Wednesday, July 23, 2014

21st Century Learning - Let's Leave 20th Century Education Behind!

I'd like to restate something I've learned over the years living through and participating in the latest significant historical, world-changing event: The Internet. And you may find this to be obvious but here it goes...


And if that statement seems a little vague then let me attempt to clarify it a little.

Pre-internet there were gate keepers for everything: 
  • Newspapers and big TV networks were the gatekeepers of news, 
  • publishers were the gatekeepers of books, 
  • record companies were the gatekeepers of music, 
  • universities were the gatekeepers of knowledge,
  • corporations(and government) were the gatekeepers of jobs, and so on.  

If you don't fundamentally believe that the internet, the cloud, and connected devices, together, are powerful enough to have changed ALL of those things...and more...then stop reading right now.  

Because the internet, the cloud, and connected devices, have handed you the power: 
  • You can report news, 
  • you can write and publish books and other digital content,
  • you can create and publish music,
  • you can learn anything, and teach anything,
  • and YES, you can even earn a living from any/all of these activities.
There are no excuses, no "yea, but...", no gatekeepers other than owning a computer, and an internet connection.

And in this new world we should not be trying so hard to apply 20th century theories, and models, to the 21st century world. Or desperately try to apply 21st century technology into 20th century classrooms. Shouldn't we start fresh? Ya know, remember and respect the past, but create a new future.

And when we do begin to create NEW theories, models, and frameworks, we should be careful in how we choose our words. Words like pedagogy don't necessarily apply to a 21st century world because of the baggage it holds from the 20th century.  

In the 20th century a person would spend the majority of his/her life being a student before a large, gatekeeper, institution would bestow upon them the right to be a teacher in that institution where only teachers are able to teach. Schools and universities put the teachers on a pedestal, in front of the class, and the class would, in theory, learn. Understanding and applying a method or practice of teaching was important and so it was given a name: Pedagogy. 

But in the 21st century, when everyone is empowered to be both teacher and/or student, pedagogy only addresses the former.  Shouldn't there be a fancy word for this new model of life long learning where teaching is a part of the process and not reserved for only the select few?

Actually, I don't believe that it really matters. I still hold my iPhone in my hand, at times, and just marvel at the how empowered it makes me feel. And the insane reality that I hold in my hand access to the sum of the world's collective knowledge.

It continues to blow my mind that schools seem so stymied by this. High school math classes still require the use of a "graphing calculator", but won't allow students to use the more powerful version on their phone.  And kids still forced to carry 40 pound backpacks filled with books. And they think crying out for more funding for computers in the classrooms is going to help.

And don't get me started on the laughable courses that still exist, and are mandatory, for corporate employees to suffer through.  We know these courses don't change behaviors yet the laws still force their existence and we pat ourselves on the back as if we've cured some major problem.

The 21st century world of learning isn't coming. It's HERE! NOW! Large bureaucracies will take decades to embrace it...if they ever really do at all. The internet doesn't just enable 20th century systems to "go online".  The internet empowers you to opt out of those systems and do better!


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