Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Education Entrepreneurs:(I mean Information Professionals) Bringing Technology and the Liberal Arts Together

I just read this article by Jeff Silingo about Education Entrepreneurs, and the question came to me, "Aren't libraries the perfect places to bring technical skills and the liberal arts together? Librarians do that now, right? 

The idea of education-based businesses doing away with traditional schools makes my stomach drop.  I see the need for change in education, but the severe focus of an education based solely on technical (or other) skills leaves such a whole in students' intellectual development. And yet, is the debate more about credentialing practices or about curriculum content?  The focus seems to vacillate between the two.

Jeff Silingo, the author of the article, quotes Josh Jarrett of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “If we break up certification into packages, badges, and classes, who is going to verify the entire package?” This does seem to be a slippery slope.  How can education truly be measured--how can graduates be found to employ if no one can guarantee through comprehensive testing, discussion and practice that skills have been learned?  Writing and communication must be attached to technology--and too often it is not. The focus is too much on the doing of something, and not enough on the analysis of it.  Students are in danger of becoming automatons with no ability to think critically or problem-solve.

I quote Silingo, because I could not communicate the point better myself:
The issue I have with Smarterer’s model, and many other [education startup] companies that pitched here, is that it is based on educating and hiring largely technical workers with specific skills. It’s relatively easy to provide online courses in computer coding, and then assess that learning through crowdsourced tests. It’s much more difficult to do that for intuitive disciplines, like English, or softer skill sets, like critical thinking and communication.
 And, yet, even the forces behind these very companies admit the need for a more well-rounded education.  In fact, what is needed is an even more well-rounded education than is available now.  What is needed is a degree that brings together the searching investigation that thrives in the academic realm and the practical skills that are needed in the professional, career-oriented world.

I ask you, does not library and information science do that already?

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