A great article at Atlantic.com this week asks the question: Is College (Finally) Ready for Its Innovation Revolution? It’s a good article not because the topic is new or profound (it’s a question that those of us close to the issue have been answering with an emphatic “Yes” for some time now).
No, it’s a good article (1) because it keeps alive a conversation about an extremely important topic, and (2) because some of the objecting comments below the article are illustrative. They help highlight a few reasons—some old, some new—why perceptions about higher education haven’t really adapted much in over 2,000 years:
- Knee-jerk exceptionalism. At the extreme end, some view higher education as so untouchable as to be out of the realm of most humans’ understanding—that it’s somehow exempt from efforts to question its methodology or measure its efficacy. Surely, it is a special kind of institution. But it should not be exempt. The question should not be “Why should we dare try to measure?” (an obstruction) but “How can we best measure in a way that serves the students?” (an iterative, evolving, applicable process).
- Misconceptions about technology’s role. Some attack technology as a threat to the relationships between teachers and students and among the students themselves. Clearly, technology cannot and should not fully automate, discard, or outright usurp those relationships. But it should be harnessed to enhance, scale, and better facilitate those relationships. Some say, “Oh, they said television would change teaching, and radio before that.” But television and radio were mostly passive media and had nothing on the level of engagement and interactivity now afforded to us. Besides, technology is merely a tool; truly transforming education doesn’t start with technology, it starts with paradigm shifts.
- Modern cynicism about the general aptitude of the college-aged. One commenter on the Atlantic article went so far as to say that college students are “irresponsible” and therefore “need supervision.” A rather insulting, patronizing statement, isn’t it? The truth is, we have only ourselves to blame for the outmoded K-12 systems we’ve kept in place—the systems that so often leave our children unprepared or unmotivated come college time.