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December 9, 2020 41 min
When COVID-19 shut down schools around the world last March, it launched an unprecedented experiment in education with a billion students as participants. At the heart of this experiment is the home computer, the new conduit to teachers, classmates and learning. Supporters of digital education say that the pandemic offers a much-needed opportunity to rethink our approach to learning for the first time in over a century. They argue that digital learning is the wave of the future and that students in virtual classrooms connected through a computer and the internet will learn more quickly, retain more information, connect to an extraordinary library of resources, and arm themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to solve the problems of the 21st century. By contrast, critics of distant learning believe we should be concerned not only about the inequitable access to the digital tools that support online learning -  the real threat to education is the computer itself. Screen-based learning doesn’t place the same cognitive demands on students as the physical classroom and negatively impacts the reading and reasoning abilities that foster lifelong critical thinking skills. They argue that if the global experiment in distant learning continues, we are going to witness a steep decline in the educational attainment of hundreds of millions of children the world over. Arguing for the motion is Mark Bauerlein, Emeritus Professor of English at Emory University and author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future. Arguing against the motion is Caitlin Fisher, Department Chair of Cinema and Media Arts at York University where she is also the Director of the Immersive Storytelling Lab and the Augmented Reality Lab. Sources: BBC, Arirang News, WJZ, NBC, CNBC, CBS, Ruby Rube The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.   For detailed show notes on the episode, head to Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to   To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events. This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company -   Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions Senior Producer: Christina Campbell Editor: Kieran Lynch Producer: Marilyn Mazurek Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja
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