01 Mar Pedagogical Approach: The Confluence of Great Works and Digital Learning
We live in a hyper-connected age; ours is a technology saturated society of instantaneous messaging, vast networks of streaming information and a deluge of images that give a vertiginous tinge to life and leave an overwhelming sense of relentless acceleration. Yet, for all of the allure of our digital devices and the promise of continual connectivity, something is missing. Since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, when the hope of a machine-aided utopia first took root, idealists and inventors alike have promised that technological advances would bring productivity and efficiency to the workplace, automation of distasteful, burdensome tasks and an exponential increase of our leisure time. While the benefits of our digital age are widespread and undeniable, it does seem that we have forgotten something fundamentally important—we no longer know how to speak with one another.
In the age of the machine, conversation has become a lost art.
As we rely more on technology and less upon one another in our frenetic day-to-day, we have created a cultural moment that offers little time for profound exchange and few opportunities in our overwhelmed lives for genuine conversations concerning perennial matters of the head, heart and soul.
Therefore, it is ironic that despite our delirious pace and digital connections we operate under the sense that we have less free time as we also seem to grow more isolated in our personal lives. As we have come to idolize the machines which proliferate with implacable speed, we suffer.
Our professional lives have suffered as it has become more difficult to solve problems in a collaborative fashion because, in great part, we no longer know how to talk about difficult problems in a productive manner. Our personal lives also suffer because we spend them connecting to machines in order to exchange vapid quips and viral images that entertain but rarely instruct and almost never guide us towards wisdom.
Seeing the current difficulties of genuine civic engagement and transformative conversation in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and communities, we must then somehow recover the functionality of our humanity. We must relearn how to talk with one another about essential and often contentious ideas, we must not fear emotional and difficult subjects, all while still inhabiting a mechanized world full of as many electronic devices as people. We must, in short, practice the act of recovery as we practice engaging in meaningful and fecund conversation, and yes, we certainly can use technological advancements in our globalized world as tools to ameliorate these discussions. But these “virtual” conversations are important for their content, not their method of delivery; what “counts” is the human effort to struggle with the meaning of our lives, the historical context of our situation, the moral quandaries we face, and our future challenges.
Therefore, Confluence Courseware Syntopical Course Guides are part of an effort to reverse current cultural and social trends and use digital technology not as an ends but a means—as a tool to promote genuine and significant human conversation.
Using great works—including influential and important texts from all of human history in the creative arts and literature, religion, philosophy, the natural, applied and social sciences— Syntopical Course Guides attempt to utilize the more beneficial aspects of our technological society, while mitigating the more deleterious cultural consequences, so that we may remember our cultural heritage and re-engage in timeless conversations which center around what it means to be human. In other words, Syntopical Course Guides are an attempt to find the center between technological advance and the distinctly human aspirations and anxieties which can only be expressed through sincere dialogue.
Harnessing, then, the possibilities of digital delivery while still retaining a commitment to the very human skill of conversation, Confluence Courseware insists that authentic engagement, through close examination and thoughtful dialogue of great works via digital delivery, is the best way, given our contemporary moment, to not talk about what is the latest viral phenomena on the machine but what is inscribed in the human heart.
Part Socrates and part Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the credo of Syntopical Course Guides is the timely use of contemporary technologies to facilitate explorations of timeless great works in intellectual and spiritual conversation that span thousands of years.
As a premier digital resource for educators, conversationalists and life-long learners to foster meaningful and productive exchange through digital delivery, Confluence Courseware and Syntopical Course Guides humanize the digital revolution by promoting the widespread publication of curricular guides, open educational resources and scholarly and creative works for the express purpose of safeguarding our cultural heritage and engaging the ideas, expressions and inspirations which best capture our humanity.
“Public education…is one of the fundamental rules of popular or legitimate government.”
-Rousseau, On Political Economy