I’m a bit behind with posts and responses to the forum of my course (was in Budapest for my birthday at the weekend), but I’ve been immersed in the subject of digital technology in education for weeks now. I’m split between recognising it’s value, and opposing the endorsement of wholesale subscription to these forms for educational curriculum. I also can’t keep track of what I’ve read in physical paper/book format. If only I had made a clear bibliography, or – if only I had some sort of history catalogue that archives every source I have looked at recently…(I’m inferring the history button on my laptop in a witty, sardonic kind of way here).
You see, without question the potential of technology in education is great. So, while I have recently sneered at the idea of YouTube university, or disparaged the idea of Quest2Learn (http://q2l.org) I have also recently discovered podcasts (at last), and listened for hours while driving to fascinatingly incomprehensible lectures and interviews on the CERN project. But read a book on Quantum Physics? Me? Not this confused Luddite.
What concerns me is linked to Nicholas Carr’s opus ‘The Shallows’ – a speculative hypothesis about the impact of technology on our brain power. Sure, kids can multitask, or – according to the ‘Confronting the Challenges’ report which describes the new skills that new media provide – ‘negotiate’, ‘appropriate’ and ‘use judgement’ (are these exclusive to new media?). But can they bake a loaf of bread? My feeling is that we are trying to justify and intellectualise these new tools, and framework their capabilities within fashionable thinking – to be hip, to be sophisticated with their potential, and to ensure we still engage with new generations interests – and why not?
Well, one reason. It’s called education for a reason: it’s not play. It’s something a bit more formulaic. I’m a bit of a liberalist in educational approach, but I scoff at devising schooling systems based around games culture. On my PGCE, one teasing question posed to us among the varying ideologies of education was ‘should we make learning fun? Should we dumb-down and make it easier to engage with things?’ Sometimes I think not, (and not only because I went to a dreary old-school state comprehensive). There is a value in hard-work, in investigation, and Google, Wikipedia, and every other tool is in danger of standardising, whereas we should be enriching our scope and approach. Yet for this same reason, we should embrace every tool at our disposal, be they books or blogs, poems or podcasts, seminars or (that’s enough alliteration…)
Where is the gestalt moment, the epiphany of ‘Eureka’, when we can click a button and think we have arrived at a (Wiki)answer to our question? Wherefore discovery?
My old Media programme manager said that to get kids to imagine and understand the socio-economic consequences of digital media today you had to work backwards, to get them to imagine life without the tools they are accustomed to. This I encourage, and build on: we should sometimes switch off all this new stuff, to diversify and open our cognitive ability to the old forms, which have worked perfectly well up to now. For this reason I’m in agreement with Ohler, who urges student self-reflection, evaluation and questioning of the worth/value of these forms…is this because they are so common-place? Did teachers of the past encourage learners to wonder if libraries and blackboards were so useful…..o brave new world….