Can Technologies Improve Learning? (And What Are the Trade-Offs)

Continuing the discussion from Using federated instances as discussion communities:

I may contribute to my reputation as a polemist, but again, I have a different experience: e.g., pupils let alone by their professors, unable to socialize properly, or university students struck by absurd partitioning rules forcing them to attend courses in person according to their student number (odd/even) so as not to have too many people in an amphitheater at once, while having to attend a follow-up practice workshop in a smaller room – where are they supposed to wait for that workshop? Etc.

The way institutions react to change is appalling most of the time: leaving individual students on their own, unable to think for the collective other than statistically or in terms of institutional liability. Distance learning can be a good way to acquire skills, but it should not become a primary mean of education for a number of reasons, that we may go through if people are interested – and that may help position developers on why we do what we do? and how we do it?.

Simple solutions to complex issues, such as outsourcing our social life to the Internet, are usually ignoring the complexity of life and in the end complexity begs to differ.

So I’d like to propose this discussion about designing technologies to improve [learning], and what are the trade-offs to keep in mind.

1 Like

Hi @how
I think that I can put some ideas on the desk
First, for so many people, the distance education or the online education is the only way to continues learning, for example, people who lives far away from the university or for medical reasons. So, for them, online education is the only way and the best one.
Second, maybe, for the rest of the people, in this pandemic times, we need to improve the interaction between the peers (not just teachers-students) to generate enriched learning evironments.
My point is, get off the teacher and give students the opportunity to interact with each other to learn socially.

I would agree if that same university did not prevent peer learning by encouraging competitive behavior instead of cooperative behavior. It’s complicated. I agree that distance learning can be useful, are we not all using the Internet to exchange knowledge? What I’m concerned with really, is that education, especially at a younger age, is the moment where you actually learn about social behavior, and that generalizing online learning is compromising the social fabric.

In France there’s a very good distance learning program (CNED) that usually yields better results than classroom learning. But this is not to say it’s superior: many factors enter into account, such as the population taking these courses (often expat people from upper class families) and of course the models for measuring “success”.

What’s at stake with education moving on line is the fabrication of autistic, socially awkward, disconnected individuals who are able to function in society but not to live in this society, and even less criticize this society. I see the current trend of acceptance of the rules of confinement, so to speak, as a danger for democracy.

Now, that said, I agree that when you’re given the opportunity to learn at your own pace, you can learn better… If you are so inclined, that is: if you already acquired the skills to know how to learn by yourself. And this is not something that comes instinctively like deglutter. You must be exposed to people who will give you hints, put you in situation, encourage your curiosity, etc. in order to learn how to learn.

1 Like

The educational model we have is already outdated. The lines and bells, clocks and calendars are very much a function of training for life in an industrial democracy, but most of the interactions are constructed for the benefit of the industrialization more than the democracy. As places with this style of education become post-industrial, it’s a challenge to avoid becoming post-democratic

So now the industrial training has been preempted by the Covid-19 virus, what remains to be seen is whether we’ll be able to retool education for democracy in post-industrial nations or whether distance learning is going to favor the highly problematic gig economy over actual autonomy in work and learning

Towards this end, I’d argue that decentralized education to train for decentralized economic participation is pivotal in decoupling industrialization from democracy and preserving democratic governance in post-industrial economies, because failing to impart the ability to function autonomously in learning will create a reliance on gatekeepers to access employment. The power of employers in such a data-rich environment and the lack of worker protections will only accelerate the deterioration of democracy. A critical point in resisting those trends is the ability to associate and organize outside the control of the authority structures