Technology and Education

by Eric

Forward one of my comments on the education anticipation from e-learning Ecologies discussion forum of Week 1, CourseraThe main idea here is that technology, as a catalyst, rather than creating new education challenges or eliminating old ones, simply manifests the fundamental questions we tend to ignore in the past, by speeding up the evolution process. The questions stress on what to teach/learn, how to teach/learn and interact, and what roles are needed in this context. Nevertheless, globalized online education does make some effects on centralizing education resources, affecting the social specialization and thus forming a “new” form of monopoly.

Dear ***, I think you made a clear point here. I myself is not an occupied educator and I work for an Internet company. The lesson I learned from the high-tech world is that technology seldom really changes the reality of human interaction and communication, which also includes education. Rather, technology acts as a catalyst for speeding up the process of evolution. Put it into the education domain, it’s long before the fancy online technology came out that teachers suffered figuring out how to better their teaching. It has been the main theme since early that how students can study automatically, cultivate independent critical thinking skills and develop a sense of questioning rather than merely answering. Technology manifests these problems.

On the one hand, whether a teacher should be a mere source of knowledge contents or a facilitator that connects students and the knowledge world reflects different philosophy views. In remote areas where education resources are limited, teachers tend to be the former alike, for the latter seems less feasible and less practical, while a developed world would demand the latter as there are so much information around. When the Internet Education began to penetrate into the remote areas, information gets proliferated there. Thus a mere content provider can’t meet the education requirement and teachers will have to make a change. Nothing magic.

On the other hand, we should always keep this in mind that technology is not the silver bullet to any of our education challenges, and that it’s the teachers and students that matter. Would the teachers be replaced and lose their jobs? They would if they can’t adapt to the new world, but not because of technology pushing a new world, but because these teacher simply fail to improve their circumstances, like those in any other ages or in any other positions. So do the students. They learn better just because they attempt to, competing against others who don’t and end up falling behind, no matter what technology they have.

Back to the discussion, James Paul Gee certainly describes the fact in some way and he is not exaggerating. What’s implicit and we need to stress is that the Internet along with globalization is shifting the education competition battlefields from communities, cities to nations. Some of the educators will win, some adapt and some others fade, resulting in knowledge production monopoly(who kind of “centralizes” the knowledge contents), educational facilitative professional service(those facilitating tutors discussed in preview threads) and a revenue re-distribution. Sounds scary and odd? No, it sounds familiar in this capitalist world.