As we are nearing the World Learning Summit June 14th – 16th; a few thoughts on how technology impacts on education and learning. We are all familiar with the debate on Massive Open Online Courses, and the history of MOOCs ascending, subsequent worries, commercialisation issues and more. We are familiar with the accelerating research and exploration on “flipped classroom”, and much more.
But it still seems as if the way educational institutions and education research approaches the spectre of new learning forms, lacks a certain scope: What C.Wright Mills once dubbed “the sociological imagination”? Education´s digital future concerns much more than the emergence of scaling technologies, and much more than pedagogical adaptation to media ubiquity. 1) Students learn differently these days, as media habits and access to information alters the very notion of “studying”. 2) Relations to educators are changing. 3) Educators face new uncertainties. 4) Institutions are adapting, and new institutions emerge. 5) Social media are becoming integral parts of how education institutions present themselves – the very fact that Facebook is becoming a “must have” tool simply because your employer uses it for informational purposes, seems more than a little odd.
The list continues: 6) What we need to know is another question, equally important to “how we need to know”. 7) As educators, we may be seeking support systems and not finding them. 7) Around the world, the majority of students are far from well equipped to master the cultures of technology. Broadband is neither a fact of life, nor a human right, as much as it is a scarcity. 8) Transnational corporations are embedding themselves in educational life much like transnational broadcasting once became integrated in family life, with radio shows and TV shows for every taste and societal segment.
So what are the big issues? The future of learning and education is certainly not a question of effective pedagogy, or understanding how learning collaboration occurs in a classroom. It is that, too. But at the heart of the matter, one might argue that we still find the questions once raised by Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis: Technologies are extensions of ourselves, altering individual being in the world and institutional organisation of society.
So let us not forget the deeper issues of cultural transformation.