Microsoft Shares Own Security Secrets
Three Objections to Learning Objects - Norm Friesen

Why classrooms don't scale...

Stephen Downes

One of the most powerful bits of writing I've seen in a long time...

The metaphor of a pendulum is often a useful one, and there is no doubt many oscillations that may be seen in society, from political temprament to economic fortunes to preferences in fashion and style.

But not everything oscillates; there is also progress, and some things are left permanently behind, and some systems and beliefs, when advanced, do not need a conservative countervail.

To be sure, there is often a nostalga associated with the former way of doing things. The advent of machine shops brought a new appreciation for hand-crafted carpentry. Electric lighting accentuated the intimacy of the candle. The printing press presaged a desire to preserve the art of calligraphy.

But nobody would have suggested that, in the main, furniture ought to be hand-crafted, lighting ought to depend on candle power, or that the daily newspaper ought to be hand written. The appreciation for the more traditional arts is continually overwhelmed by the desire to share the benefits of furniture, lighting and knowledge with a much wider audience.

Progress - useful, irreversible progress - occurs not only in technology but also in society. Over the last centuries we have experienced here in the West and more broadly worldwide a gradual increase in the social, political and economic liberties enjoyed by all. To be sure, there are those who long for the days when privilege was reserved for a few, but a people, once liberated, does not easily return to bondage.

In my mind, technological change gives us the capacity to bring a fuller and more rewarding education to the large majority of the population. And just as the printed word may not be as beautiful as the handwritten, the use of computers may be a little rough around the edges. But while no doubt some make prefer to read their hand-written copies of the Bible or Das Kapital, the vast majority are able to choose only between the printed version or nothing at all.

And in my mind, technological change often enables, and is accompanied by, social change. In my view, the provision of an accessible and affordable education to the majority of the world's population is a form of enfranchisement, of emancipation. And though this new form of universal suffrage is not a technological revolution, but rather a social movement, it is also not possible without technology.

Attempting to provide an education to a global population without the use of technology is like attempting to create a literate population with only handwritten texts. Scribes, though talented and valued, are and always will be in too short a supply to meet the demand. People must be given the means to write or print for themselves. And in order to produce the volumes of printed text and writing machines required for such a feat, technology must be employed.

Important reading in a country (United Kingdom) that is now aiming to put 50% of its students through University.

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