Tuesday, June 19

Reconstructing Learning

Education is seriously broken!  The system is failing on at least three counts: efficacy, cost and access.   

Institutionalized learning is ineffective.  Schools as rule don't work well because of the behaviorist top-down model they are historically borne from.  Learners come with different learning styles, needs and interests; schools simply can't individualize due to the numbers of students in the room.  And schools don't allow students to move; Instead ADHD diagnoses are widespread.  Our current systems do not teach kids the complex application of knowledge or the solving of hard problems.  Standardized testing keeps institutions focused on lower level skills at the cost of higher order thinking skills.

Institutionalized learning costs too much.  Young people are being sold a false bill of goods by the big business that is Higher Ed.  The story goes that a degree guarantees success in the form of jobs and higher wages.  But the reality is that half of current graduates are jobless or underemployed.  And student debt averages $24,000 per student and at a whopping $900 billion, is currently higher than credit card debt in America.  According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank, almost 2 million people 60 years or older are still paying student loans.  No wonder Peter Thiel rightly names Higher Ed a "bubble".  

Education is not globally accessible.  In spite of huge technological advances, access to learning is shockingly distant from universally available because our thinking on learning still needs a redesign.  We're stuck in the idea of "school" and missing the increasing opportunities to learn for free, from anywhere.  

I predict that all this will change.  And while I felt alone in this belief for some years, a tipping point is coming.  Fast!

The Future of Learning as I envision it:

Teachers and professors will be less important than facilitators, coaches and mentors. The line between learners and teachers will blur, taking advantage of the fact that the best way to learn to is teach and most good teachers are effective learners; they have to be to keep up with what needs to be taught. 

There will be less separation between academia and the real world.  And hopefully a greater blend of work, learning and life.

Learning will be increasingly self-directed.  Learners will design their own educational environments, experiences and projects.  Self-designed assignments and constructivist learning goals will rule.

Learning will be modularized.  Learners will select courses or even more granular forms of learning to fulfill their personal goals rather than stressing over acceptance into an entire (oh, and did I mention, costly?) program.  They will choose based on quality of the offering, personal interest and relevance to their own long-term plans.  

In collective learning environments, screen time will increase.  Students can absorb content and utilized inexpensive differentiated instruction on their own time.  Mentors and facilitators will be able to use their precious time for targeted, personalized and effective coaching, facilitating and customization.  Screen accessible content and differentiated instruction will also increase access to content for students who remain outside of institutions by choice or lack of opportunity. 
Meta-learning skills will be increasingly important for learning and re-learning as the world continues on a path of exponential change.  Successful people will be those who have learned the skills to take responsibility for their own learning, including effective time management, parsing of data, goal design, time management and content curation as well as effective communication skills and social-emotional efficacy.  Equally important will be the skills of creating and utilizing communities and self-advocacy and expression.

Learning will be cheap and efficient, effective and creative.  It will have to be.  The cream rises to the top and the rest will go away.
Technology will make physical presence an option.  Brick-and-mortar learning spaces will exist as an exciting opportunity not an obligational seat-time experience.  Learners will access both to varying degrees depending upon their interests, goals and learning inclinations.

Private sector changes will lead the way.  Entrepreneurs and tech innovators, realizing that there's a huge market for supplemental and direct-to-consumer learning, will provide improved solutions which will in turn force reform in slower-to-change institutions.  Direct-to-consumer learning will be more common than mediated education.  

Learning will be for life.  From cradle to grave.  24/7.  

Crowd-sourced content will be king.  We ain't seen nothin' yet.  
Credentials will be replaced by alternative signaling systems, which will undermine the institutional monopoly on credentialing.  Degrees will be replaced by an emphasis on competence and experience.  More hiring will be done on the basis of competence, skills or other desirable traits, following in the example of Atari, which founder Nolan Bushnell says hired for enthusiasm.

Why do I believe change this radical is possible?  Because as an autodidact, homeschoolingparent, co-founder of a learning community of 1000+ Independent Learners of all ages and director of DisruptED, I've already seen most of it in action.  The large and growing population of independent learners, custom-schoolers, travel-schoolers, homeschoolers and unschoolers who have chosen to create alternative learning opportunities for themselves and their families are successful case studies.  We've broken down barriers and as a collective, we know that learning outside of institutions is not only possible, but very often more effective, financially within reach and increasingly accessible.  

So why not apply some of what Independent Learners already know to Higher Ed?  It's a very small leap!








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