Contemplating IT and its role in present-day learning

ACN's Alexander Pieri questions present-day learning processes and the impact of technology on creativity

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Contemplating IT and its role in present-day learning Alexander Sophoclis Pieri, editor of Arabian Computer News.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  October 28, 2017

Within the fictional universe of the celebrated Star Trek science fiction TV series created by Gene Roddenberry, Starfleet Academy serves as the primary training facility where Starfleet's officer corps are trained and drawn from.

As Starfleet cadets undergo extensive training to prepare them for their specialisation and service as a Starfleet officer, one of the most challenging tests that they will likely face during their time at the academy is that of the Kobayashi Maru.

Well-known by both the characters of the show, as well as by the franchise's loyal fan base, the Kobayashi Maru is a simulated battle exercise that examines how command-track cadets react when dealing with a no-win scenario.

As part of the simulation, cadets will need to decide whether or not to take their ship into a demilitarised zone to save survivors of the Kobayashi Maru, a stranded civilian vessel, which in turn triggers a hostile response from the Klingons, a rival faction, and leads to the destruction of the cadet's ship.

As part of the series' lore, the only person to have completed the simulation by successfully rescuing survivors from the Kobayashi Maru, while also destroying all opposing Klingon ships was James T. Kirk, one of the franchise's most famous characters.

He accomplished this amazing feat by reprogramming the simulation's parameters in his favour, prior to his third attempt of the test. For his actions, Kirk was awarded a commendation for "original thinking".

So why am I discussing this topic for ACN? Well, it occurred to me during a recent interview that I conducted for a piece on IT in education, Kirk's actions would have been met with disapproval within the present-day classroom environment. 

Of course kids in classrooms don't typically have to contemplate scenarios that have life or death consequences, nor am I saying that cheating is the best way to succeed academically.

However, the regimental approach that some academic institutions have adopted, I fear could stifle creative and critical development. And at least from my viewpoint, the use of technology contributes to this problem.

Now I do see the value of technologies in the classroom environment. For example, being connected on the Cloud enables teachers to engage their students in new ways, monitor progress of examinations in real-time, while also granting accessing to global resources at a moment's notice. The same technology also allows parents to keep a close eye on their kids' progress.

But rather than tapping into the student's curiosity for learning through inspiration, I feel that the linear path, constant monitoring and micromanagement, limits creativity and the ability to ‘think outside of the box'.

And in a future work environment where menial tasks have been automated and taken over by robots, thinking critically is what will set employees apart from their colleagues and the machines.

Going back to the example of the Kobayashi Maru, the fictional account of how Kirk bested the programme has won favour even amongst non-Trekkies. This has been the case particularly within the business environment, where it serves as an example for how businesses need revaluate their business strategies to set themselves apart from the competition, rather than simply conforming to the ‘rules of the game'.

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