Digital signal processing technology in all its many forms, from desktop and laptop computers and tablets to the Internet, the World Wide Web, Social Media and cell phones that have become smartphones for mobile communications, are creating powerful new opportunities for constructing and storing knowledge for sharing that are breaking through the limitations of the time-honored traditions of teaching and text.
The first round of efforts to harness this power focused on replacing the teacher.
The next round will focus on replacing the text.
Teachers are important, because talking is important. Knowing and sharing knowledge are being experienced in their essence as both intellectual and interpersonal. It is people that know, and people that learn and people who act together on knowledge they share. Talking is required, and talking consists of both speaking and listening. Both speaking and listening are capabilities we all possess, and also skills that we must each of us develop through training and practice in order to achieve and maintain competence and proficiency.
Teachers teach us to talk, to speak, and to listen. Computers do not.
Neither do books. The construction of words strung together according to the rules of proper grammar and punctuation, to form sentences grouped into paragraphs organized into chapters bound into books, has proven to be a powerful technology for storing knowledge. But writing books is hard work. So is reading them.
All of us have the capacity to write, and to read, but some of us show more proficiency at “book learning” than others. So much so that large percentages of the population are constrained in their knowing, because they are limited in their proclivity for learning by reading.
Text-based teaching — which has long been the norm — excerbates, rather than ameliorates, this elistist consequence of storing knowledge in books.
The computer replaces the book with a richer palette of possibilities for creating emotional resonance that supports knowledge sharing, freed from the constraints of proper grammar, punctuation and the linear sequencing of logical reasoning.
There are still the challenges of language and vocabulary. Knowledge sharing still requires a shared vernacular of experience, consequence and relevance. All knowing is provisional, suited to the circumstances, but subject to change when circumstances change. Talking is also provisional, situational, contextual. Text, not so much.
This is important because the real story of human history is the story of change, and co-creative, collaborative and evolutionary adaptation to change. Of new experiences, new consequences and new relevance. Of the construction of new knowledge, and the invention of new words to contain and express that new knowing.
The New Frontier of knowing is not preserving the past. It is creating our future. Provisionally and contextually. Intellectually and also interpersonally.
Books can be made to serve that purpose. Computers are made for it.