Here’s How to Improve Education

In this interview from 1995, Neil Postman, an author and media theorist, talks about technology, information overload, and the state of being both more and less connected simultaneously (via Tom Forenski). It’s pretty fascinating; Postman could just as easily be talking about present-day, not twenty years ago.

At one point, he fortells the decline of education:

I’m one of the few people, not only that you’re likely to interview, but that you’ll ever met who’s opposed to the use of personal computers in school. Because school, it seems to me, has always largely been about how to learn as part of a group. School has never really been about individualized learning, but about how to be socialized as a citizen and as a human being, so that we have important rules in school, always emphasizing that one is as part of a group. And I worry about the personal computer, because it seems to emphasize individualized learning and activity.

Educators are worried too. Information overload has become a real issue, and with professor’s lectures essentially becoming just another thing to process, students have zoned out. “There’s so much content, and so many places to access that content, that if our burden, our challenge, as instructors is to relay that content, there’s never enough time,” Russell Mumper, a Vice Dean at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy told the Atlantic. “And if your interaction is solely based on PowerPoint slides, [students] are no longer paying attention. They’re distracted.”

Mumper decided to flip the classroom, where the focus would return to connecting and communicating with one another, and actively participating in the classroom — exactly what Postman advocated for in his interview. Of course, it’s technology that allows the flipped classroom to exist in the first place. Mumper distributes the video lectures his students watch at home through Echo360, an educational technology company.

Still, while most technologies serve to keep us connected online, it’s good to see that many others serve to keep us connected face-to-face.

the notebook is a bunch of short items on my current obsessions.