Academics voice fears over zapping culture

January 13, 1995

Speakers at a recent Canadian conference on the impact of the digital revolution on the classroom were certainly not blinded by technology.

Edith Ackermann, a professor at France's University of Aix-Marseille who has worked at MIT's Media Laboratory, is one voice of caution in the emerging debate about new technologies and academe.

Where some would push information highway technology unreservedly, Dr Ackermann believes it encourages a "zapping culture, a quick fix".

Dr Ackermann, a developmental psychologist, criticised the current "boundless enthusiasm" of some towards the so-called information highway.

She acknowledges that the technology provides very useful tools for storing, accessing and re-using already-packaged information.

But she deplores the fact that "no one is thinking about the time of gestation or the time needed for people to create their own forms of expression reflecting their experiences from this information".

Dr Ackermann believes people must become producers and not just consumers of information.

Her ideal is an atelier approach, where high and low-technology tools are combined, permitting students to draw on all the sources of information they have used.

Asked if she sees a significant shift in the offing for professors, she offers a qualified no.

But she adds: "Traditional teachers, who think knowledge construction merely involves transmission of knowledge where, for instance, there is no room for hands-on activity, could benefit a bit from tools that allow improved visualisation".

However, Dr Ackermann sees the potential for radical change in computer networks, where there is, she believes, a true two-way flow of information.

Dominique Delage, a French consultant, appeared more concerned than Dr Ackermann, asking if academics will be made redundant by new information technologies.

Mr Delage suggested that the new technologies play a mediating role between teacher and learner, with the teacher responsible for developing an environment where the learner can develop his or her own learning style.

Jean Roy, who works in the Quebec ministry of education's educational technology branch, said that "a major consequence of the new technologies is to enhance educators' roles."

Mr Roy believes that professors should primarily "make students conscious of how to learn" rather than providing them directly with course content.

He says most university courses could rely exclusively on pre-packaged multimedia content.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Professorship in Behavioural Science LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Foundation Partnerships Officer LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

Social media icons

Gabriel Egan laments the narcissistic craving for others’ approval brought on, he says, by the use of social networking websites

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

Elly Walton illustration (25 August 2016)

Treating students as consumers has precipitated a rush to the bottom to give them exactly what they want, says John Warren

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy