Back in April, I posted about a PCWorld article talking about how the future of computing might very well be “good enough” rather than working with “top of the line”. Today, I spotted an article, this time in Wired, talking about how the makers of the Flip cameras used the “good enough, near enough” model to produce one of the most popular video cameras out there. Wired nails it on the head quite well:
We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect.
The article talks about how this idea has hit the military and is now moving into health and law. But my question is, now that it is in those fields, when will it hit education? And, can we stop it?
Ironically, to build something “G.E.N.E.”, the people behind the product or service actually need to know quite a bit, even though on the surface, it seems that there are numerous compromises and shortcuts that are taken. To build the ext iteration of of G.E.N.E. device, you need to know where and how to cut all the corners you can to be able to maximize the convenience or cost targets that you are gunning for. If we apply the same model to education, are we going to be training students to “fake it ’till they make it”? Are we going to become reliant on Google or other services to store the knowledge and become content with students merely returning the proper result from a query without putting any thought into it?
Or is the thinking about this looking at things the wrong way? Are we producing tools that that deal with the drudgery that as a civilization, we’ve commoditized? Look at the pen, once ornate masterpieces are now disposable to the point of being litter. Watches are the same, clocks used to be one per town, now one could put a clock into just about anything one could want to. We still write, and time is more important than ever. But the technology and knowledge base required to deal with clocks and pens have been eclipsed by other technologies and knowledge bases. The pen and the clock have become the computer and slowly we are getting to the point where the basic computer is also an afterthought. Granted these “afterthought machines” are not very capable, but just like with everything else, we’ll be able to see more features coming.
Einstein is quoted as saying that he never remembered (or bothered to memorize) his phone number because it was in the phone book. He went on to think up some pretty complex stuff. Perhaps some of the “good enough” elements that are creeping into education today (the Google generation) are going to be the same way. They don’t need to bother filling their heads with something that was once considered important, because they are getting ready to move into fields that are far more complex and may not even exist.