Friday, 13 April 2012


 I had never really thought about this insidious growth in education. It is the manifestation of commercial interests driving how we educate. The recent scandals from the exam boards and their links to the publishers are a good example (Pearson and Edexcel). 
The content that they produce is mostly awful. They produce test banks to make life easier for tutors to set online exercises but these are often poorly worded and next to useless. All the textbooks come now with "online content" as a step towards e-learning. Most of them have modules that you can plug into Blackboard or WebCT. They have even developed AI algorithms to automatically mark student work according to their criteria. All of this is information and machine inspired learning. We are creating robots and losing the ability to actually think outside the box. If you want to see an apocalyptic world like the Matrix or Terminator then this is the fast way to get there. We are trying to turn students into computers and losing our humanity and most importantly our ability to think and be creative. They will never and can never make a creatively emergent AI (Herbert Simon was wrong).

Online learning means using the internet as a tool to help learning. It does not mean subjugating yourself to these edu-commerce giants. Companies like Barnes and Noble and Amazon try to create brand loyalty by building courses onto their products - how long before you will need to have a Kindle in order to read university textbooks. The textbook companies have even started legal action against authors of open textbooks as these would damage their markets. 

I do not mean to single out Pearson, McGraw Hill is just the same. They have seminars with business where they promote their courses and texts for employability, but they are trying to turn soft skills into an information skill. For all these companies, Thomson-Reuters McGraw-Hill, Pearson they all have to persuade that information is all you need as that is what they sell. McGraw Hill owns Standard and Poor one of the rating agencies, Reuters like Bloomberg made its name in business information, Pearson owns the FT again business information. But information is not learning and so we have to resist their interference now that we have an opportunity to develop new approaches. We must not keep doing the same bad things in new ways!

No comments: