Technological magic and the philosopher’s education

Technological magic and the philosopher’s education

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” (Clarke’s third law). The impact of current digital technologies such as Web 3.0, with its intelligent cloud, on our education system is potentially magical. Yet as we navigate our way through digital disruption, widespread effective and enthusiastic implementation among many muggle academics and their students is not immediately apparent.

What determines how we incorporate technology when we design learning activities? It goes without saying that inclusion must be purposeful – the use of technology for technology’s sake is mystifying at best, and distracting at worst; although sometimes, technological change is intended (or mandated!) to improve the delivery or administration of a course, in which case the impact on  learning outcomes may be unfortunately irrelevant or collateral damage.

Technology that is prerequisite to the application of associated disciplinary skills certainly gets a free pass – for example, botanists learning to use an online key to identify plants, or accountants taught to use a spreadsheet application. These digital skills sit comfortably and transparently in the cognitive domain, where we are used to operating. 

But it is much more difficult to coerce teaching muggles to dabble in the dark arts of the affective domain – to adopt technology simply for the purpose of enhancing learner engagement, or improving generic digital literacy skills. Institutions implement Learning Management Systems that (albeit unnecessarily and unintentionally) tend to foster an environment that stifles efforts to experiment with the use of magical technology by both academics and students. Groom and Lamb (2014) explore the use of technology and the LMS further in the article ‘Reclaiming Innovation‘. It’s a great read.

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