The creepiness of software that monitors students’ e-reading.

In Soviet Russia, Book Reads You

By |Posted Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, Slate

Students of the Hondsrug college use iPads.
Students use iPads during an English class in 2011 Photo by Lex Van Lieshout/AFP/Getty Images.

There are good reasons to be excited about the immense potential of digital technologies to help spread knowledge. For instance, “massive open online courses” (or MOOCs) have rightly been the center of much media attention. Thanks to for-profit ventures like Coursera and Udacity and nonprofit initiatives like edX (a collaboration of Harvard and MIT that now also includes the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Texas), thousands of lectures have become available at no cost—and soon, some students might even be able to get academic credit.
The learning experience it delivers may not match the thrill of being in the classroom with a virtuoso instructor but, in the absence of other options in much of the developing world, this is good enough. MOOCs look so appealing because they add heaps of curated content to the millions of YouTube clips and lecture texts that already circulate online but in a mostly chaotic manner. They take away the risk of watching a professor on YouTube only to discover that he is a disreputable crank. But to focus on the content alone would be to miss the other, less obvious side to the ongoing digitization of formal education: The very infrastructure of learning is changing as well—and in ways that are less unambiguously positive.

Full article at Slate