Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Education and the Digital World

The other day I wrote a post commenting on an article by Doug Mann, a University of Western Ontario professor who calls into question the wholehearted embrace of all things digital in the classroom, arguing that efforts should be made to curb its distracting potential.

A good letter by David Collins appears in today's Star advancing that discussion. Since it makes eminent sense, expect it to be ignored by educational authorities.

I reproduce it below for your consideration:

Re: Unplug the digital classroom, Opinion, Oct. 7

When many whose level of education should make them know better are towing the party line equating use of the latest technological devices in the classroom with “progress,” professor Doug Mann's straightforward account of the actual effects of this thinking in education is most welcome.

Having been both a TA and a college instructor over the past 10 years, I can confirm there has been a dramatic drop in literacy, numeracy, critical thinking and basic verbal comprehension among college and university students in that time, coinciding with the rise to ubiquity of mobile/digital devices.

While no cause can be definitively proven, the amount and type of use of such devices by students in the last few years is the only real demographic difference between them and students eight to 10 years ago.

More important than proving a cause is the recognition that mediating education through computerized devices is actually less engaging, more passive (students become mere users of programs, while the programs do the work!) and, by reducing education to content delivery, promotes the uncritical acceptance and regurgitation of information far more than traditional approaches.

To say today’s learners learn differently is a cop-out; if students show difficulty understanding via listening, reading and in-person discussion, the answer is surely to give them practice in these skills. Handing them computerized crutches to make up for lack of ability while ignoring the fact they're using them to surf the Internet and “chat” in class is not helping — it's manufacturing artificial disability.

David Collins, Toronto Cross-posted at Politics and Its Discontents

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"toeing the line"