Digital Technology and Cultures/Age of Enlightenment and Education Today

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During the Age of Enlightenment, the view of education shifted between the ancient Greek philosophers and the enlightened “modern” thinkers. Education, according to the Greek philosophers, was limited to “canonized knowledge which drew on ancient authors, as well as textbooks and methods that held that all knowledge needed in philosophy and science was already available (Edmundson, 2016).” The modern thinkers viewed education as something that should look forward, looking for new information, not simply memorizing and reciting the old information of the ancients. Students and teachers today exist in a world with more information available to them than at any time in the history of the world. In the medieval era, "books were rare and only an elite few had access to education opportunities (Delzotto, 2017).” Plato felt that “education seeks to understand the essence of the timeless, universal principles that rule over human existence (2018).” Aristotle’s view was that, “education was central – the fulfilled person was an educated person (Smith, 2013).” Access to education has, in the past, been largely limited to teacher and students interactions directly, with books as supplemental tools to further enhance one's knowledge. With the invention and proliferation of the internet, knowledge is no longer limited to the select few. Today, we live in a world where, "Huge electronic libraries such as Project Gutenberg offer students over 40,000 free books, and reliable online references such as Britannica provide rich multimedia and interactive information from anywhere and anytime (Delzotto, 2017).” Between laptops, tablets, and phones, any piece of information is at a person's fingertips, 24 hours a day. Does today’s access to information still align with the views of the Age of Enlightenment’s views?

During the Age of Enlightenment, “states were paying more attention to their educational systems because they recognized that their subjects are more useful to the state if they are well educated (Laohapirotwattana, (2014).” Yet this view has not been evenly applied across all demographics, there has developed a disparity between the different classes and their access to educational tools and information. For example, income inequality can play a significant factor in whether technology is a positive impact on education. Schools that do not have the budget for laptops or tablets are left behind as wealthier schools push ahead with more advanced curriculum. A Tableau survey done in Madison, Wisconsin found that “around 12 percent of students in the Madison Metropolis School District do not have access to the internet (Lynch, 2018).” Without access to the internet, students are already at a disadvantage at leveraging the tools other students have ready access to. But technology can also be a great equalizer, allowing students that might not have access to as much as wealthier schools and students the same access to information and opportunities to improve and excel in their education. In Arizona, Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo began a program for one of more economically disadvantaged schools to purchase netbooks for students in the hopes that it would improve grades. The efforts were viewed as a success, with the approach “helping raise the number of graduates from 598 to 821 by 2010 (2016).”

For teachers, the pros and cons can be just as challenging. Teachers find themselves competing with phones and tablets. In Matt Richtel’s article from 2012 examining how technology is changing how students learn, teachers felt “they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention (Richtel, 2012).” Learning has typically been viewed as active rather than passive and technology can help push that engagement even further than in the past. Teachers can leverage tools for getting real time feedback on subjects the class is discussing, looking to find out if the material is being understood or not. Guest speakers are now able to join classrooms from around the world using technologies such as Skype and FaceTime. Overall, technology can be an invaluable assistant to teachers as they work to involve their students more. As Mike Britland states, “Making use of technology to allow students the freedom to discover solutions to problems both independently and collaboratively is a force for good. As educators we strive for students to engage with our subject beyond a superficial level. We want them to be active learners, learners who have a thirst for discovery and knowledge. Technology places the world in the hands of every student inside the confines of your classroom (Britland, 2013).”

Works Cited

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"Bridging the Digital Divide for Low-Income Students," Digital Promise, April 18, 2016, , accessed November 03, 2018,

"Plato's Idea of the Teacher," The Russell Kirk Center, May 13, 2013, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Mike Britland, "How Has Technology Transformed the Role of a Teacher?" The Guardian, June 18, 2013, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Nicholas Delzotto, "How Has the Internet Changed Education?" It Still Works, November 21, 2017, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Chloe Sinclair Edmundson, "The Enlightenment: Movement Towards "Modern" Education," Medium, August 01, 2016, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Matthew Lynch, "The Dark Side of Educational Technology," The Edvocate, August 16, 2018, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Matt Richtel, "Technology Is Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say," The New York Times, November 01, 2012, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Mark K. Smith, "Aristotle and Education,", January 07, 2013, , accessed November 03, 2018,

Tarakorn Laohapirotwattana, "Education in the Age of Enlightenment,", November 26, 2014, , accessed November 04, 2018,