Scott McLeod has a very interesting conversation going about a 21st century learning system. One person asked a great question - why all of a sudden is it different? How are this century's children different from any other century's and why does learning have to change? Since innovation has occurred in every century, why is this one different?
All great questions. So why is this century different and why does it require a special and new system? I recently saw a great presentation by Martin Beanof Microsoft, where he talked about some interesting perceptions over the ages:
:) Interesting that in every case, the institution was skeptical about a better enabler of communication. Today, the skepticism is about a better enabler of access to communication, and more specifically, how communication enables profound access to information.
This is where the game changed. Historically, teachers/academia/libraries held exclusive domain on knowledge. They chose to impart it on their terms, and the system (pedagogy, assessment, curriculum design, etc.) were all based on this bottleneck.
But now, anyone and everyone has access to information, lectures, assignments, tests, etc. And it's pretty much unfiltered (and indeed un-vetted). This was exacerbated by the current No Child Left Behindpolicy, which bases academic accomplishment solely on arcane testing. How sad.
So - where is the teacher's power today? Where is the institution's power? Other than the mere ability to bestow diplomas, it's all in the hands of the teacher, whose ability to control information has been eliminated. Those teachers that can't cope, those teachers that can't engage students, those teachers that can't be the inspiration for their students, to help them:
- Learn how to effectively find what's relevant from all sources.
- Understand principles and basic concepts.
- Learn how to combine all of this and turn it into analysis and then insight.
- Effectively and persuasively communicate their insights.
I guess the real essence of 21st century learning is not in the hands of the students or the institution, but the educators. It will be their ability to capture, motivate, inspire, compel that will rule the day. In this sense, it's not that different from any other century.
The only difference is how obvious poor educators will be. Let's hope more than less have the sense to retool or retire.