Does Online Learning Dehumanize Education, or Just the Opposite?

I just found a fascinating video interview that Bill Moyers conducted with Isaac Asimov over 20 years ago.

Mr. Asimov completely understood what online search and research would be like once the Internet reached full maturity (which of course it has not yet fully achieved). In the video (below) Asimov describes his vision how each of us would be able to search for information or data based on our personal interests and needs–at the moment.  

It is really quite stunning to hear someone describe exactly what we now know as the Internet from the perspective of 20 years ago. Bill Moyers asked Asimov whether relying a machine as a teacher would depersonalize education. Mr. Asimov suggested that, to the contrary, nothing was more personal than individualized search and information finding.

The middle ground, of course, is a combination of technology and interpersonal conversation. In my humble opinion, our education system needs a complete overhaul, in which we design learning experiences that combine an understanding of, and opportunity for, individual learning styles with our need as a society for people to work and learn together –  to collaborate and communicate.

The Internet is an outstanding resource for finding and interpreting both basic factual information and expressed opinions. However, the deeper meaning of that information emerges only when we share it with others and learn how they interpret it.

So as we continue to debate the future of education, and work on developing skills for the future, we must pay attention to both the power of the Internet and the importance of interpersonal skills and processes.

We must learn to deliver basic education at lower cost, taking advantage of the power of technology. But we must never forget that we live in a people-centric society. I do hope you will take a few minutes to look at the Isaac Asimov interview. It’s well worth your time.

[Special thanks for Pranav Gupta at Cornell University for the link]

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