4th century skills

Any Questions?

And that’s BC!

Recently, I have replied to a few posts by fellow bloggers with what may have seemed a bit negative attitude towards the marriage of digital technology and education (I use the word digital because chalk was once called a ‘technology’, now it’s … just chalk).

Here is the gist of my thoughts as posted on Jez Cope’s blog post titled Why use technology in teaching? (see some interesting links from comments!). Time to come clean, you be the judge:

[Why use technology in teaching?] For my 2c – it is because with technology (by that I mean digital technology you and I are using right now) we can develop not just “21st century skills” (whatever that means because we don’t exactly know how the century is going to turn out do we…) but “4th century BC” skills [corrected ☺] that some of the old Greek wise heads were talking about – democracy, participation, freedom of expression & thought, active citizenship … you know those pesky old things that never seemed to have gone out of fashion with thoughtful people [and for which millions have thought about, enacted, fought and died for over centuries].

As long as technology is used to those goals it is a professional travesty not to consider it in education. Sadly, we are often more focused on the science of technology (the ‘best version’ or ‘latest tool’ or ‘most efficient system’) to kinda forget the massive opportunity to change not what and how we know, teach & learn but what we are and become. That’s the ball game for me!

Epistemology to ontology. Knowing to being. If it sounds a bit abstract, “high & mighty” – well, it is. But it is a direction, a purpose, a possible place to ‘come home’ to. I don’t think about it all the time, just like I don’t think about my children every single moment. But I do and like to care about it.

What effects is this ever-changing chatter of class sizes, rostering, assessment accuracy, not to mention instructional technology, going to have for what we and those we interact with want to be(come) – no, I don’t mean a career.

Put another way: “What is this going to make out of us and the kids we teach?” Simply collecting and amassing the arsenal of ‘technologies and strategies’ without really answering this question is like dressing all up with nowhere to go.

We should take technology for granted but we definitely should not take technology as ‘good’ for granted. Never forget that not long ago, some of the world’s most creative, intelligent and passionate people collaborated and used the cutting edge technology to create a …. nuclear bomb.

While hugely important, the question “can we teach and learn better with technology” must always be preceded, or at least tempered with, “can we be better human beings with and because of technology”?

I reckon we can, time will tell.

PS Just as I posted this I read a story about China blocking social networking sites – ’nuff said!

2 thoughts on “4th century skills”

  1. We either seek to raise children with the power to learn, communicate, and act in the world they will graduate into, or we seek to maintain the power status quo in the world (because the children of the powerful will be trained in this at home).

    Not teaching with the ICTs of today, not teaching about the ICTs of today, not teaching the powers of the ICTs of today is the same as not teaching a 19th Century student how to read books and newspapers and how to speak in front of groups. It is leaving children in a dark prison.


    Nicely put. It has always been the ‘subversive’ potential of ICT that has drawn me to it. It has the (growing) potential to enslave and at the same time liberate. As you say, not using, teaching, working with ICT ain’t a path to liberation but a darker place.

    Thanks for you comment Ira, appreciated.

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