“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
These are the inspirational words of activist Malala Yousafzai, best known as “the girl who was shot by the Taliban” for championing female education in her home country of Pakistan. This modest, pared-down idea of schooling is cherished by many. There is something noble about it, perhaps because harkens back to the very roots of intellectual enquiry. No tools and no distractions; just ideas and conversation.
Traditionalists may be reminded of the largely bygone “chalk and talk” methods of teaching, rooted in the belief that students need little more than firm, directed pedagogical instruction to prepare them for the world. Many still reminisce about these relatively uncomplicated teaching techniques, but we should be careful not to misread Yousafzai’s words as prescribing simplicity as the optimal conditions for education.
On the contrary, her comments describe a baseline.
There’s a phrase – from where I don’t know – which says: “If you aren’t paying, you’re the product.” Never has this felt truer than in the context of social media. Particularly Facebook, with its fan-pages and features, games and gizmos, plus never-ending updates and improvements. Who is paying for this, if not you…and what are they getting in return? The answer is actually quite straightforward.
Last week a young contestant on a British reality TV show was left humiliated after producers chose to remove him from the program’s Australian jungle setting after just a couple of days. Their reason? Tweets and social media messages sent in 2011, when the vlogger was in his teens.
Now let’s be clear, the things that Jack Maynard said were unpalatable and offensive. They are not acceptable sentiments in any scenario, and certainly not from someone with a YouTube reach of several million and an incredible leverage over (predominantly) teenage girls. Nevertheless, watching a young man’s fledgling media career left in tatters should prompt us to sharpen our focus on an increasingly important question: in our hyperconnected era, to what extent can we punish and pillory the adult for the sins of the teen? Continue reading
These days we are often told what we shouldn’t be afraid of when it comes to technological innovation. Efforts to calm us come from all corners, and we can find a healthy dose of reassurance about any given advancement with a quick google.
Just this week, an excellent article by Oxford professor Luciano Floridi was recirculated on the internet. In it, Floridi argues vociferously against those “Singularitarians” who worry about robot rule, and humans being overthrown by AI in the near-ish future. At the same time, the Independent wrote in some detail to comfort us with regards to the non-threatening nature of iPhone X’s new facial recognition feature. This came after a wave of speculation about Apple’s plans to build a mass database of facial information. What’s more, we have also seen an increase in cuddly or moving descriptions of new tech, like this inspiring article which examines how VR can be used to help both deaf and hearing individuals understand the other’s experience of music.
I am not suggesting for a second that we shouldn’t be reassured. I think these articles do very important things, whether it be shooting down unsettling, dystopian predictions, or championing some of the wonderful work that is being done to improve our lived experiences with technology. But it is perhaps because of this recent proliferation of positive tech news (if we set aside the politics of tech firms and focus on the tech itself…) that I was shocked to read this article late yesterday. Not least because it reveals a bogey man that I wasn’t even vaguely aware of… Continue reading