In “Augmenting Human Intelligence”, Doug Engelbart discusses preliminary ways in which the human intelligence can be augmented by machines in order to gain greater efficiency and insight. It seems that much of his work (at least that we read) centers on the idea of using the machines to help structure and organize our thoughts and work in order to relieve us of the intelligence that must be diverted to address those things. He also encourages the sharing of these structures with other people. He masterfully presents ideas (in 1962 ) that were far ahead of his time.
It seems that the key to his work is that this technology is the augment our intelligence, not replace it. The technology is to give us means to do our work more quickly, more efficiently, and with more creativity. It is not to do our work for us or to replace us.
I almost immediately starting thinking about the way that I’ve seen this technology used in education. This technology presents great possibilities for being used as a tool to allow us to do things far more quickly than we previously could have done, creating more space for creativity and development of our ideas and work. However, in order to utilize this space, we have to change the way we teach.
Far too often, my experiences of education as a student have focused on teaching students this ability to organize and structure information. As technology can perform this function for us with greater efficiency for our work, it does not mean that we no longer need this skill, but that we must develop skills in addition to this primary one. It is insufficient to ask students to merely regurgitate information, for this is becoming the role of augmenting machines. Instead, we use these augmentations to ask students to take the next step with their thinking.
I have observed that some students have developed the mindset that understanding how to use the augmentation is what is necessary for success in education. Sadly, they have been taught that this goal is the end at some point in the process. That makes an educator’s role more difficult, for they must not only teach the student to move beyond structure and organization, while convincing the student that it is worthwhile to do so.
I’m not saying that organization and structure is unimportant. In fact, it is incredibly important. However, as we keep moving toward the augmenting of our intelligence, it is no longer the only tool necessary for success.
Engelbart himself is an excellent example of moving beyond structure and organization. His ideas demonstrate someone who is looking for more than structure and organization, even while he’s looking to the machines to provide this augmentation.
As augmentation develops, we too must develop, making full use of the wonderful tools provided by the augmentation. We cannot stay the same in our pursuit of knowledge and truth, nor can we remain stagnant in teaching others to do the same.