Education. Ever since there have been humans, they have invented methods of teaching. The need to teach arises from our nature as social and technology-using creatures. Humans need to teach the young how to survive (what to eat and how to find it, how to modify the world for survival and comfort, and what is sacred, for example). Most of these lessons are derived from the fact that humans must live in groups. Michael Gazzaniga (2008) observed “the shift to becoming highly social is what the human is all about,” (emphasis in the original) and he continues, “our higher intellectual skills arose as an adaptation to our newly evolved social needs” (111-2). This is my favorite quotation for capturing that reality of human existence.
The lessons humans teach derive from the hard and soft technologies that we use to live. Our hard technologies include the artifacts we create (from stone axes to firearms to cars and computers) and the soft technologies include those tools that exist are ideas and practices (from knot typing and hand semaphore to banking and laws). Kevin Kelly, the writer about science and technology, used the term “technium” to capture the inseparable nature of humans and technology.
When we are teaching and students are learning, we are in a socially relevant and technology-rich environment even if we choose to ignore that fact. For the most recent generation of students and teachers, we seem to have abandoned this aspect of our work. We continue to teach about what our students need to know. This is even extending to social interaction and technology. We teach those skills; but learners need to learn them. Unfortunately, we have forgotten that much learning occurs when it is not taught.
Gazzaniga, Michael. (2008). Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique. New York: Ecco.