Cyberdystopia: The Dark Side of Cyberized Education

Cyberdystopia: The Dark Side of Cyberized Education

In the Cyberdystopia scenario, the cyberization of education in an impending disaster -- nobody wins; humanity loses.

If the “Free Market Rules” scenario can be summarized as “business wins; (the model of) efficiency works,” and the Free Learning Rules scenario can be summarized as "openness wins," Cyberdystopia can be summarized as “nobody wins; humanity loses.” Unlike the Free Market and Free Learning Rules advocates, cyberdystopians see the cyberization of education, in particular online and distance education, as an impending disaster. The Free Market Rules scenario is the Cyberdystopians' worst nightmare come true: business completes a hostile takeover of education, turning schools into glorified vocational training centers; by cutting down labor costs, cyberized education clearcuts the human element of teaching and learning in the process. The Free Learning Rules scenario is equally horrible in this view, as key human interactions are “relentlessly devalued” by computers and networks, turning us into isolated robots in the process.

In this view, trends toward cyberizing education are to be viewed with extreme alarm. A British scientist ran amok with unsubstantiated speculation about how social networking sites were harming children’s brains. Or perhaps it’s that social networking sites are OK but Twitter is bad.

Online and distance education are even worse: they lead to a business-oriented, efficiency-driven, spirit-crushing, inhuman dystopia. Peruse the reader comments of just about any article on online or distance education, and similar patterns soon emerge. Online education is isolating and can’t compare to being there in person. It’s a plot to eliminate faculty, reduce labor costs, and otherwise diminish education in the name of efficiency and productivity. It’s a plot by the administration to enable business to complete a total takeover of academia. There’s something inhuman about sitting in front of a computer all day. It threatens Civilization As We Know It.

Such criticisms about cyberized education, and online education in particular, tend to consist mostly of straw men and false dichotomies. More about that in the next post...

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