Humans Using Machines, Humans as Machines: Implications for Teaching and Learning

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Technology and Media

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What is the relationship between computers and human beings? Whether or not humans are essentially computers, as some theories assert, learning does involve “information processing.” Some educational methods (computer-based and otherwise) require students to handle information in a mechanical way that undermines both the development of critical skills and a genuine understanding of the material. This essay is a reflection on the ways in which computers in education can undermine student learning, especially in the development of advanced cognitive abilities, and the ways in which it can greatly enhance it, by providing challenges that foster critical analysis and genuine understanding. Inspiration is drawn from Neal Stephenson’s novel, Diamond Age, and his belief that students ought to live “interesting lives” and be “subversive.” Examples of interactive virtual learning experiences are drawn from David Leech Anderson’s work with The Mind Project, a research and curriculum project in the cognitive and learning sciences.


This article was published in Humanities and Technology Review. Vol. 27. (2008).