No matter how much we cram into a person’s memory and no matter what the beloved metrics show, we are left with people who haven’t learned how to learn. Directing them to accumulate facts just silences their inquisitiveness! Today as in the past education is more about training people to remember things for the test than it is about developing people for life as self-responsible human beings with the capability of continually improving their thinking—such is thinking critically.
I wholeheartedly agree with George Lucas (see his recent blog) that people do need to know how to: find information; rigorously analyze the quality of the information; and creatively and effectively use information. It seems many advocate for use of technology to these ends and as a means to improve the education system overall.
In regards to the latter point, let us not confuse proficiency with efficiency. Sure integrating technology in support of a meaningful learning experience would be great, but employing technology alone does not equate to fundamentally changing the system of education. Further, if educators structure the learning experience as if education is a production process—relating to students not as people but as receptacles of facts—then what gets actualized will be far less than the potential that is possible. Those charged with improving results must understand that the system currently is perfectly designed to deliver what it is delivering—otherwise we wouldn’t be consistently getting what we are getting. Adding technology to the system will be a change in the system but not a change of the system! There is little doubt that It will make things more efficient—and possibly even entertaining—but technology won’t make people more proficient in the very thing that we all need, learning to learn at the higher levels of learning.
Peoples’ potential for critical thinking can best be developed through collaborative learning with other people under the guidance and facilitation of a critically thinking teacher. Yes technology can make collaboration easier and more convenient, but technology is merely supporting collaborative learning–it mustn’t become the tail that wags the dog. Students need to be facilitated in developing an inquiring and critically thinking mind.
When seeking to improve the quality of the education system we must not minimize or overlook the fundamental need we all have for learning as well as the influence that developing a joy in learning has upon the unfolding of human potential. If our educational experiences quell our inherent desire to learn, then we diminish our viability as both a society and a species. That is to say people must become unceasing learners and therefore they must learn how to learn at the higher levels of learning. No amount of technology—no matter how whiz-bang it is—will overcome a system of education that does not have this as its aim.