Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Education as "interactivity"

Put a bunch of Ph.D.’s in a large room and ask them what the essence of education is and they eventually come up with it, if you get some foundation to fund their thinking and maybe give them a couple of hundred years, and they will call it interactivity.
"’The real key,’ Ms. Oblinger, a person who runs a non-profit foundation that promotes technology in higher education, says, ’is interactivity,’ which has become a dominant concept in higher education today, and one that encompasses interaction with the teacher, with other students, and with the material itself, often through the use of information technology." What she means, of course, is conversation and that conversation is now made easier (with a large number of students) with technology. So MIT is now rethinking its large introductory physics lecture course by infusing it with something called Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL). It may be a good thing, perhaps a lot better than a large lecture hall with hundred of students in it, but what amuses me is the implied realization in the article that education is really quite simple: a teacher, a few students, focusing on an interesting mind in front of them (let’s call it a text), talking. Oh yes, Socrates is mentioned at the end of the article.

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This story reminds me of the one day I spent taking a class in the Communications Department while a college undergrad (yes, it was one of those big state schools with about 500 different majors and departments). There in the first chapter of our textbook--the work of some PhD-ed eminento in the field, no doubt--was a diagram with one box labeled "Speaker," a second box to its right labeled "Audience," and an arrow pointing from the former to the latter labeled "Communication." So that’s communication! I thought. Having availed myself of this amazing academic revelation, I promptly dropped the course and signed up for a phys-ed class in weightlifting instead.

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