Has the internet truly changed conventional education in the classroom? Are students learning more and better with the recent technologies?
In 2002 I was reviewing material for the fourth volume of my English in Action, an English grammar for speakers of Spanish, hispanohablantes, which I wanted to be a chrestomathy of educated English. A chrestomathy is a “selection of passages used to help learn a language.” I chose bits of poetry, short stories, newspaper articles and relevant literary essays. In my quest I came across an article in the Financial Times that I found of interest. It was a review, titled “Is education outdated,” of a book by a certain Lewis Perelman: School is Out: Hyperlearning, The New Technology, and the End of Education, published that year, 2002, by William Morrow and Co. I secured permission to reprint the article because I thought it was of interest and believed that it made sense.
Mr. Perelman, according to the review, stated that conventional education was obsolete and that putting resources into school reform and improvement was like investing in the horse and buggy at the beginning of the 20th century, ignoring the automobile which was destined to sweep aside horse-based transportation.
His fundamental argument was that technology was destroying the foundations of conventional education as we have known it for hundreds of years. He argued further that U.S. conventional education was a costly fraud.
In his book Mr. Perelman wrote, for example “… a technological revolution is sweeping through the U.S. and world economies that is totally transforming the social role of learning and teaching. This learning revolution already has made the “classroom teacher” as obsolete as the blacksmith shop.”
Further: “…learning has become too essential to the modern economy to be left to the schools.”
In an interview the following year published in WIRED, March/April, 1993, he said: “The conventional “technology” of the classroom is a thousand-year-old invention initially adopted to discipline an esoteric cadre of acetic (sic) monks.” Notice he said acetic for ascetic, proving the point that something is wrong with regular, old-fashioned education. (Granted that possibly the interviewer took an active part in this misspelling.)
Conventional education outdated
Tempus fugit, time flies, and here we are in 2012, 10 years after School is out was published, and… surprise, nothing has changed: school is not out, teaching is carried on as in the year 2002, testing is as vigorous as ever, our grading system is still unchanged, School Boards are the same, issuing policies right and left… in other words, educationally we are still riding the horse and buggy that our parents and grandparents rode before us, and the Amish still ride.
Most of Mr. Perelman’s ideas are still sound, of course, but somehow, and in my opinion, the technological advances of the Internet, cell phones, tablets, and the fast-paced information at our fingertips have not had the effect in the classroom they should have had.
If television is put to ill use does not change the fact that it is a great invention which still has a variety of untapped teaching and educational possibilities.
Perhaps predicting the future is a dangerous and fruitless activity. Perhaps we prefer to adhere to the proverb “better safe than sorry,” and “let sleeping dogs lie.” Maybe educators particularly, and all of us in general, fear change and the recent technologies. There has always been a grass-roots antipathy for things new that would upset our modus vivendi, our way of life.
So, and to our dismay, we still have these issues to deal with in conventional education:
- Overcrowded classrooms.
- Obsolete printed textbooks.
- Irrelevant homework.
- Obsolete testing techniques.
- Classroom talking heads that repeat the material in the textbook, year after year.
- Irrelevant subjects for the 21st century.
- Pupils who cannot handwrite and cannot express themselves properly and confuse acetic with ascetic.
- The belief that it is only up to schools to educate young people.
- The belief that education ends when we leave school.
- Language skills at a standstill.
Lifelong learning is a fact today. We no longer stop collecting knowledge after we get our degrees because facts are shifting and changing at a swift pace. There is no question about it: either we change our teaching methodology, adapting it to technology, and accept the fact that changes could possibly have to be made from year to year or we are going to miss the boat of the future.
Mr. Perelman was right and wrong at the same time. Why? I ask you. Tell us in the comments.