included every K12 education-related meeting held in just the US.
It’s the start of a new year and that means thousands of articles, posts, and essays forecasting the future. Some are thoughtful and intelligent. Many are trivial. The vast majority will be flat out wrong.
One titled Technologies That Will Define the Classroom of the Future certainly falls into that last group.
First of all, technology will never “define” a classroom, at least not a good one. Students and teachers, supported by parents, librarians, administrators, and others define a class community. Technology should only be there to assist the learning.
Anyway, so what are these innovative technologies that will “soon reside in the future classrooms”?
Augmented Reality – Certainly we want students to interact with the world. But this, and it’s cousin virtual reality, are just tools to help them do that. Unless you’re planning to recreate the classroom inside a virtual world, this concept should not “define” learning.
3D Printer – No. Just no. All of the creative work required to have the machine render the object has been done prior to starting the job. A 3D printer is no more defining of learning than was a 2D printer.
Cloud Computing, New interactive and flexible displays, Multi-Touch LCD screen – Again, no. These are not learning tools. They are devices (and in the case of cloud computing, a concept) that can enhance the teaching and learning process. They will not “define” the classroom of the future.
Biometrics – Huh? I understand the security part but saying this technology leads to “adaptive learning systems” that will “transform the education process into a more individual and productive one” is just silly. This is about management and control, not learning.
Learning based on games – If you expand this into the general idea of “learning based on play”, then I’m with you. But learning from play (aka experimentation) is how children gain understanding of their world from the beginning. Applying the concept of gaming to learning school-type subjects is fine as long as “games” are not just one more way to spoon-feed the same old curriculum.
And finally… MOOCs and other online learning options – Kids are certainly learning online, just not in the highly structured format of MOOCs (which haven’t been a roaring success despite the hype). I certainly hope the version of online learning envisioned by adults, which is largely a digital translation of the traditional teacher-directed instruction, doesn’t define the classroom of the future.
I have no doubt many, if not most, of these technologies will make their way into devices used by students and teachers. None of them, however, will define the learning process. And, if properly implemented, no one will even notice (or care) the technology is in the classroom.
This will be my only post about the election. Feel free to ignore it.
Clearly the constitutional election process itself is royaly screwed up. Twice in the past twenty years, the person who received the highest number of votes for President lost. The fact that we continue with this system just because it was written by the sainted founders is absurd to the highest power and needs to be fixed.
However, there is another major flaw reflected in this election, one that has become integrated into our society. And I feel that it is even more responsible for all the crap that is coming in the next four years. It’s one that can be fixed, although I fear, not easily.
This quote, courtesy of the always wise Audrey Watters (by Antonio Gramsci, who died in a Fascist Italian prison in the 30’s), explains that flaw very well.
I hate the indifferent. I believe that life means taking sides. One who is really alive, can be nothing if not citizen and partisan. Indifference is lethargy: it is parasitism, not life. Therefore, I hate the indifferent.
Indifference is the dead weight of history. Indifference plays an important role in history. It plays a passive role, but it does play a role. It is fatality; it is something that cannot be counted on; it is something that disrupts programmes, overturns the best made plans; it is that awful something that chokes intelligence. What happens, the evil that touches everyone, happens because the majority relinquish their will to it, allowing the enactment of laws that only a revolution can revoke, letting men rise to power who, later, only a mutiny can remove.
I am alive, partisan. And, therefore, I hate those who do not take sides; I hate the indifferent.
Hate won this election, on a technicality. But hate also received a massive amount of assistance from that dead weight of indifference.
We have a significant number of citizens who suffer from that lethargy Gransci described. The loudest and most obvious group are those who refuse to vote, except for a flawless candidate who perfectly fits their unique mold. They are the parasites who are too utopian to take sides.
But they are relatively few in number.
Far worse are the large numbers who vote while being steadfastly, sometimes proudly, indifferent to even the most basic issues that most directly impact them. They refuse to do the work of educating themselves (something those sainted founders believed would be a fundamental requirement for representative government) and then demanding candidates explain clearly how they will address those issues. For them simplistic proclamations are just fine, thank you. Never mind if they make sense or are even possible.
We can almost excuse people for not learning enough to make an informed decision since they are served by a news media (mostly television) that has become almost completely indifferent to filling the basic role of the journalist. Of offering their audience the necessary details about problems we face as a society and then providing the context they need to make an informed decision. Don’t give me the crap about the need for “balanced” coverage. That concept is a myth. It’s impossible. Every issue has multiple sides and they are never equally weighted. If all sides were equal, then doing nothing would be appropriate and we move on.
To CNN, NBC, and the rest1, information and truth are far less important to these hacks than ratings and clicks – chasing the almighty demo and the profits they bring. Twenty four hours of indifference.
The combination of an uninformed public and media companies who keep them that way give us elected officials who themselves are indifferent (or openly hostile) to the needs and voice of anyone not providing the cash they need to retain their jobs. With the result that Lincoln’s line in the Gettysburg Address about a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” becomes pretty much a joke.
Yes, hate is now in control here in the US. But the real evil in our political process is the indifference that allows it to happen.
Will that change? Can it change? I have to be optimistic because the alternative is not a positive society.
1. At least Fox is relatively up front with their biases. They don’t even pretend to do “journalism” most of the time.