Wednesday, 6 November 2013

#edcmooc Technology and education - sacred cows?

This is a nice animation, the first required viewing for the #EDCMOOC

It got me thinking about how the history of both education and technology, and how both have been treated - almost worshipped - and kept sacred.

It's not so long ago that education itself was reserved for the elite. It was protected, kept away from those deemed unworthy. Religious learning - perhaps the precursor to modern formal education - was for a long time kept in the Latin language only known to the powerful and learned, to be controlled and meted out as the upper classes deemed appropriate.

Only a few decades ago computers were things that only government or large corporations could afford to own and maintain, and the idea of one one day being in a family home was unthinkable.

In the animation, new technology is mysteriously delivered to the little people from on high.

In recent years both education (and especially Higher Education) and technology (and especially computers and, subsequently, the Internet) have been espoused as 'saviours' and politicians and corporations have all spent time, effort and money trying to get more and more people into each. In the UK we had the BBC Micro, "computers for schools" campaigns and government-backed broadband rollout schemes. We also had new Universities formed and huge drives to increase access.

Now, more people than ever before have access to education and technology. It's now the cultural norm. Most children in the UK will go on to Further or Higher Education. Almost all will have what are essentially supercomputers in their pockets when they do. Both of these were unthinkable mere decades ago. The messages we receive about this are overwhelmingly that these are Good Things.

But there could be downsides, as this dystopian vision of technology hints.

Perhaps the fact that we've accepted these messages uncritically for so long is one of them?

Perhaps we need to be more critical about what education is for - and what technology is for. And about whether, perhaps in their current forms, we place too much emphasis on them, hold them too sacred?

A study of e-learning and the MOOC - with the potential disruption to the future nature of education it suggests - would seem to be a good way to take a fresh look at both.

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