I recently watched a short educational video,”This Will Revolutionize Education” by Derek Muller, posted on his site, Veritasium.
Muller, a scientist who writes about all things science, focuses this particular video on technology and its empty promises of revolutionizing education. Posing the idea that technology and all of its iterations are not, actually, the transformative saviors of modern education, Muller cites examples such as the motion picture, the radio, the television – technological toys that were touted as the antidote to the failed education system. They were going to dramatically change the landscape of education; they were going to “improve the quality of education at lower cost” and perhaps eliminate the role of the teacher in the classroom, ridding the world of those tiresome and expensive humans.
Fast forward fifty, sixty years. What is the newest iteration of that technology that promises to revitalize and revamp the classroom? The internet. Limitless knowledge at our fingertips. And yet…
Muller notes that the latest technology offers students their own “personal tutor in a machine,” allowing them to work through lessons at their own pace and receive “immediate and personally tailored feed-back.” And all of this “without the interference of a meddlesome and expensive teacher!” He points out though, that despite all of the advances in technology, there has been no revolution in education. The classroom of today is, for all intents and purposes, a mirror image of the classroom of 100 ago. The teacher and her small (or large) group of students.
What I find to be most profound about Muller’s musings is that, despite the transformative potential of technology, it has to this point, failed in its every attempt to become that saving grace. He breaks the failure down into two reasons: “1. Technology is not inherently superior, animations over static graphics, videoed presentations over live lectures etc. and 2. Learning is inherently a social activity, motivated and encouraged by interactions with others.” It is this last sentiment, that the process of learning is a “social activity” intrinsically linked to forming and developing human connections, that is most “revolutionary” to me.
I love technology and what it can bring to the classroom, but it is also comforting to be reminded of our worth as human beings, as an actual living, breathing presence in the classroom and in our students’ lives. What is it to be a human, after all, if only a pursuit of connectivity. The internet, and all of its future iterations, can certainly aid us in that pursuit of making connections, but as of yet, it is the emotional and physical link that remains the most significant.