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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
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The Missing Ingredient in the Classroom of the Future
Real live “in-person” human interaction is what I believe is the missing ingredient in this classroom of the future.
I found Andrea Diem-Lane's recent Integral World essay The A.I. Professor: Artificial Intelligence and the Classroom of the Future[ ]1 to be interesting, provocative, and to make much sense. However, I also found there to be something very important that is missing in what Andrea described as a highly effective educational way of learning through playing very sophisticated educational technological games. What I find missing can be essentially described as the “human” element.
I am in agreement with Diem-Lane that our current educational in-person format in colleges is becoming less and less effective to educate our young people, and I think the situation is not very different in our high schools. But my perspective on this is coming from a different direction, based upon my teaching preliminary psychology courses at Husson University in Maine for the past 5 years. What I have found to be rude and disturbing behavior on the part of too many of my students was their obsessive compulsions to be surreptitiously using their cell phones for social media recreation during class time. This to me was unacceptable behavior and I needed to deal with this, after realizing that a number of my students were continuing to “sneak” in their cell phone communications during my lectures or our group discussions in spite of my warnings about this being detrimental to their grades. I thus became exceptionally diligent in enforcing my rules, while minimizing the amount of time that I talked and making sure there were small group discussions or whole class sharing of personal/academic material every single class period. All things considered, this worked fairly effectively, but it is not the kind of policeman type teaching I want to be doing anymore.
On the other hand, for the past 6 months I have been an online mentor/committee chair to Ph.D psychology students at Capella University. Online graduate psychology education is certainly not new to me, as I got my own Ph.D in psychology in 2012 from Saybrook University, a fully accredited online institution, and was the Transpersonal Psychology Program Director at Akamai Univerity, another online institution (though only partially accredited), for over 3 years, while teaching at Akamai for over 7 years. But the “real” involvement I now have with my Capella mentees is gratifying to me and rewarding way beyond anything I have previously experienced as an in-person psychology teacher at Husson University. The authenticity of the learning process, my mentee-mentor interactions, and the dissertation drafts submitted to me are high caliber, and I believe Capella University engages in this kind of high caliber activity in all their diverse undergraduate and graduate level offerings. But once again, what about the “human” element?
When I was getting my Ph.D at Saybrook University, there was a residence requirement, where I was required to spend a week “on campus” every semester until I was awarded candidacy. I found this time to be extremely important, as I authentically and humanistically engaged with my student colleagues and professors “in person.” Capella has a similar residency requirement, and I think this kind of residence requirement effectively serves the “human” component that I find missing in Diem-Lane's article. However, I also think that this kind of human component could effectively be included in the kind of classroom of the future that Diem-Lane has described. Diem-Lane has in effect made a preliminary start on this with her depiction of the mentor or “intellectual coach”:
What a student needs (but seldom if ever gets) is a mentor who can be a constant companion and goad, encouraging and motivating him or her according to their respective abilities and needs. In other words, an intellectual coach intimately connected to the student and his/her rate of progress.
However, as far as I'm concerned, this human association of a mentor or intellectual coach hardly scratches the surface of what humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers has described in the context of authentic, caring, personal relationships, which I believe needs to be present between the students themselves. My main point is that I think this is something that should be built into the educational format of the classroom of the future as a central component.
In a number of my previous articles, I have discussed what I see as the dual dilemma of social media addiction and unbridled narcissism. This summer I will be giving a talk about this dual dilemma at the World Association for Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling (WAPCECC) conference in New York City, a conference based upon the humanistic person-centered psychotherapy work of Carl Rogers. In my related article that I submitted to the Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy journal, I included a number of illustrative descriptions of what I encountered as student cell phone addiction during my classes, and a number of these descriptions came from my students themselves, as some of my Husson University Human Growth & Development students decided to write their final papers on the topic of the excessive use of social media. I think the following excerpt from one of my students' papers describes very well my concerns about the missing human element ingredient in our high level social technology.
Popularity of online networking lessens the tendency to engage in social activities and face-to-face networking. Adolescents find it easier to talk to people behind a computer and feel socially awkward in other interactions with people. They develop a sense of comfort behind a screen that they feel cannot be achieved in person to person interactions. Nowadays kids and even adults have their faces shoved into their phones, oblivious to what's happening around them outside of social media…. When I was a kid I spent a majority of my time playing outside and creating my own adventures, but because of the on-hand access of something that creates adventures for you, there is no need for adolescents to develop their own sense of wonder. This is becoming a huge problem for the development of our younger generation. As the lifespan goes on for these children, they become less aware of what the world was like before everything was made simpler with the use of technology.
I want to be very clear that bringing the human element to Andrea Diem Lane's “Classroom of the Future” for me means much more than “on-line” social media engagement. I am not making any assumptions about what Andrea may or may not think is appropriate here; rather I am taking this opportunity to make the case that real live “in-person” human interaction is what I believe is the missing ingredient in this classroom of the future. The kind of human personal interactions that I experienced in my residences at Saybrook University, and that I believe Capella students are experiencing in their own residences, is what I think needs to be made a central requirement in the classroom of the future. And to maintain the authentic human element of these personal interactions, I think that a primary part of the educational agenda should be that inappropriate cell phone use does not take place. However, I have no misconceptions that this would be easy or automatic, whether we are talking about high school students or Ph.D students, but I do think it is a necessary part of keeping the human element alive in the classroom of the future.
I hope you will forgive me for a rather crude though uncharacteristic way to end one of my essays, but I cannot resist. As one university instructor wrote in his course syllabus: “If I see you looking at your crotch and smiling, you are dismissed.”7
Notes and References
1) See Andrea Diem-Lane (2016), The A. I. Professor: Artificial Intelligence and the Classroom of the Future. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
2) For more information about Capella University see www.capella.edu
3) I will mention here that Akamai University has never had a residence requirement.
4) See Carl Rogers (1961), On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
5) See Elliot Benjamin's 2015 articles: Do We Live in a Social Media Technology Addicted Society? and Integral Overstretch, Social Media Addiction, and Unbridled Narcissism. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net; and Humanistic Antidotes for a Social Media Technology Addicted Society. International Journal of Education and Human Developments, 1(3). Available from www.pipub.org and 2016 article: US President Trump: The Ultimate Outcome of Social Media Addiction and Unbridled Narcissism in America? Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
6) For more information about the World Association for Person Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling, see www.pce-world.org
7) This description from a university syllabus can be found in an article on the following website: >http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/cell-phones-in-the-classroom-what's-your-policy/