Processing Education

We should change our education system to take advantage of how are brains are designed to process information by utilizing current technology. Humans are unique in our thought process, we recognize patterns in information better than any other animal or technology. We should teach humans to better use this ability rather than teaching rote memorization. We should change the education system to teach us to learn to think rather than teaching the details of subject matter.

At one time in history, information had to be integrated by an individual in a sequential fashion, using memory to carry information from one book or experience to something observed in another book or experience; the details mattered.  But now, with massive digital stores of fact available, it is possible to put information together based on affinities that are discovered through automated searches and machine processing.  This changes everything.  While it doesn’t render memorization completely obsolete, it emphasizes our need to be able to recognize patterns in order to extract meaning from collections of information.

Think about the pre- and post-internet age. What percentage of the population had the knowledge of a certain topic like Greek mythology? Before the internet, an instructor was required to teach these topics. However, with the internet, more people are exposed to any given topic thus, more people know about it. There is increased access to Greek mythology, for example, so that each person does not have to learn it in class, but could learn it on their own without an instructor.

One possibility would be to teach everything through problem based learning – teach the students how to learn rather than teaching them the information. Teaching through problem-based learning does not reduce the amount of information students are taught, but actually increases it. When students are taught to ask questions about a topic, they are able to research the details (on the internet, etc), find patterns in the information, and deduce the answers. Despite not having lectures and they would be learning how to follow a process to teach themselves.

Accordingly, learning needs to emphasize an ability to develop patterns of recognition, as opposed to memorizing facts.  Machines bring together large bodies of information; it is the role of an intelligent person to put together that information into meaningful understanding by assimilating the patterns. The implications for modalities of education are huge.  A lecturer who teaches facts is largely outmoded, since the set of facts can often be gleaned from simple web searches.  It is the interpretation of the facts that are accessed, by means of recognizing patterns in some generalized and approximate fashion that needs to be sharpened for young and old alike.

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