Sparked by Her Learning

In a comment at Dangerously Irrelevant, a post written by Dr. Scott Mcleod, "The digital equity concerns of 'good enough', colleague Tim Holt asks this series of questions, challenging the assertion that 90% of tasks accomplished with a Chromebook is good enough. His questions are as follows, and they miss the point of what education is:
Would you want to use an MRI machine that provides 90% of a picture? That is good enough isn’t it?
Would you go to a movie, pay full price, and expect to get only 90% of it?
Imagine of you are on a plane and the instruments in the cockpit provided 90% of the information to the pilot. Would you feel safe?
Name one coach that tells his team to go out and “give 90%!”
Would you go to a surgeon if you knew his success rate was 90%?
Would you get Lasik if you knew the success rate was 90% or that the Lasik laser in your eyeball would do 90% of the procedure?
Would you buy a Big Mac if they left off 10% of the ingredients?

As I reflect on the ideas suggested by the questions, I feel an almost violent rejection of the idea that education is a "whole package" that can be bought. Yes, I know that our education system is arranged that way now because of economic and convenience reasons, but getting an education isn't about digesting convenient packets of shoved down your throat learning. When we are children, we trust in our parents and adults and have an eager desire to please them. So, as a result, we do our best to learn. Eventually that becomes a habit (or not) and we "wise up." We wise up and realize that education is a decision we make as learners, a joint effort by the agency that makes formal learning opportunities available, and the learners who choose to partake as humans endowed by their Creator with free will.

That's why these questions don't work for me. They paint education as a factory of parts that, when assembled, constitute an education. However, many of us continue to learn without all the parts. Abraham Lincoln taught himself law by reading law books. My grandfather, mayor of the small town of Santiago in the County of Veraguas in the Republic of Panama, at a time when there were no roads from Santiago to the capital city, Panama City, learned the law in the same way. Although there were gaps in his education--no formal schooling--he also read and defended the native population of Santiago in court. 
“The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done.”  Source: Abraham Lincoln on being a Lawyer
When we approach education as a commodity, a checklist of components like a box of furniture ("Can you build a desk if only 90% of the components are there?"), we limit the power of the human being to fill in the gaps, to imagine and learn. 

Let's ask, instead, different questions...when we do, we'll find that the Chromebook, like the iPad, the laptops, the desktop, are simply the raw ingredients for powerful imaginations, that must be kindled with sparks of insight and learning that flow from the minds of those around us. You can't ask a stick in a campfire to catch itself on fire, but you can a human being. A spark may trigger an inferno of destruction and melting heat, but a human mind...can touch the possible, make the impossible a reality, and dream.

Would you want an education that didn't seize the raw materials around it and re-shape them, make them into something unimagined from simply looking at them?
Would you want an education that didn't convert the least expensive products into resources that connect us to others?
Would you want technology that provides 90% and expects students to fill in the last 10%?
Or, better yet, what about technology that helps students achieve 90% with only 10% of fiscal resources?

Yes, the mind is the most powerful technology. Let's not cheapen the experience of learning by comparing the aggregation of raw materials--including technologies to be used in school--as a list of 90%.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


doug0077 said…

This 90% debate is worthless. Would you try a cancer cure that is 90% effective - if the alternative is no cancer cure? Would you marry a woman who makes you happy 90% of the time? Would you try a teaching method that works for 90% of your students?

Wait for 100%, Miguel, and you'll wait forever. Yes, I'll take 90% functionality in the device I can afford today, rather than wait for the mythical 100% tomorrow.


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