Learning & Technology LO18555

Mnr AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Thu, 2 Jul 1998 13:28:34 GMT+2

Replying to LO18492 --

Dear Organlearner's

Kevin Wheeler <kwheeler@ricochet.net> writes:

> Education is also moving to using technology to distribute information,
> encourage collaboration and communication and to impart skills at
> different levels. But, while a few schools are moving to adopt and adapt
> technology to learning, others are actively opposed. In my web site
> (www.kwheeler.com) I have listed arguments on both sides.
> What do you think? Where is technology taking education? Will it replace
> or significantly alter the standard university/college?
> I would enjoy your comments and thoughts.

We must be very careful not to speak of Information Technology
(IT) as merely "technology". There are many different kinds of
technologies, for example Transport Technology (air, sea, road)
Scientific Technologies (measuring, control, amplification) and
Bio Technology (selective breeding, gene manipulation).

We also must also remember that even IT has many subdivisions
(paper, plastic, electronic, etc). Obviously, your request refers to
Electronics Based Information Technology (EBIT).
(1) Where is EBIT taking education?
(2) Will EBIT replace or significantly alter the standard

My answers to these two questions are as follows:
(1) Technology (EBIT) cannot take education anywhere
(2) Technology (EBIT) cannot change or even replace the standard
These two answers can be summarised as follows:
EBIT in itself has as little life as a dead horse.

Are these answers not shocking, especially coming from someone
(see my signature below) who works in a centre in which EBIT is its
main resource? Do not read me wrong! I can become very passionate
about the use of EBIT in education.

I have seen how its use saved hundreds of students from academical
failure. I have used it in my own educational research to vividly
demonstrate things which otherwise are almost impossible to detect.
But I have also seen how its use frustrated students to the point of
spiritual collapse. Others use it to chase the banal and corrupt as
the sacred values of life.

In short, I have seen EBIT used to assist blissful emergences, but
also to cause sorrowful immergences.

Why? Both constructive emergences and destructive immergences are the
result of "deep creativity". Creative humans cannot ignore this fact,
just as the creativity of other animals, plants and even inanimate
objects have to cope with this this fact.

EVERY technological artifact, i.e., EVERY technology, is the result
of the creative effort of one or more humans. Were it not for human
creativity, these technologies would never have seen the light. But
now, since they have been created by humans, it does not mean that
they have become imbedded with human creativity. They still have as
little creativity as the raw materials from which they have been

Not only does technology result from human creativity, but is human
creativity also necessary to obtain effective and efficient results
with technology. Without human creativity, technologies have little
function. For example, take a computer (stand-alone or web-linked)
and place it in any cage in any zoo. What will the elephants do with
it? What will the monkeys do with it?

Thus technologies, even in education, makes only sense in terms of
the following complex pattern. I will denote "beings" by square
brackets [ ] and "becomings" by arrows ------->

[raw material]---innovater creativity--->[technology]--....
...--user creativity--->[complex culture]

Remove the innovater's creativity or the user's creativity and the
pattern disintegrates. The end [complex culture] is not possible

[Winfried - and others who have been following the series on the
essentialities - have you noticed the pattern X * Y * Z? What can we
say about technology acting as an umlomo ("mouthpiece", commuter)?]

But let us try to get a perspective on the emergences and immergences
which I have refered to earlier. How do they fit into this pattern

Well, the first part of the pattern, namely
[raw material]---innovater creativity--->[technology]....
does not tell the whole story. For every technology which has
emerged, little is told, if any, about the incredible number of
failures which preceded it and even immergences associated with it.
In other words, the technology itself signifies only constructive
creativity. It does not and cannot signify the failures and
destructive immergences. This hidden part has to be told by creative

Should we add this hidden part to the pattern, the result will be a
forking (bifurcation)


Similarly, these creative humans must tell about the last part of
the pattern namely
....[technology]---user creativity--->[complex culture]
The complex culture will not automatically be heaven. Some of it is
also hell. One of the best example I can think of, concerns nuclear

It was the creativity of Einstein which led to the famous equation
E = mc^2. This equation itself has as little life as a dead horse.
But as an idea it led to the unlashing of nuclear energy. Some used
this idea to create the nuclear bomb, the epitome of destructive
creativity. Others used this idea to create nuclear reactors to
assist constructive creativity. Think how many computers run on
electricity generated by nuclear power.

I am not going to add this hidden part to the pattern. It again will
show a forking (bifurctaion) like before. I rather want draw a much
bigger picture (with words) showing how deep these bifurcations go.

Never forget that when Einstein created his famous equation
E = mc^2 no EBIT at all existed. Not even plastic based information
tecnology existed. The only IT available were Paper Based (PBIT)
writing and prints and blackboard based (BBIT) scribbles. Would there
have been much sense in asking at the beginning of this century:
(1) Where are PBIT and BBIT taking education?
(2) Will PBIT and BBIT replace or significantly alter the standard

I do not think so. But maybe there is more sense to have asked these
questions at the end of the fifteenth century after Guthenberg's
invention of printing (1450). Before that invention books were
written by hand on vellum. Again I can become quite lyrical on how
Guthenberg's invention assisted human culture in general and
education in particular - the Renaissane, the Enlightement, the
Industrial Revolution.

But let us get real. What is the situation today, more than five
centuries faterwards? More than half the world's population
still cannot read or write while living in poverty. Thus paper
(printing) based information technology acomplished far too little in
five centuries. If God permits us another couple of centuries, will
EBIT have altered the situation? Should we humans not rather have
a change at heart?

Never forget that universities already existed for a couple of
centuries when Guthenberg invented printing technology. By that
time the once notorius professor Roger Bacon of Oxford was already
becoming famous. He warned against the same thing as which I am
warning now. It is not the material products of the creative human
spirit which is important, but the creative human spirit itself. He
wrote about the intellectual market place where people chase the
banal and corrupt as the sacred values of life. He wrote as if he was
writing for today. He did it tediously on vellum - a technology at
that stage already older than 1 000 years. Thus even that technology
accomplished far too little.

But let us go even back much further in time when the first humans
invented writing. There is much reason to believe that it was the
San people (Bushmen). They already lived 10 000 years ago in Southern
Africa, long before the Egyptians in Northern Africa invented their
own hieroglyphs ("heiro"=sacred, "gliepho"=carve) 6000 years ago.
Since those days the San began to draw figures on flat rock faces of
hollow cliffs ("holkrans") and shallow caves. They did it by using
charcoal and softer pieces of rock like ochre and chalk.

Yes, the San most probably invented writing in terms of their "rock"
technology. This invention, simple as it now may seem, was one of the
greatest inventions ever of humankind. Their figures (at first
drawings, later also paintings and carvings) told about their living
paradigm: hunting freely! They never produced food (animals and
plants). They never built shelters. They never wore clothes. But they
managed to live as hunters with great ingenuity in a country which
was incredibly rich in its diversity (climate, geology, life forms).

The country is still rich in its diversity. It was just as rich more
than 700 000 years ago when Homo sapiens made its first artifacts.
Come and visit the Sterkfontein caves, or the archeological sites at
Taung, or the Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman. In the latter cave the
oldest signs of fire (500 000 years) and furniture (grass bedding -
300 000 years) in the world can be found.

When I go to the deserts in the west of Southern Africa, I usually
have to pass Kuruman. 40km to its south this wondrous cave draws me
like a magnet. Come and sit in the mouth of that cave, next to San
drawings. While we gaze over a vast stretch of arid savanah, let
us think about the course of humankind right from its most distant
past to its most distant future. Think, among other things, about the
San people.

Now let us see what has become of these San people the next 10 000
years. For 8500 years their paradigm remained the same while in the
rest of the world the paradigms of people shifted. The Egyptian,
Babilonian, Grecian and Roman civilisations emerged, just to immerge
again. During all those millenia the San hunted freely. They visited
their figures, adding new ones, all which told about only one thing:
hunting freely. Never did these figures (with one exception) suggest
anything else about the other things they were doing (dance, sex,
etc.). The exception is the famous "white woman" of the Brandberg,
not far from the Adenia pechuelii (succulent passion flowers) about
which I have written some weeks ago.

Then, while the first Englishmen began to write in Old English on
vellum (eg. Beowulf), the San encountered the Xhoi (Hottentot, brown)
peoples migrating southwards on the western part of the country. The
Xhoi peoples (Namaqua, Giriqua, Outeniqua, etc.) were not only
hunters, but also producers of food. They practised husbandry because
crop farming is impossible in these arid regions. But they never
invented writing (even drawing of figures) to tell a story. They told
their stories by word of mouth from generation to generation.

The Xhoi people believed that their cattle, sheep and chickens were
their property since they have produced these animals through their
own creativity. But the San people did not recognised it as property
- these "domesticated" animals were merely new kinds to be hunted
- and so much easier! Their figures said the same: hunt freely. It
never said anything about property. Hence violent clashes ensued
between the San and the Xhoi. They became bitter enemies.

However, the weapons of the San (poisoned arrows) and their ability
to harmonise with nature, prevented the Xhoi people to enslave or
eradicate the San people. Eventually the Xhoi considered the San as
nothing better than wild animals which must be killed should the
opportunity arise. There were few such opportunities.

1000 years ago, almost when the first universities began to emerge in
Europe (Bologna and Paris), the San encountered the Banthu (black)
people migrating southwards on the eastern part of the country. The
Banthu peoples (Venda, Suthu, Zulu, etc) were not only hunters, but
also producers of food. They practised husbandry as well as crop
farming. But they never invented writing (even drawing of figures) to
tell a story. Again they did it by word of mouth.

The Banthu people also believed that what they produced (domesticated
animals and crops).were their property (not of the individual, but of
the community). But again the San people did not recognised it as any
community's property. Their figures told them only about hunting
freely. So violent clashes also ensued between the San and the
Banthu. They also became bitter enemies.

Again the weapons of the San (poisoned arrows) and their ability to
harmonise with nature, prevented the Banthu people to enslave or
eradicate the San people. Eventually also the Banthu considered
the San as nothing better than wild animals which must be killed
should the opportunity arise. There were few such opportunities.

350 years ago the San encountered the white people, moving from the
south-west (Cape Town) where they have first setlled as Europeans.
But now the story takes a differnt turn. These white people were not
only hunters and producers of food, but also producers of a great
diversity of technologies. They brought with them not only new kinds
of livestock from Europe, but also their books and their guns. They
used these books and guns much more creatively than the San people
used their own writing and poisoned arrows.

Yet the San people persisted with the paradigm which their figures
told them about: hunting freely. Obviously, they began to hunt the
domesticated animals of the white people. Eventually, when also the
white people began to perceive the San people as nothing better than
wild animals, the hunting on the San began. It was disastrous.for the
San people. They have never experienced the role of being
effectively hunted themselves. First the Xhoi and then the Banthu
were not in a position to afford them that experience.

Physically, in less than a century, their numbers have been more than
decimated. Some of the remaining San people fled to the barren
deserts (Bushmanland, Kalahari, Namib) where neither the Xhoi, nor
the Banthu, nor the white peoples (with their technology at that
stage) could live. Their they managed to live according to their
paradigm of hunting for another two centuries. But finally the
developments of technology caught up with them. They lost everything
- even their last hunting grounds.

But spiritually, their loss was even greater. They knew only one
paradigm: hunting freely. Food is that which is available. Food did
not have an owner.. Even worse, it seems as if they also did not
recognised their figures as intellectual property. There is no record
that they ever defended it as their property. During 10 000 years
very little innovation followed their original invention.
Furthermore, the message remained the same: hunting freely.

Nevertheless, since they cannot continue with this paradigm, and have
not shifted this paradigm in 10 000 years, very little else remained
for them spiritually.

It seems as if the San people is bound to become extinct. A few
thousand remain, living in extreme poverty. They have lost their
will to live creatively. I have met some of them on my desert
wanderings. I admire their great skill and happiness at living in
harmony with nature with the barest of technology. But I always
had to leave them with great sadness in my heart, thinking of similar
minorities in the rest of the world - hunters which have become the
prey of other humans.

It seems as if their fate has been sealed because they have
lost the technological race forever. But they have lost something
much more important - their desire to live creatively. This will
definitely lead to their extinction. If we let this happen, then we
have sealed our fate. Humanity will become extinct.

With this journey through time we are back to the present. How
important is EBIT (Electronic Based Information Technology) to
education in particular and civilisation in general? It is of LITTLE
impotance when compared with our desire to live creatively.

Unfortunately, my opnion is that EBIT has more influence on this very
desire than any other technology. Thus EBIT is of GREAT importance
when considering its influence on our desires. It has assisted many
people to emerge to a new level of creativity, thus boosting their
desire to live creatively.

But I perceive that it is also causing the opposite. It happens at an
unprecedented scale when comapring it with all other technologies. It
destroys the desire of people to live creatively. Maybe this
perception (my inner reality) has no counterpart in the the reality
outside me - the reality consisting of households, shops, offices,
factories, schools and even universities. Maybe I understand the
words of people wrong when they say:
"It cannot be different because the computer says so".
"It cannot be done because the computer cannot do it".
"Leave me alone because I am busy on the computer".
"The computer has zapped all my energy".
"We are stuck with the operating system WXYZ".

But how will we know if I do not write about it? Surely, thinking
about the San, we cannot all "draw figures" which fit only one
paradigm. When I write that EBIT can be as dangerous as it can be
fortuitious, I write from a different paradigm. What paradigm?

The San people's paradigm was: hunting freely. Up to now the
creative among humankind had been following the paradigm "creating
freely". Some used this paradigm to usurp great power over others.
Other have used this paradigm to free themselves from such slavery.
Some have used this paradigm to facilitate others in all aspects of
life, but which in essence concerns creativity. Some used this
paradigm to create new technologies while others have used it to use
these technologies to their advantage. EBIT is such a fine example of
this that some even begin to refer to it as "the technology".

But what about the rest of humanity - the great majority. Do we draw
figures of them on the rocky faces of our hearts? Do we read the
message which these figures tell? Whose "property" is creativity
itself and not merely the things which have been created? Is it
nobody's property, somebody's property or everybody's property? Or is
it even the property of nonhuman living enities? Can these desitute
people create freely? Last and not the least - can the superiorly
creative among humankind create freely?

Can we create freely? When I say NO, writing that creativity is the
result of entropy production and thus it cannot escape the ensuing
complexity of patterns (which we call reality), most people
comprehend it as little as the San comprehended "food as somebody's
property and thus not elegible for hunting". Like the San they go
back to their own drawings which tells them only one thing: creating
freely. It does not tell them that they they can loose their free
energy of creativity forever in their need to act irreversible - that
their desire to create can be dissipated forever.

The San lived relatively untroubled for 10 000 years before their
demise came swiftly in less than 100 years. Do we think that it will
be different for humankind as a whole? Ignoring the signs will
help us nothing. Maybe we are indeed fortunate in having EBIT. Should
such a sudden catastrophy be the case, then we will have to get the
message across even swifter.

In the meantime, let us never forget that learning irreversibly about
what is true and right is a slow and complex process. That is the
main reason why I am involved with EBIT. It can help us to make the
learning process faster while bearing more complexities in mind. But
it cannot accelerate the creative learning beyond a certain limit.
Every creation, even learning creations, have an intinsical creation
time. We can dilate the creation time, as the San people did, and we
can accelerate it as the Europeans have done, but we cannot reduce it
beyond its intrinsical value. We are not God.

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email: amdelange@gold.up.ac.za

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