I Want to Be Amish

Dr. Brian Alexander, the esteemed traveling professor that visited our class earlier in the day, delivered an incredibly imaginative lecture on the future of technology in higher education classrooms. Lecture is too stuffy a word for Dr. Alexander, who kept up a running Twitter feed during the talk and frequently broke from his speech to chat with the audience and get immediate feedback. It made sense for him to address the audience in this style, because a theme of Dr. Alexander’s speech was about the evolving nature of learning and its increasingly interactive, digital nature.

The four possible futures he outlined were rather terrifying to me, though. All but one of the examples projected a rather cold, heavily internet-based form of human interactions, if such a digital medium can really be classified as human interaction without any physical interaction.All the scenarios asked us to imagine life 20 years from now and the first was called Phantom Learning. It involved the idea of schools being rare, but information being plentiful, with education being completely online. The second, The Lost Decade, was a depressing look towards a future where we never recovered from our present economic slump. The third one, and my favorite, was call alt.Residential and seemed the most balanced, relying on blended learning and creating physical structures that are alluring by being intensely unique. The final scenario was the Renaissance, a heavily “gamified” world where learning is frequently done through games and we go through a golden age of digital creativity.

What I realized from Dr. Alexander’s talk is that new technologies are in an ocean of opportunity. There are many levels of technological proficiency, just like there are many sizes of fish in the ocean, some goldfish, some sharks. And I am not even a minnow. I am some sort of technological plankton, not even technologically savvy enough to be a fish.