How many words does it take to make a mistake? William Davies on the mechanisation of learning
|Cover art by Anne Rothenstein|
William Davies in The London Review of Books considers the multiple pressures on the humanities and on all other learning for rising generations who are digital natives, who have always been accustomed to sifting and sorting overwhelming quantities of content, who have been raised in schools powerfully shaped by EdTech's mechanistic view of education, who now face a pandemic-dominated world where face-to-face instruction might not be the norm. It's quite a read.
In the utopia sold by the EdTech industry (the companies that provide platforms and software for online learning), pupils are guided and assessed continuously. When one task is completed correctly, the next begins, as in a computer game; meanwhile the platform providers are scraping and analysing data from the actions of millions of children. In this behaviourist set-up, teachers become more like coaches: they assist and motivate individual ‘learners’, but are no longer so important to the provision of education. And since it is no longer the sole responsibility of teachers or schools to deliver the curriculum, it becomes more centralised – the latest front in a forty-year battle to wrest control from the hands of teachers and local authorities.