Old School is Great, But Not for Education

It’s time to forget about “teaching” and encourage students to “level up.”

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
9 min readFeb 24


Photo courtesy of author


I contemplated the scene before me, as if I were a spectator, when — in reality — I was the star of the show, waiting in slight trepidation, if truth be told, for my performance to begin.

The lecture hall was already packed and noisy. The sound of unfolding wooden chairs and the adjusting of rickety-old tables as the students urgently entered the room and tried to find their preferred spot. The sounds of curiosity, anticipation, and a sincere willingness to learn.

A surprisingly high number wanted to sit in the front, closer to the action, and in the expectation that it might improve the quality of their experience and the degree or amount of knowledge-transfer. As if distance was the enemy of learning and proximity its friend.

The group of what appeared to be freshmen was sitting in the front right of the lecture room, directly below me. They looked keen and ready for the lecture, pens poised, and paper laid out on the desks in front of them. The pages of the assigned textbook — the authoritative work in the field — already open at the pertinent page.

A small minority — the more image-conscious, the less-interested, and the otherwise nefarious — opted for a seat closer to the back-left of the room with their friends. And like the upper gallery seats high in the heavens at the theater, they facilitated an easy exit if the content of my lecture became insufferable.

I noticed a shiny, black voice recorder on one student’s desk. It was a cutting-edge piece of technology that I had never seen in the classroom before. We used them at the law firm for dictation, but the red-headed, earnest looking boy beneath me was the first student I had seen bringing such a sophisticated device into the classroom.

I took a mental note to be careful what I said. My words would be recorded for posterity. Any misstep — a silly comment or poorly judged attempt at humor — and he would replay my blunder to his friends back in his dorm room later that evening. The thought of being the object of their derision firmed my resolve; stick to the…



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (law) exploring the collision of life, work, and technology, with a current project in the works - a sci-fi novel.