Words will never be a substitute for grunts

https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=8996

Andrew Norton claims that online learning will never be a substitute for face-to-face learning.

Indeed.

Here are some other equally useful and true claims:

  • electric vehicles will never be a substitute for gasoline-fueled vehicles;
  • cellphones will never be a substitute for desktop computers;
  • MP3s will never be a substitute for vinyl records;
  • email will never be a substitute for letters;
  • word processing will never be a substitute for handwriting;
  • TV will never be a substitute for radio;
  • aircraft will never be a substitute for ships;
  • cars will never be a substitute for horses;
  • photography will never be a substitute for painting;
  • pianos will never be a substitute for harps;
  • folios will never be a substitute for scrolls;
  • cities will never be a substitute for villages;
  • writing will never be a substitute for speaking;
  • agriculture will never be a substitute for foraging;
  • cooked food will never be a substitute for raw food;
  • words will never be a substitute for grunts;
  • walking on two legs will never be a substitute for walking on four.

Do you see any patterns here? Indeed.

Perhaps it would be better to think about what is enabled and what is enhanced, rather than mainly focusing on what is lost. Perhaps it is a chance to think about what is the same, and maybe to think about how those similarities suggest weaknesses and missed opportunities in what we used to do, and thus to improve both the older and the newer. Perhaps we could try to see the whole assembly rather than a few of its obvious parts. Perhaps we could wonder about how to fill the gaps we perceive, or look for ways that they might already be filled even though we didn’t design it that way. Perhaps we could appreciate all the opportunities and the failings of everything that is available to us. Perhaps we could notice that everything new brings new problems to solve, as well as new opportunities to discover. Perhaps we could remember that we invented new things because they did stuff the old things could not do, or because they do some things better. Perhaps we should observe that new technologies hardly ever fully replace their ancestors, because there are almost always reasons to prefer the old even when the new seem (for some or most purposes, some or most of the time) better.

As it happens, I recently wrote a paper about that kind of thing.

Originally posted at: https://landing.athabascau.ca/bookmarks/view/8775146/words-will-never-be-a-substitute-for-grunts

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the former Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

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