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Higher Education Innovation Speech – Part 7

July 17th, 2012 · 1 Comment

There’s another relationship between  information and education. Education gives people the skill to transform information into knowledge.   Sometimes we tend to confuse what information  is,  and what knowledge is.   Information may be presented in books or over the internet. Regardless of that,  how effectively one uses the information,  depends on how good the education system is  in training people to use that information.  So the role of technology in education has to be understood as that of a tool  or an  instrument.   Tools enable us to do tasks more effectively.

Let’s take an example.    A spreadsheet makes manipulating data – tabular data – easy.  How to use the spreadsheet is a skill that can be learnt.  We are teaching that today in many computer courses.  How quickly one learns that depends on how educated,  that person is.  But how to calculate is the basic skill.  The more advanced skill is what to calculate.   And finally,  education teaches us to appreciate what the result of that calculation means.

Technology certainly  speeds up the  information  dissemination and access,  but because technology is a tool,  it can only  be as effective as the skill of the user.   Most importantly,  a broken education system cannot be fixed by introduction of technology.   An analogy  is useful here. You know you have a roomful of mediocre writers and we give them computers,  word processors and printing software, printers   —   that’s not going to make their writing any better.  Their writing will stay as poor as it is.

So,  digital technology cannot fix a problem that is not digital in nature.   Computer hardware and software, PCs, laptops, search engines, softwares, broadband connections, internet  are neither necessary nor sufficient for education.     That   they are not necessary is clear from the fact that billions of people were educated before these tools were invented.   That these tools are not sufficient  is also clear.   There are thousands of schools in rich countries that have all of these and yet fail to adequately educate their students.

Essentially, technology is not the answer to problems that are not technological in nature.  I think we need to keep this in mind when going out there, and going overboard on technology and devices.

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