Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The nature of the beast

Jim C wrote about Technology and Education and this post is a follow up.

Technology has economized and perfected almost everything it has touched. To deny the potential that it could improve education while cutting costs places education on too high of a pedestal and reeks of the kind of protectionism that stifles creativity and growth. It also denies that education is an industry, and prone to many of the same fluctuations as other service industries.

Of course we want students to learn, but I didn't see any evidence presented in that article that the students weren't indeed learning something from their tutors. If they didn't pass their exams, they wouldn't call back. And our education system requires things we cannot expect everyone to be good at. I am ok with the fact I got a C- in High School Chemistry, and if two hours on the phone with a tutor could have help me bump that up to a C, it would have been a sufficient investment of resources and while still serving a pedagogical purpose. But to invest anymore would be a waste of time and money - Chemistry requires all the skills I am really bad at and doesn't use any of my strengths - sure a good teacher could have made it more interesting, but to what end? Wouldn't the teacher be better served by helping interested students expand their knowledge?

Why can't we use technology to do production oriented education if it means we can free up resources [labor and capital] to go deeper and better where it will serve a greater return?


Blogger Arthur said...

For me the question of online education, commodity vs. enrichment, gets to what somebody has called, "The Ends of Education?"

In working on a recent online course for teachers in technology programs that I produced, the whole focus was outcomes: would the student be able to understand the concepts and do the industry job at the end of course? If the chemistry tutor in the example above helped achieve that end, it would be a success.

But this was in a very narrow universe, technician education. And many of the other things education can be for--inspiration, finding your strengths, just plain old something to do that is subjectively rewarding (education for education's sake) don't really work with that outcomes argument.

I realize that at this stage of my life I don't have any stable answer to the question, 'what is education for?' As in the battles (of yesteryear) about what art is for, one person's answers are often not necessarily very satisfactory to another's. Perhaps because they are not answers, rather whole frames of reference.

6:20 PM  

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