Reality 3.0

What will happen when we digitalize the classroom? I have a feeling (well, not just a feeling) that the issue is much bigger than choosing to write on ipads instead of using pen and paper, or collecting your notes in Evernote and not in a folder. Are we instead in the midst of a paradigm shift? I believe so.

Once upon a time the world was not literate. Around 400 BC, when Plato was around, a paradigm shift was taking place, not to the liking of everyone. Plato himself (or rather with Socrates as mouthpiece) stated that:

“The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it. They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered. And as for wisdom, you’re equipping your pupils with only a semblance of it, not with truth. Thanks to you and your invention, your pupils will be widely read without benefit of a teacher’s instruction; in consequence, they’ll entertain the delusion that they have wide knowledge, while they are, in fact, for the most part incapable of real judgment. They will also be difficult to get on with since they will have become wise merely in their own conceit, not genuinely so.”

It has been claimed, by some more mockingly than by others, that the Internet is a fad. Ironically, it would seem that writing was the real fad, and one that only lasted some 3000 years. What we’re entering now is possibly an age of communication more direct and more irl than the age of writing ever was. Of course this is stressful and we’re (at least if we’ve past 40) trying to resist it as best we can. Read the extract from Phaedrus one more time, this time in a slightly modernized fashion:

“The fact is that this invention, the Internet, will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it. They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is on the web, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered. And as for wisdom, you’re equipping your pupils with only a semblance of it, not with truth. Thanks to you and your invention, your pupils will be widely informed without benefit of a teacher’s instruction; in consequence, they’ll entertain the delusion that they have wide knowledge, while they are, in fact, for the most part incapable of real judgment. They will also be difficult to get on with since they will have become wise merely in their own conceit, not genuinely so.”

This is quite a common view today, but it does not make us more right than Plato was. No paradigm change comes without crisis, as Thomas Kuhn proposed in his influential “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” And in the words of Djuna Barnes: ”It may be considered ‘depraved’ by our generation, but our generation does not know everything.”

CC Eirian Evans
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