A Textbook Case of Distance Learning

by Kieran J. Lindsey

I’d like to introduce you to an educational tool you think you already know well.

Your perception originates from the fact that this tool has been used in almost every class you’ve ever taken as a student and, if you’re an instructor, this tool or a variation thereof has been used in every class you’ve ever taught.

The tool predates the Internet, videoconferencing, television broadcasts, radio, correspondence courses delivered by postal carriers, and even the little red schoolhouse classroom.

You call it a textbook.

I call it an asynchronous distance learning technology.

When you think about it, what is a book? Or, for that matter, what is hand-penned correspondence, printed words on a page, or pixels on a screen? Regardless of the media, written language is a technology that transmits the thoughts, experiences, knowledge, and perspectives of a singular individual, based in a specific place and time, to anyone, anywhere, anytime hence.

As has been the case for every subsequent instructional technology that’s not teaching-by-telling and learning-by-listening, the first educational texts, written by the ancient Greeks, were met by all the usual suspects: distrust, dismay, disapproval, and defiance.

Plato himself was quick to publicly mourn the impending loss of knowledge this crazy fad of committing facts and ideas to a page, rather than to memory, would surely bring.

The irony, of course, is that grief didn’t keep Plato from adopting the dreaded innovation to document his opinion of the technology… which is how we are able to access and learn from his thoughts today, two thousand years and change later.


And far from Athens… unless you happen to be in Greece while reading Plato, or this post.

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Published by Kieran J. Lindsey

writer, artist, wildlife biologist, virtual educator, disruptive outlier

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