An article on the Technology and the course of shipping (John King, 2001) provides some metaphorical comparisons to what is happening in the business of education today and the resistance to what is irrevocably happening because of technological advancements. This blog is related to my blogs on lecture, online learning, and learning analytics.
I quote from pages 569-570 of the article:
“Technological development is intimately bound up with notions of progress, or the natural societal advance from a lower state to ever higher ones…characterised by integration or change from less coherent to more coherent forms. Over the centuries shipwrights and naval architects have created an endless variety of watercraft of increasing complexity, each exhibiting the fundamental properties, such as hull proportions, that we should expect to see in modern ships today. For most of this time, and certainly until the 18th century, progress was slow. Rules of thumb predominated as a means of codifying experience and guiding action, and much depended upon the skill and experience of individual craftsmen who worked to construct a ship according to well-rehearsed procedures, often learned and applied by rote. When a particular arrangement worked it was adopted and modified with caution. But when new things did not work, experience was often a poor guide to the proper remedy because it was not supported by adequate understanding of the underlying physical principles. However, notwithstanding this, shipping and shipbuilding were among the leaders of the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution brought new challenges which the established methods could not always meet. It was a time of change and conflict; technologies that substituted machines for muscles created tensions between practitioners of the traditional crafts and advocates of the new methods….Moreover, the resilience of traditional practices often hindered progress by preserving attitudes and ways of working that were no longer appropriate for the new circumstances.” The recent New York Times opinion editorial arguing against online learning definitely represents attitudes that hinder progress because of reliance on traditional practices.