“The last thing to be ruined determines your profession.”

Nelson’s piece on education in Dream Machines is pretty interesting. ¬†While I like the idea of letting students dictate their path, decide when they’re prepared for tests, and generally take more autonomy in the classroom, I’m not sure its realistic. Nelson writes,

“Motivate the user and let him loose in a wonderful place.

Let the student control the sequence, put him in control of interesting and clear material, and make him feel good — comfortable, interested, and autonomous. Teach him to orient himself… Such ultra-rich environments allow the student to choose what he will study, when he will study it and how he will study it, and to what criteria of accomplishment he will aim. “

That kind of transformation would require both a fundamental change in teaching and an equivalent — or larger — change in students. Education here is built upon teacher-as-head, slow, steady, ‘all move as one’ didacticism. Maybe younger students are pliable and would be able to cope with a change to an more enlightened teaching — but the thought of the chaos of that initial transition is a little scary.

Nelson’s “fundamental point”:

“Computer assisted instruction, applied thoughtlessly¬†and imitatively , threatens to extend the worst features of education as it is now.”

is reasonable. This seems to be a trap some large webcast courses and MOOCs fall into. Are there examples of those that don’t? What are examples of good integration of technology (as defined by Nelson) in public schools?

2 thoughts on ““The last thing to be ruined determines your profession.”

  1. Do you think that allowing students to “orient themselves” and “control thieir own sequence” is really right for education? What kind of assumptions does this make about how we learn best. And how are those assumptions evidenced? What kind of skills or behavior would such a “chaotic” system encourage?

  2. Naah, I agree completely with you here and in your earlier/larger post. I think he makes interesting and thought-provoking points, but I don’t see it as one or the other — it’s clear that some of these techniques may work better for some students, but they don’t seem applicable to all. The same goes for current teaching methods. And I think there’s something to having a base and building from it — a point I’m not sure Nelson would agree with.

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