Having just joined UNMC a pleasant surprise was Moodle.
Ever since young, armed with an armada of heavy books, I dreamed of an all-in-one learning platform: some kind of futuristic device that could display textbooks and exercises to the class, saving both cost and trouble.
When my younger self first knew the Internet, my dreams of such a tool escalated.
I actually made it my goal to invent such a device.
Moodle, an open-source learning management system, is everything I had dreamed of and more. Lecturer notes. Slides. Even the distribution of coursework and exercise sheets.
It’s all digital… everything I had wanted.
Accessible at any time with a mere few taps on a screen, and there it was, ready to aid. Sure, there were some minor inconveniences. But it was as near to perfect as it could get, right?
That’s where we could be carelessly mistaken.
Humans less humane?
From the dawn of time, humans have faced challenges. Faced with perils. Forced to adapt for survival. Man discovered fire. Tools achieved what a human could not. Soon civilisation came into play. Each time humanity has found itself threatened, it grew as a result. Forced to change, forced to learn.
And yet, the more tools man created, the more they forgot why they had built them in the first place. Complacency!
Soon people began to settle for less, content to use the tools that brighter minds had made. People seem to be taking things for granted already.
As our tools get smarter, we slowly lose the need to be us.
Students less studious?
In an ironic twist, the accessibility to Moodle has the potential to be its greatest flaw.
Why take down notes, if one can simply print out the pdf files available!
Hell, why print anything at all? The information’s all on our mobile devices anyway!
One quickly forgets that simply having the reference material is not sufficient. One forgets the reward that comes from taking down notes oneself, forced to understand lest they be left behind. Gone are the days when we had no option other than the libraries of books and research papers, dusty and old, yet full of knowledge!
In a similar vein, think phone numbers. Once there was a time where the human brain was forced to retain a great multitude of numbers. Anyone like that today is abnormal. Why memorise something so easily available in our mobile devices!
Yes, the need to remember information dies away because of how quickly and readily everything lies there waiting. For any question, one’s speed in obtaining the answer is only limited by their internet connection.
Google is our blessing, but our curse too… a curse?
“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of Idiots.” ~ They rumour Einstein said this. Who knows. Try googling it.
Evolving student cultures?
Even at its best, the digitalisation of education remains to be a tricky thing to manage.
Placing items of importance in a device usually used for other means, social media or forum posts or other means of entertainment, may distract us too simply.
Daydreaming during lectures seems to have slowly evolved into a multitude of swiping and scrolling. The mind strays away from the stream of teaching.
Grim, this may sound. But it seems to be the reality of the world today. To say anything else would be denial. Such is the world we live in.
And I would not have it any other way.
Love-hate our machine
While Moodle may bring harm, the inverse is also true.
The flaws of its design do not overwhelm its virtues. It is, at the end of the day, a very useful tool.
Sure, the digitalization of education provides us with a powerful tool. It could reduce us to being reliant, but that does not have to be. In fact, it often isn’t.
After the calculator was invented, have mathematicians become any worse off since? Did the creation and widespread use of robots doom human workers?
To become complacent as our tools evolved was not the only option.
Instead, shall we not use it hand-in-hand with our own, so-called, development? This seems to be the careful way.
Computers revolutionised workplaces. Transportation becomes cheaper and faster.
In that same vein, the faster and easier access to information and education should rightfully be a pro, not a con. To create one’s notes, while accessing the ones provided digitally. To reference material online, whilst truly understanding it.
The possibilities are endless, and limited only by oneself.
At the end of the day, as someone (famous?) once said:
“A tool is only as good as the person using it.”
So, is digitalisation good or bad?
As per most things in life, that’s for you to decide and choose.
I rest my case. But you continue thinking!
Written by Joshua-Ryan Koh Yie
Featured image from Business Insider
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the position of UNMC IGNITE.