How the Internet Ruined Education

Posted on May 26, 2015 by

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Catchy article title, huh? Yeah, I think so too. And in some ways, it’s utter bullsh*t. At the same time, it also aptly sums up so much of what has transpired in the last decade.

Why? Because the internet makes it possible for anyone anywhere to represent themselves as a subject matter expert with little ability at casual glance to distinguish the quality of material. You can have geniuses with low quality videos ignored where morons with better cameras get the view count. Beyond the superficial,  if you don’t know what you don’t know, you have to learn enough to know what you don’t know to even know enough to know what to question about what has been presented to you. Which is to say, without sufficient knowledge, one can’t judge how effective the knowledge they are being presented is. Tell a child too young to know differently that the earth is flat and they will believe you for exactly this reason.

In the Internet realm where anyone can present content, we’ve given rise to an era where a 6 year old can be given more sway than their 66 year old counterpart. Mind you, this isn’t inherently bad as it forces the 66 year old to stay relevant. Of course, the challenge is that so much assessment of knowledge on line is based on perceptions of slices of time that are one directional data streams.

Let me step back.

A sure sign I’m getting older, I’m about to start this whole thing with, “when I was a kid…” Because, the truth is, things have globally shifted in my lifetime in a way they never have before.

20 years ago you learned live and in person. Right now, you can listen to a lecture that was completed 20 hours ago on another continent.

20 years ago the paradigm was one to many, where you had experts with depth of knowledge imparted on those who sought them out, often at great expense, to meet with and learn from them. Today, people expect that knowledge to be delivered for free via YouTube.

20 years ago, education involved conversation, the socratic method and a feedback loop in which the educator fostered your growth so you could break concepts down into smaller pieces and create building blocks of knowledge upon which future learning are derived, ideally, progressively including what has come before while adding something new. Today, the internet provides a fertile dumping ground of endless amounts of data with very little possibility of a feedback loop in which real time education can happen.

Videos are produced and consumed but no real time interaction transpires. What’s been lost, to my eyes, are three big things.

First, there’s a loss of respect for the feedback process which is, ironically, the only true way one can direct their growth and development. Without measuring progress through time, one can’t plot the trajectory of their course. You can neither see success nor can you see failure without understanding where you have been and how far you have come.

Second, anyone can easily declare themselves an expert. This is a double edged sword because it leaves a lot of room for people to innovate, come to the forefront and not be left out of the conversation simply because they haven’t paid their dues in the sorts of ways one needed to in the past. On the other hand, anyone can come to the forefront by declaring themselves an expert, whether they are or are not. For people who are ignorant, they have no means of differentiating the quality of two instructors. Some might make the claim that the success is measured in the students but that assumes that success of instruction can be measured through demonstration of execution of skill. Learning is a multidimensional experience, particularly something kinesthetic like poi dancing. There are layers of learning that happen in the body itself as well as in the psychology of the practitioner. One can not possibly measure the change in psychology solely from measuring the progress of execution of moves. Especially because capabilities vary. If one instructor can only teach people who could learn from videos, does that make him more accomplished than another instructor capable of teaching anyone, even those with physical and/or emotional disabilities?

Thirdly, instructors may falsely believe that “lecturing” — which is what happens in a video — is the same as teaching live where students want and request feedback. This subsequently leaves instructors who are internet popular with a lack of experience in real time instruction and may leave them lacking in the most profound skills an instructor can have: the ability to say in direct response to the moment the right thing for that student based on exactly what they need.

I would say there is a science to teaching. But teaching well, like anything one masters, is an art form unto itself. Certainly teaching to a video camera and making great video education material is a skill and a useful one. But it lacks, overall, the specificity that really meets each artist in the place that will truly propel them to the next level. As a result, instructors are at a disadvantage because they really don’t have practice responding in the moment to real world situations with a diverse culture of students since they primarily teach to an audience of one: the camera. And it rarely talks back.

The consequence? Students get lower quality education and don’t even know something better is possible because the prevailing cultural narrative is becoming… perhaps already has become, “look it up on the internet…” as if that is the one salve for all learning needs.

Need some quality education? Contact GlitterGirl directly or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek business training or guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).

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