This week has been a busy week for news about the role of computers and the internet in education. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article on ways computers are being used by students to short cut their learning.
There’s no doubt that students are using computers to cheat – a fact that’s despicable and fundamentally unacceptable. However, that doesn’t mean that computers shouldn’t belong in the classroom or that bringing the power of the mobile internet to learning is bad for education.
We expect our students to abide by the same code of ethics using our service they abide by in their classrooms, in their libraries, in their study groups – whether using pen and paper or an iPhone. We’re committed to revolutionizing learning, responsibly.
New technologies reset the existing order, redefine what’s possible, and structurally change the environment.
For example, Socrates was opposed to writing. In the “Seventh Letter” he says “every serious man, in dealing with really serious subjects, avoids writing.” Writing, he believed, hindered the pursuit of truth. Words on a page cannot defend an argument the way a speaker can, so every written argument, Socrates argued, is inherently limited.
Socrates believed that certain things should not be known by the masses. Writing would enable the wrong people to learn the wrong things, so dangerous knowledge should only be transmitted orally. There were similar objections to Gutenberg’s invention. Inexpensive texts gave rise to the unrestricted flow of information. This led to widespread literacy and, eventually, the complete transformation of society that we now call the Renaissance.
The advent of a powerful new technology provokes a natural reaction within the status quo: fear. Attention is focused on the disruption, not on the structural change and how it reshapes the acquisition and dissemination of information, and learning.
Despite this natural reaction, it is false to proclaim that new technology leads to nothing good; even worse, it focuses attention on the futile attempt to control where and how new technologies can be used. A recent editorial in the University of Pittsburgh student newspaper went down this path, implying that the presence of technology in the classroom could be addressed through professor-mandated limits and defined roles. But there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle, no holding back the tide.
You need look no further than corporate computing. Today. In this case the tide is the use of social media (facebook, linkedin, twitter, instant messaging). Corporations have been just as effective at “mandating” and “limiting” use of these consumer technologies than learning institutions will be. Meaning: corporations haven’t been.
Network World wrote about this six months ago, and led off their article with a quote from Diane Bryant, global Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Intel: “If you don’t pull those solutions into the enterprise and embrace them they are going to happen anyway.” Her point is fundamentally relevant to technology in the classroom. Students spend hours a day on Facebook, and their smartphones are their primary information and communications device. Educators will be well served to embrace this usage, and this trend, rather than try and limit it, or wish it away.
It’s clear to us that the mobile internet will follow this pattern. Although we’re still in the early stages of the disruption, it’s starting to look as though this could be the most disruptive new technology ever for education and learning. And that could be a good thing.
At StudyBlue, we’re not trying to help students cut corners we’re simply trying to help them learn more efficiently and help them help each other learn. Not with old exams or cutting classes but with cutting edge technology paired with academically proven methods.