Education has been on my mind the last year or so. On one hand we have this public push to devalue all college education for not being some kind of magic bullet leading to getting a job in a down economy. While I agree student loans and college prices have gotten out of hand, I think to devalue education and knowledge for not having enough immediate monetary “ROI” is something we will come to regret as a society. On the other hand we have knowledge for the sake of knowledge – completing something for the sake of having done so – these things have merit to individuals and to the world we live in.
I’ve given a few presentations to universities and high schools on using social media in the classroom and in the organizational structure of the school itself, but those presentations largely focused on the mechanics of “school” and “tactics”. It is my opinion that we need to move beyond the institutional thinking and institutional process to really ride this sea change in education. While most are focused on the process, people in their infinite thirst to learn are building a new global process for eternal, immersive, self directed, multi-faceted learning and knowledge that will leave the traditional school system far behind.
Take a look at Twitter, for example. This super simple service has been making its way into the classroom a little at a time since 2007. Twitter has a long history of varied use at the administrative and classroom level (here are 60 quick examples out of thousands), and still makes headlines each time a new school like Wise High School finds a new way to adopt the service. Twitter makes learning accessible in a school environment, and is part of the overall change in the face of education itself. Access to knowledge in your pocket can break the institution of “school” out of the concrete, rigid shell it lives in and turn it into organic knowledge that students yearn for.
Everyone wants to learn something. It’s human nature, this quest to know. Some folks want to learn a new language (the BBC is one of many places offering free immersion language courses), some want to know more about Snooki’s life beyond the Jersey Shore sitcom and some want to learn how to fix a car or quantum physics, but we all yearn for more information and deeper understanding of something beyond ourselves. Innovative schools like MIT, with it’s new free online education program, are beginning to deliver a future that takes knowledge and sets it apart from “school”, putting us in control of what and how we learn, and what quality of learning it is.
Even our search tools are starting to cater to this quest for knowledge – for good, vetted knowledge. Take a look at MentorMob (“Learn what you want, teach what you love”), for example – bringing you knowledge from around the web that is then sorted by trusted sources and people who have demonstrated topical savvy. Will it work? That’s not clear yet, but it definitely stands as one result of this new thirst to know everything, anywhere.
My takeaways from obsessing about education are several:
1) Education will become multi-media (and richly cross platform, moving fluidly from PC to phone to tablet to augmented reality and more not yet imagined)
2) Education will become portable (leaving the rigid institutional “school” structure far behind)
3) Education will become free (eventually)
4) Education will become completely student driven (gone are the days of the rigid, semi-applicable “core curriculum” concept)
5) Education will have two clear and more divergent paths: immediate ROI (job training, trade training) or life enhancing (broad knowledge based)
6) Teachers will become more like mentors or knowledge sherpas than the current system of educational drones chained to the ideas of a school district far removed from the needs of its students
7) Education becomes game-ified
Just think, education is going to be changing so much that the days when you can plug in to the Matrix and learn like Neo are nearly here. Are you as excited as I am for where this is going and how we can teach and learn from each other?
What did I miss? What other cool things are being cooked up in education that aren’t mentioned here? How did I do on my predictions? What are yours?
Updated to add this video from RSA, a unique look at the education system:
Yesterday I taught a workshop at the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension in Concord. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the slide deck from it.
I opened with a discussion about how decisions involving education and youth are made. We discussed that while decisions about online tools and activity should be made with logical factors in mind, like cost, usefulness, utility, education, learning encouragement, and more, they are often made from an emotional place of fear instead, causing both the educators and the kids to lose out.
We discussed some practical issues of regulation in the education industry, minors online, and basic internet safety to consider in the classroom, then quickly moved along to the meat of the class: bringing these tools into play and using them in forward thinking ways. We also discussed how they may not only help the classroom, but the administration of the school, and any associated alumni groups, causes, organizations and non-profits. It was a fun and fully engaged class, and the educators in it were already thinking about how to use RSS, Ning and other technologies to continue to collaborate on the ideas in it after the fact (in fact, they already had the start of a Ning group going when I arrived, and were floored at the other ways they could be using the simple tool).