Humanistic Pedagogical Methods in the Digital Age

Humanistic Pedagogical Methods in the Digital Age

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Should the school only teach humanistic values and focus on systemically managing the state’s needs for workforce competence? Or should it use humanistic pedagogical methods where the goal is to empower the learner’s formation and individual choices of life path? The latter also includes the possibility to change the path in the process of lifelong learning.

We have seen the result of the first alternative during the past century, but to find the historical roots of the second alternative we have to turn Ancient Greece, to its central notion of Paideia. Here you not only find the core of humanistic pedagogical methods but also the philosophy that in our age lead to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.

Humanistic Pedagogical Methods In The Digital Age

From mass to digital

As the Industrial Age was almost all about mass production, mass marketing and assembly line-like production and mass distribution of products. The school system worked in the same way, meaning as a formative process to produce knowledgeable workers and good citizens of the nation. This was an environment that was characterised by uniformity, while individual talent, creativity and entrepreneurship were not rewarded.

However, what if you remove mass and add digital instead? As we will see, this will turn everything upside-down in comparison to the Industrial Age.

Since this would mean transforming mass production into digital production, which is an ongoing process in most industries, even in factory work. As this is the obvious image of the Industrial Age, and it is a transformation from work with hand, machines and assembly lines to programming, robots and adapted and personalised products and services, including craftsmanship. As a part of this transformation, the old mass-marketing strategy is called spam today.

The history of Humanistic Pedagogical Methods

There are four directions in the development of humanistic education.

Classical humanistic education origins from an ideal of human perfection, especially Pericles, Aristotle, Plato, Protagoras, Isocrates and Socrates can be seen as the founders of this school. A few centuries later the Romans in the same spirit established the studia humanitias, which was a normative and formative education for free persons. But it was not until the Renaissance that people began to call themselves humanists.

Romantic humanistic education originates from Rousseau and had a therapeutic approach from the prerequisite that every human has an inner nature that is good and unique. The purpose of education is to set it free.

Existentialist humanistic education with ideas from Sartre, Camus and Kierkegaard are focusing on the human as the exclusive author of its own identity.

Radical or Critical humanistic education origins from Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux, and this “school” argues that pedagogy should become more political and politics more pedagogical. This means that larger cultural, social and economic contexts should remain an essential part of education. But the perspective should be critical and questioning in order to improve awareness of problems in order to find solutions. Paulo Freire writes:

It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings.

Paulo Freire

This quote also expresses the core of the difference between humanistic education and industrial society’s school. The societal context has similarities with the critical pedagogical approach. However, instead of aiming to grow strong individuals the educational system work to manipulate the learner into the national society’s present requirements and trends. The prerequisite for this to work even to some extent to succeed is that the society stands still. The author Paolo Coelho gives the following solution:

To change the world, we need to combine ancient wisdom with new technologies.

Paolo Coelho

New digital technologies are the driving force and the humanistic education that has its origins in Ancient wisdom is the pedagogical method to leave the mechanical age of dust and mass-communication noise behind.

Written by
LarsGoran Bostrom©

Author of the book Learning Design in Practice for Everybody and developer of SOE PublishingLab for interactive books

Learning Design In Practice For Everybody


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