Let us now look at two problems facing digital education, the first one being:
Digital Education today has problems delivering the needed quality of education.
Traditionally this is what happens in educational institutions:
A teacher takes a chunk of knowledge, delivers it to the student and expects the student to identically reproduce this knowledge. In digital education, the teacher teaches many more students. Sometimes the teacher is even made redundant by computers.
By this it is assumed that a computer or even the mere transmission of information via text or pre-recorded lectures can sufficiently teach the student, who in consequence is not taught, but must learn themselves, turning the student into both teacher and learner. This not only reduces school and university to a simple transmitter of information. It also narrows down the goal of education to the acquisition of pre-established facts.
Scientists like Jeremy Knox point out the problem of this approach:
„The promotion of self-directed learning neglects to address the role of pedagogy.“ (Knox, p. 830)
Knox and other digital education professionals highlight that- regardless of the technical appliances – there is more to education and pedagogy. Although Knox’, Selwyn’s or Biesta’s interpretation of the role of the teacher can be criticised for being traditional if not old-fashioned or outdated, by describing the teacher as a „leader“ and being critical of placing increased importance on the role of the student as an active learner, their argument that an abolishment of the teacher as a human participant in the student’s educational process is valid.
If we realise education in a sense of Bildung however, the teacher has a crucial and irreplaceable role. The teacher is not an instructor, but a partner. He helps the student to gain knowledge and to challenge current beliefs.
So digital education should not replace traditional educational approaches. Digital education must help realise pedagogical ideals for the good of more people by “‘freeing-up’ of teachers’ ability to teach.”(see Selwood in Selwyn, P. 118)
We should see “… the role of the teacher as a creator of experiences.” In this context, technology can “bring in more innovative student-led forms of educational engagement.” (Sinclair, Macleod, p. 96)
It is precisely this quality, digital education can bring into education.
“Effective learning takes place, when meaning is taken from experience with the world, when children through their own experience discover what is ‘going on in their own heads’. (Bruner 1973, p. 72) Physical engagement with something creates an involvement and activeness in learning that passive listening or watching does not. This, in part, increases levels of motivation and an interest in the activity or learning context. High levels of engagement can in turn affect the cognitive interaction of the learner, in terms of their attention, inquisitiveness and reflection.” (Price, Rogers, p. 138)
So education using digital means can not only sustain a needed level of quality in teaching, but might even help to deliver a better, more engaging, more effective learning experience.
If our aim is to not only teach facts, but to enable the student to think critically, to find their own truth and to challenge current believes, this can not be reached by a simple transmission of information from teacher or institution to the student who then is required to identically reproduce the learned content. The student must be seen as an individual and be dealt with individually.
This notion is not only found in 19th century literature, but also in modern philosophical debate.
“In Gardener’s ‘hermeneutics’ Rorty finds the clue of Bildung or ‘edification’ in postmodern society, not in the possession of truth or in the epistemological or the technological point of view; the task before us, he says, is rather to ‘redescribe’ ourselves, society and politics so that we may ‘remake’ our life together.“ (Rorty, 1979, p. 360 in Løvlie, Standish, p. 335)
„Even Adorno, critical to the notion of Bildung in a context of Idialism, sees in it a right momentum of individualism, „precisely its refusal of outer social demands and its insistence on the self-determination of the individual.“ (Koller, p.100)
Digital Education must therefor not replace the teacher and try to teach more students. It must make use of modern technology to expand the ability of the teacher to interact with the individual student in a mutual attempt to find and discover meaning. Digital Education must not be a new form of pedagogy replacing traditional approaches, but a means to help realise philosophical, academic and educational ideals for more people. Thus, Bildung has a very concrete task for the student, which can be achieved with the help of technology:
“Take responsibility for the humanity in his or her own person – and to take part in the ongoing conversation of mankind. The educated person, then, is the individual who strives towards being a competent contributor to that conversation.” (Løvlie, Standish 339)