HCI and the Future of Education

In Being Human: Human-computer Interaction in the Year 2020, Harper, Rodden, Rogers, and Sellen remind us that, “With the uptake of calculators, educationalists became concerned that students’ ability to perform mental arithmetic were disappearing.”

Then, they ask, “In 2020, what other kinds of basic skills might go?” Could reading be next? Critical thinking? Concentration in general?

Let’s take it one step further: What’s at stake if those other basic skills go?

In The End of Education, Neil Postman, arguing against “provid[ing students] with more practical, vocational skills” describes one goal of a public education as “the making of adaptable, curious, open, questioning people…”

Postman’s description of part of public education’s purpose is spot on, and I think it illustrates what’s at stake when those other basic skills go.

How can a person (let alone a society) cultivate adaptability, curiosity, openness and open-mindedness, and critical inquiry skills if we outsource so much of the bedrock for these abilities to technology?

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