June 6, 2012

Some Thoughts on Education and Technology.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Written by Jean Houston

Education these days goes hand in glove with technology. The challenge is to teach children to control the machines and not the other way around. So seductive is the new technology, so expert and computer literate are many children, that the computer is fast becoming an extension of their bodies. 

There they are, little proto-cyborgs, manipulating electrons before they can parse a sentence. Information is out there, a disembodied "fix" to be downloaded without much struggle by little post-humans with flying hands and screen-lit faces. Math is a matter of hitting buttons on the calculator, and art is moving preset graphics into place. The juicy world filled with the blood music of its people and their passions risks becoming an abstraction to be viewed from a space more suitable to the gods of Olympus than the life of an eleven-year-old. Like the mouse that eventually dies from pushing the pleasure button and forgetting to eat, the only life some children lead is on the screen—computer, IPAD or mobile phone. The revolution in high tech expectation is forcing the hand of school boards everywhere, and computers and mobile phones in every classroom are becoming as ubiquitous as the proverbial chicken in every pot.
As much as I love computers and the technological utopia they portend, I for one am not interested in marrying my humanity to a machine Too often I see children with calloused transcendental thumbs texting continuously like the mouse hitting the pleasure button Many have suggested that in the years before 2050 we may have automatons that are conscious and self-aware. Marvin Minsky, MIT computer scientist, believes that the next stage of human evolution will be the merger of humans with electronics. If he is right, our descendants might be able to transfer memories, thought patterns, even personalities clump by clump to neural nets contained within the electron circuits of a robot. An entire consciousness transferred, and the myth of the Golem is realized in a body of silicon and steel. That is why I believe that our time holds the key to our future humanity: Do we become post-humans or deeply realized humans?

What schools can do to influence the outcome is increase children’s experiences of high touch to balance the seductions of high tech. A high touch education—holistic, integrated, arts-centered—calls forth the natural splendor inherent in every child’s mind and body. Human beings contain far more images, ideas, stories, information, feelings, and, of course, consciousness than any computer. In a sense, we humans are meta-computers with the entire cosmos as our hard drive or infinite cloud drive and our body-minds the screen for its unfolding. Western dualism that has split mind from body, body from nature, and self from universe has tended to increase the chasm between what we think we are and what we really are. Thus, our dependence on machines for our reality. Thus, too, the importance of high touch education to bridge the great divide and bring us home to the universe that resides within.

Properly balanced by high touch, computers can, without question, be adjuncts to self-discovery and exploration of the many worlds in which we live. Technology democratizes information and encourages the growth of noninstitutional, ever-shifting networks of self-organizing learners. Computers free students from the constraints of linear, word-based reports and allow them to express their understanding of a subject through multimedia creations, incorporating a rich composition of visual and auditory devices and providing pathways and links to other knowledge resources on the World Wide Web.

Schools can modulate technophilia by teaching children to use computers to enhance their experiences of reality rather than to substitute for it. A few snapshots from the frontier: A thirteen-year-old with cerebral palsy uses a computer to help track weather patterns and shares the results with meteorologists all over the world. Astronauts on the space station and explorers in the rain forests of Peru relay the excitement of their discoveries as they happen to students all over the world via the Internet. Students at an Omaha school use the Internet to identify countries that are violating human rights, create multimedia projects, and send them to governments with pleas for reform. At Vermont's Cabot School, kindergartners through high school students take part in a School Report Night to which the entire community is invited. At one display, visitors click a mouse to view multimedia stories written and illustrated by primary students. At another, they watch a riveting documentary about the internment of Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Internment Camp created by a ninth-grader whose grandfather was among those imprisoned at the camp.

The humane use of human beings demands that embodiment be central to all educational experience, and that artificial intelligence, however fascinating, be our servant and not our surrogate.

Write Your Comment

  1. Sarie Bezuidenhout

    Talk about technology. Your son is a fundi with computers, the teacher spoke to me today and she is very impressed with him. He is helping her to do programming etc. Love you. Mwha!!!!!!!

  2. Eleni Solange Lima

    If the teachers and al involved at Education has a consciousness starting from now, it´s possibly haven´t human mechanics. 2 seconds ago · Like

  3. Gladis Villadiego


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