Culture of education
changes with technology
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 3:13 AM
Nobody would have guessed that over a $1,000 worth of equipment was in each of the paper bags lining the wall. The ironic presentation of such expense seemed to almost downplay the significance of the situation. It was clear, however, that the importance of yet another local school moving to a one-to-one computer initiative was not lost on the staff, parents and students of Fillmore Central High School on Aug. 28. I was there to observe this historic change in education at my alma mater and it only served to spark serious thought about the state of flux education finds itself in the 21st century.
As with most of the topics I attempt to cogently write about, education is possibly one of the more complicated. You have many factors influencing the direction and definition of education. It can be a very controversial topic, laden with political slant and tied to money, money, money. It's unfortunate, because education is really quite simple.
The person with the information teaches the person without. Throughout the millennia of human existence, several characteristics of education have been present most of the time. First, the older teaches the younger. The pattern of listening to elders who have seen and experienced life has long been considered the finest source of learning. Second, the learner focuses on obtaining specific skills and concepts they enjoy the most and those that will help them make a living. Third, learning takes place inside physical structures.
There are others, but let me focus just on these three. It'll help keep my brain from exploding. If it still does, blame Edward Snowden.
I would say the nature of those three statements has largely held true for most of human existence. What has caused the state of flux in education that we are currently trying to understand and make our way through right now has come about through two things: the computer and the Internet.
One of the comments I heard during that evening related to teachers needing to learn from students just as much as students needing to learn from teachers. What do we make of this? On one hand, I can understand the argument that increased intellectual empowerment could lead certain groups with anarchist tendencies to take matters into their own hands (hello, Anonymous). I sure hope that doesn't become the ruling majority. I would hope this idea of trying to learn from each other would win out in the end. Yes, pride must be swallowed, but the result would be better teacher-learner relationships. A teacher with a certain limitation in his or her understanding could be assisted by a student just as much as the student is helped by the teacher. Everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner. The Internet makes that possible.
The second concept I addressed is also changing. With access to online learning sources (see Khan Academy), a person can become sufficiently versed in a wide variety of concepts and facts. You might think this equates to obtaining a liberal arts degree, but I think it is much more. For most of human existence, a person would obtain specific skills to help them survive. As educational opportunities diversified and were made easier to obtain, people were able to choose for themselves what they would become in life. Due to finance and time limitations, people would stick with only a handful of concepts and skills, though their understanding of such could be quite extensive.
Today, I feel humans still have these same opportunities of old with the same barring demographic limitations. However, with increased access to computers and the Internet, humans cannot only obtain more knowledge, but more expertise. They can do it in a shorter amount of time as well. We don't have to limit ourselves to just a few things we enjoy. We can feast on so much more.
The truth of this second claim is closely tied to my third claim. Learning does not have to take place inside physical structures. That is the tradition, but I don't think it is the future. While having a space dedicated to learning something specific probably has a psychological effect on our ability to learn, I also wonder if we as humans aren't evolving away from that tradition. My past column of Google Glass shows just how mobile obtaining an education could be.
I can't tell the future, nor do I think I would want to. It is very exciting to suppose the future while experiencing change in real time while reflecting on the past.
Students at Fillmore Central have entered into this state of flux in education. They are moving from one simple way of educating to another. Things may appear muddled, but the ripples of change will eventually calm and reflect back a clear path into the future. Either that or an error 404.