We live an exciting time. We aren’t bound by time or distance nearly as much as we used to be. Instead, we have a whole world open to us through the technical wonder of the internet and the rise of mass digital media. Online learning, the process of studying, the process of general study and learning as a whole have never been easier and this unequivocally a good thing. Gone are the days of when students had to sit in a musty room and listen to lectures that were designed only for a select portion of students who just happen to have the right mind for that sort of education. Therein lies the rub of traditional education and the follies it has had for literal centuries. People learn and study in different ways that don’t always follow the traditional lecture approach. In fact, most students have trouble learning this way. There are so many different ways to have students engage with material, from tactile activities to mental games and otherwise. Everyone learns differently and it is impossible to know just how many students didn’t live up to their full potential because education, for centuries, catered to those who were just best at listening and recording. So how did we get where we are now in education and where could we possibly be going now? What is the future of education and how can it help society? Let’s find out.
- The roots of modern western education
To understand basic educational theory, we need to go back. Way back. Most of our traditional educational techniques come from the classical era in Greece when groups of teachers began to flesh out what they thought was best when it came to passing down information. This isn’t to blame them at all. That’s not what this is about. They did their absolute best with what they had and they shouldn’t be held accountable for what they did not know. But, as we now know, many of their techniques were a little less than useful when it came to helping large groups of people learn. They taught the lecture, the sitting, the waiting and recording and regurgitating known facts back to the teacher. It was useful enough, in some ways, but it didn’t take into account all the other ways that people could learn. It was an alright system but it didn’t take into account people who learn from debate, for instance, or people who learn by living the lessons instead of just hearing them. These Greek students listened Plato’s theory about the cave, for instance, and just repeated it back to him instead of engaging in an active debate about what it meant. Whatever debate there was to be had was only strictly within confines of the lecture itself.
Moving forward to the middle ages
This style of study, the kind of study where you just sat and listened, continued for a long time. In the middle ages, monks and scholars had similar issues approaching education. They were cloistered together in minuscule clumps and were highly selective about who they taught and what was taught to them. It was all about painstakingly copying long reams of text in the hopes that it would stick in your brain. In some ways, this was even less effective than the Greek method of study because it kept the information in a metaphorical cave that it would never get out of. It was trapped, stuck in a place where only the monks would ever see it. And the debate was again stifled by the strict hierarchy of the church.
The future of education
Study is a lot more flexible today with the rise of the internet. We don’t even have to be in the same place to learn or even on the same continent. This is all well and good of course and it has changed peoples’ lives but what about the future? What does it mean for how education shapes society? Well the answer to that is that we will have to see. As we learn more about how different types of people learn, we will adapt society accordingly.