Education and Research


Kim H. Veltman

A National Networked Centre for Education and Training

Unpublished Vision Statement, McLuhan Program, Toronto, 1992.

The nature of education is changing. In the past there was an acknowledged corpus of knowledge to be taught, with basic methods for critical thinking, as well as techniques of verbal and written expression. This corpus was summarized in textbooks. It was recognized that there was a lot more knowledge in great libraries, but this remained largely overlooked on the assumption that if one wished to go to the frontiers of knowledge one would eventually spend some time at one of the major centres of learning (Oxford, Paris, Rome etc.). A teacher was one who had mastered this corpus and teaching consisted of handing down or passing on this knowledge to students. Knowledge was mainly past knowledge. Great universities such as Oxford and Harvard often prided themselves in refusing to deal with anyone who was still alive.

Three things have changed. First, the computer is making past knowledge in different centres available electronically such that one's local resources no longer define the limits of the sample with which one can or should work. Second, present knowledge is changing so fast that one can no longer wait a generation before beginning to consider it as worthy of inclusion within the corpus. Third, future knowledge, in the form of design, simulation, planning, projection, scenario building and even gaming, is becoming essential to our continued existence. These three changes call for a new integration of past, present and future knowledge, because we cannot sensibly make new designs without an awareness of past and present visions, projects and plans, both successful and unsuccessful. These three changes also call for transformations in the roles of the teacher which are not yet reflected in teaching practice or even teacher training in faculties of education. It is not enough to use technology to repeat online in the form of tele-learning, the traditional modes of teaching. Nor is it enough to pretend that we are shifting from a teacher oriented to a student oriented environment. Students need to know more knowledge, they need to learn more about the techniques for finding knowledge and they need more critical tools for separating knowledge from advertisement, propaganda, and even conscious disinformation, to which topic major institutes are now dedicated.

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