Reflection of “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush

“As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush

“For mature thought there is no mechanical substitute. But creative thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things. For the latter there are, and may be, powerful mechanical aids.”

The above excerpt from “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush is a very powerful statement. What was the author meaning? I believe Bush was saying when applying higher level thinking skill and situational judgement you can not remove the human equation. This, for me, speaks to the ultimate goal in education of moving learners from knowledge to understanding. Use the technology tools for knowledge freeing the learner to move to understanding.

Knowledge vs

As Bush spoke of technology tools and future looking technology tools, the theme flowing through the piece drove home the need to move away from basic skill to free the learner for the chase of application at a higher level.

Bush says, ” But even this new machine will not take the scientist where he needs to go. Relief must be secured from laborious detailed manipulation of higher mathematics as well, if the users of it are to free their brains for something more than repetitive detailed transformations in accordance with established rules”.

In the above excerpt, the author pulls forward the idea that using technology to eliminate the simple frees the learner for application. Huge change to ask educators to move in this direction. We are still fighting over the use of calculators in the classroom.

“skilled in the use of symbolic logic on a high plane, and especially he is a man of intuitive judgment in the choice of the manipulative processes he employs”.

The true test of understanding is knowing what to do with the information. That is where we need to be heading in education. Why do I need to pack my brain with tidbits of information? Should I not be focused on understanding how and where to pull information and using my time and energy to apply the information?

For me, this article calls out the need to transform education from  content to methods. Is it really vital to memorize the date of key battles? What exactly do we need students to learn? Simply knowing key battles does not seem important. Should we move off of the old learning standards and move to application? Where do we want to see students go? Is it cause and effect, human interaction, cultural and economic impact, geo political ramifications, or should we learn dates?

Bush, to me, is spot on in his argument we will not progress unless we give up the repetitive and basic tasks to technology freeing the mind for mature thought.

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