The vast majority of higher education institutions market themselves by claiming they have the ability to truly prepare their students for the future, which today almost inherently involves promoting a constructive and responsible use of technology. It should also, however, take into account the specific needs of their student body. Higher-ed should be acutely aware of the ways in which the generation they are teaching has been raised. Though Simon Sinek puts much of the responsibility of handling the “millennials” on the corporations that they work for, some responsibility should be put on both higher and K-12 education as well to guide students through the changing world they live in. This may be particularly challenging when, as Joshua Cooper Ramo points out many instructors are very much stuck in the older ways of teaching. Evolving pedagogy and understanding the needs of the current students is a crucial role for those in higher ed. Evaluating changes and advancements in technology and thinking and incorporating them into teaching methods has only become more essential as the pace increases, but it’s also important to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Many of the key methodologies and philosophies that have existed in education for some time continue to be useful and, therefore, should be preserved; just as many of the shifts in thinking that have been made recently may be less that useful. The shift from understanding to knowing, as outlined in the aforementioned interview with Ramo, is not a change I can quite accept. Sherry Turkle has described the negative consequences too much technology can have on our relationships and well-being, most of which are due to the fact that communicating through and with technology removes vulnerability. When one is texting there’s far less of a chance of fumbling our words and over social media it’s easy to create an image of a perfect, together life that no one actually has. Turkle cites this communication without vulnerability as causing us to be detached from our true selves. I think that this can be extended to the knowing vs. understanding dilemma, technology allows us to quickly know something, taking the vulnerability out of learning for the purpose of understanding, which involves getting things wrong, asking stupid questions, and working through solutions. The sensation of understanding something is distinctly different from that of knowing something, having an understanding means that the knowledge tangibly enhances your life and that you have the ability to apply the information, whereas knowing means that facts can be repeated but not truly broadened. While there are many ways in which higher education must change with the times, it would defeat its own purpose to shift the focus from helping students understand to helping students know.

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One thought on “In Order to Prepare Students, Higher-Ed Should Be Prepared Too”

  1. Jamie,

    Very well written. I am intrigued by your thoughts “The sensation of understanding something is distinctly different from that of knowing something, …” I hope we have a chance to discuss during our next meeting on Thursday.


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