I really enjoyed Stephen Downes’ first offering at the Huffington Post this week. I think it captures the friction between the growing availability of options for a more “open” education and the much more “closed” construction of schools. But while the whole thing is worth the read, one line in particular really jumped out at me:
We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.
Absolutely right. Schools are in the business of providing an education, and you can hear it in the language. School is the place you go to get a good education. The idea that we deliver an education is the foundation for the entire structure of the system, the way we age group kids, the way our classrooms look, the assessments we give. We’ve got something that we’ll give to our students, assuming, of course, that they are willing to receive it in appropriate ways.
What we’re not doing is focusing our efforts on how to best prepare students to educate themselves. It’s really not as much about content any more as it is about learning skills, and about the different ways that technology enhances our ability to drive our own learning. That’s the shift we must make, away from one-size-fits-all curriculum that we deliver to our kids to a model that embraces and promotes learning in whatever form works best for individual students. Stephen finds another way to articulate the difference between the learner and the learned.
To that end, I was reminded of another turn of a phrase that Ira Socol offered a while back (though I can’t seem to find the link, unfortunately.) It went something like “It’s not about how technology can support education; it’s about how education can support the technology.” It was one of those “just wait for the blowback” statements that felt a little too shifty at first even for me. But it really speaks to this same idea. If these tools open up all sorts of possibilities for learning and creating our own path, shouldn’t a large part of what we do be to support the creation of that path in individual learners?
Walter McKenzie says
Socol’s sentiment is such a slippery slope….if education’s mission becomes supporting the technology….a free public education is out the window….is it not?
I laughed aloud when I read “…it’s not really about content anymore as it is about learning skills…”
HA! In a *perfect* world that is EXACTLY right; however, the world we currently live in, the world of “no child left behind,” is a world that is SUPER-FOCUSED on the shallow content knowledge of a mandated test.
As long as a ‘simple’ A-B-C-D test is how we evaluate schools, students will never learn any skills other than “test taking.”
Bill Gaskins says
Will we ever get past school as we know it to centers of learning cultures? Public education has to become centers of learning cultures. We have to give our students permission to learn instead of permission to complete assignments.
I agree with Okie. Our schools are run by the “no child left behind act”. Creativity is not embraced, but test taking skills are. Now teacher’s jobs depend on the scores their children receive from a statewide test. Children are not machines.
Walter McKenzie says
I believe these things will all happen….over time. A little patience and appreciation for the little victories we are achieving even now.
Bill Farren says
Will: Thanks for pointing us to Steven’s article. Right On. Absolutely. Here’s a vid along those lines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhrTIymc-BM (sorry about the crappy production quality)
Connected learning requires tools to participate in that arena (technology that can connect to our global networks and be used to generate/share content in a multitude of forms).
Yes, yes, it’s not about the technology but the skills. Granted, understood.
But to develop a vocabulary of skills around the concepts, principles, and ideas of connected learning, requires that I as a learner am connected.
How do we provide those kinds of tools (and thus experiences) for all kids? Is that not a huge part of this equation as we strive for solutions?
Walter McKenzie says
Andrew this is where it gets murky really quickly. It’s not about the technology….now let’s talk about the technology. If that’s where we are truly headed, who gets to pick which “tools” and who makes sure vendors aren’t influencing that decision-making process?
On the other hand, if we hold firm that it’s not about the technology, then we can talk about how students should learn regardless of tool or platform. If we are truly talking about the ability to individualize for each learner, won’t tool/media selection depend on the unique learning preferences and needs of each child?
Just my two cents….
Ewan McIntosh says
Or as I put it three years ago: It’s not about the tech, it’s about the teach”
It’s funny how some folk nod in fierce agreement when they hear that, but get rocked (in a bad way) when they see headlines that might suggest we fetichise technology at the expense of thinking about learning:
I’ve been frequently asking whether we’re “providing” the wrong thing for students (push learning) or encouraging the right things from our students (pull learning):
We’re not alone.
So who’s going to get over themselves to consider the (pretty fantastic) notion that we should allow students far more control over their learning than they currently have? (And by that, I’d suggest as close to 90/100% rather than the, say, 15% control they currently have).
I’m hoping that a week in South Africa, with a pertinent visit tomorrow to one of those schools that’s just got its sole ICT lab and net connection (one of the country’s 10% of schools with this, and they share that lab amongst 1200 students) might start to reveal where that fulcrum point is between just having enough and having too much of a good (tech) thing.
Benjamin Thornton says
No Child Left Behind has been good for at least one thing. It has brought the inequality of our education system to the headlines and has managed to keep it there for a while now. I feel that having national standards of education is an important first step for our society, but the standards should be focused on the needs of the twenty-first century and not the needs of our current educational system.