Dwelling on the Future of Educational Technology

The videos A Day Made of Glass and Productivity Future Vision depict some wonderful ideas in them. The medical scene in ADMoG is an example of future communication technology that can benefit the medical wold, and not to mention transfer over into the world of politics, crime and punishment, or countless other areas. As well, the educational scenes in both shorts show some amazing applications of future technology. Is it all a bit too much? A bit too early?

It’s obvious that the videos are intended to be utopian. It’s also obvious that since these videos are commercials, they portray a certain level of unrealism that is timeless – it’s no coincidence that both feature tress and plants dominantly throughout, avoiding one of the biggest dangers of modern technology in its ability to alienate and separate us from a natural world, rather than bring us closer to it. But, such is the nature of commercials, with their heartwarming sense of family, overabundance of laughter, bowls of popcorn, and ridiculously good-looking taxi drivers.

At the risk of focusing on the negative, I can think of three points why I wouldn’t consider these videos to be utopian.

1.Too much, Too Early

Technology doesn’t replace, it adds to. There’s something about the age of the kids in the educational scenes that bothers me. For my kids, I hope they develop the skills of face-to-face interaction, reading and writing on paper and in books, and even the tiresome task of selecting their own clothes from the closet. The scene in the forest with the dinosaur, although very cool, kind of forgets the fun that kids can have in simply letting loose in a forest or park to discover things as they will. Teaching this type of reliance on mediation too early will make kids dependent on it for their connections with the world…and how we mediate ourselves with the world creates who we are. It’s better to build a variety of communication tools, than to simply start at the top. Good Communication is a skill that is getting more and more complicated a society becomes reliant on higher-levels of multi-literacy.

2.The Absence of the Self

Again, I realize that these are just commercials but…the lady in PFV finally arrives to at her hotel, has to take care of some sort of business, then right away has her kid on the phone asking her about something. Now, we’re all good parents here, I would assume, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a little alone-time. When the same lady is in the taxi driving by that building with the augmented reality sign screaming at her from the sky “You meeting tomorrow is here”, she’s gotta be thinking “ok, I get it all ready…gimme a break”.

There’s something about not knowing. It gives us time to think things through, to let ideas connect in your head or randomly letting your mind wander. To wonder. We don’t always need to know everything right away, and I often wonder if modern technology (not even to talk about future technology) promotes the opposite.

3.Dwelling on the Future

I’ve found over the past few years a steady streams of articles, blog posts, presentations, lists, you names it geared at describing what the future holds for this or that. Any given day on Twitter or in my Reader I can find these articles – I’ve never done any study on it, but I would guess that they out number articles on the present significantly. On one hand, this is a normal charateristic of curious humans who want to know what cool things are ahead for humanity, I can understand that. On the other hand, this is unfortunate because there’s been so much change so drastically over the past few decades and years, that we still haven’t really figured out where we are at.

Last year I was in a course at my school on some aspect of Education. The professor, quite well known (Unfortunately, as I later realized this isn’t always a good thing) didn’t seem all that interested in the class. The class was a failure, in my opinion, and quite a frustrating experience. The professor did be sure to communicate his advertisements for the Future of Higher Education MOOC course that he was involved in. The message to me was this: the future of education is more important than the present.

When our vision for the future affects our ability to act soundly in the present, it becomes difficult to guide ourselves towards that vision.

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