Teaching like it’s 1992

I am taking a MOOC with Cathy Davidson, The History and Future of (mostly) Higher Ed. I’ve heard Davidson on other webinars and probably at conferences.

I didn’t enroll in the certification, although now that I’m in the class, I wish that perhaps I had done that. I’m  mostly watching the lectures — learning lots, and some are very thought provoking.

She is very focused on using history as advocacy. I love this use of history, and the way she outlines the history of education is very telling, and it’s very clear that she is comparing it to how education is today. Why do we have these structures? Where did they come from?

In my experience, it seems that often educators feel that things are done this way because that’s how we’ve always done it. Well, that truly is not the case. Davidson explores the riots that happened at Harvard when blackboards were introduced. The philosophy that using books in education would make students lazy. The development of the multiple choice standardized test. So, why do we hold so tightly to these methods of education? Education has evolved significantly – and with difficulty – over the years. Why are we still teaching the same why we did 20 years ago? 50 years ago?

One great example she discusses in the lecture I’m currently watching is as recent as 1992 — only 22 years ago. Why 1992?

The view of history in this class is not that history is linear progress, but that things are constantly changing and that one change leads to another change.

many of our institutions of education look pretty much like they did in 1992. … We haven’t taken in the key fact that life has changed, that informal learning  has changed.

Why is she focusing on 1992?? Because, according to Davidson, the world changed on April 22, 1993 when the internet was made public. The internet has caused “Uneven Development” in the last 22 years. The internet is a seismic shift, as was the printing press and the invention of mass printing. It has cause incredible change in a very short period of time.

Yet — her argument (and I certainly agree) is that most of our institutions of formal learning look pretty much the same. Sure, kids have computers. Sure, we use email. But the basic tennant of inhaling vast amounts of content and spitting it back hasn’t changed. The need for set times for classes hasn’t changed.

Education is one of those things that helps to filter and focus the world we live in. If we’re still teaching in a world that exists as if the internet doesn’t exist, we’re filtering the world through a previous world that really doesn’t exist anymore.

I hope to go back through some of the lectures and listen more closely. I’ve had to listen quickly to them and move on. Hoping to go back and spend more time.

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