Don’t Confuse Technology With College Teaching

The following excerpt from the article “Don’t Confuse Technology With College Teaching” provides some helpful thoughts about why college is still necessary, even though information is free and easily accessible.

Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.

Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness. The value we add to the media extravaganza is like the value the trainer adds to the gym or the coach adds to the equipment. We provide individualized instruction in how to evaluate and make use of information and ideas, teaching people how to think for themselves.

Just as coaching requires individual attention, education, at its core, requires one mind engaging with another, in real time: listening, understanding, correcting, modeling, suggesting, prodding, denying, affirming, and critiquing thoughts and their expression.

A set of podcasts is the 21st-century equivalent of a textbook, not the 21st-century equivalent of a teacher. Every age has its autodidacts, gifted people able to teach themselves with only their books. Woe unto us if we require all citizens to manifest that ability.

Its interesting to me that librarians and libraries are making a similar argument for relevance, since the identical argument is made in This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Blink: “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately needing the latter.” Until we can download not only information, but knowledge itself, there will always be a need for the human touch to help explain the significance of data.

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