I have gotten some family and friend reaction to my recent column on education and technology. Essentially, several people have said that they understood the idea, but that I was much too hard on education and much too easy on the students. There is more than a little bit of truth to that, I suppose, especially from some viewpoints and some parts of the video. The people who were involved in making the video have had some criticism, and are preparing a video which responds to it. I’ll bring it to you when they have it.
Most of the criticism revolves around what the students said they were doing besides learning. One particular sore spot is Facebook; nobody learns much of anything on Facebook. The same is true of social emails, and social cell phone calls, and social music. Those are activities in which students are going to participate in regardless of technology (or the lack of it) in the classroom. In fact, it could be said that they are spending way too much time on those activities instead of participating in the university learning process. I certainly agree that is possible.
That was also possible in my university days, and in Isaac Newton’s university days. There has, seemingly, always been beer, which is often not the student’s friend. There have always been late night discussions and social shenanigans, even way before the computer and the internet. If the point that those students were trying to make is that, after having a full and well rounded social life, they don’t have enough time left over to do the coursework, then the hell with them. Let them flunk out and work at McDonalds.
But I don’t think that was the point.
I think that the point is the under-use of technology in education, and that some bad comparisons were drawn in the original video. I don’t think they meant to say that they learned more from Facebook than they did their professors, but parts of the video could certainly be interpreted that way.
That is why they are making a new video.
I also may have said too little about the good points of a traditional university, because I assumed that we all knew what they were. A good university education teaches you how to learn, and do research. It teaches you how to think critically and how to write. It exposes you to new things and people of all kinds, including the social activities that students participate in. If I were to rank the importance of these items, I may indeed put them above or equal to gaining the knowledge to get a start in a student’s chosen field.
In short, a good university education tries to turn out a well rounded student, prepared for life in society at large and at work. A student somehow needs to make time for all of it. That’s their job while they are in school. Shhhhh. I know. The rest of us are aware that it gets way harder after school is over. They think it is hard where they are, but they will learn better after graduation. Having it easy rarely seems like it at the time. I’m looking forward to the new video from Kansas State. I hope you are, too.