Nicola Wright & A Glimpse into the Future of Learning.

Nicola Wright.

Nicola Wright – Suspected Super-Blogger

Today we have a very special post from one of a colleague and compadre, .

Nicola is a student of Internet Communications with Curtin University, a professional blogger, mother, and homeschooler! Where she finds the time to write for herself is a mystery to me. I secretly suspect some kind of super-power, but shhhh!

This is a piece about the future of our schools, and whether or not we have created a world that no longer requires bricks-and-mortar learning institutions.

Are schools obsolete? The future of education in the information age

In the age of the Internet when we can find anything we want to know, when we want to know it, there is a growing question about the relevance of traditional learning models. The idea of teachers and school curating what we need to learn is fast becoming irrelevant. Why do we need to outsource to ‘educators’ decisions about what information is best for us know when we can access information about any topic at few clicks of a keyboard?

Education researchers are now making predictions about the future of education that sees it heading in the direction of self-organised learning (Richardson, 2012; Wheeler, 2013). It could well be that in ten years time we will see an end to testing and comparing students and ranking schools in order of those who are highest performing. What do those test scores mean anyway? No more than that a student has learned something for sole purpose of passing a test, which more that likely will soon be forgotten. Unless a student is engaged with the material they are presented it is unlikely that that information will stay with them long term. Just look at the Chinese education system for starters. They rank highly in PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores but the students are pushed very hard; in high school they study 12.5 hours a day and identify as feeling ‘highly stressed’ (Hesketh et al. 2010). Yong Zhao (2009), a Chinese education expert describes this process as producing gaofen dineng which translates as ‘high scores but low ability’ brought about by students having no time to be creative or follow their own interest with ‘an absence of self-discipline and imagination, loss of curiosity and passion for learning’ (Jiang Xueqin, 2010).

A Glimpse into the Future of Learning: www.knowledgeworks.org

A Glimpse into the Future of Learning: http://www.knowledgeworks.org

Rather than children having to adapt to a ‘one size fits all’ model of education with pressure to perform well in standardized testing, imagine an education where ‘radical personalization’ is the norm. Every child would have access to resources, both online and off, using hands on materials or within a one-on-one mentorship situation. Peter Gray in his book Free to Learn (2013) outlines his dream for non-coercive education in the future. In it he visualises publicly funded community centres where children (and adults) can come together to access resources and teachers on subjects that interest them. Members could be rostered on for cleaning and administration duties thereby providing opportunities for healthy multi-aged socialisation and development of stewardship and civic responsibility. Together with access to free online courses (think open universities and MOOCs) students would have access to all the tools they need to pursue their interests and career goals. Once they have developed the important skill of being able to assess the quality of information online (what’s the source?) the world is their oyster.

Schools of today are pretty much the same as they were 150 years ago. In the information age it’s now time to rethink the paradigm of top-down pedagogical structures and embrace the affordances of our digital present where information is in abundance and easily accessed. Real learning happens everywhere not just within the four walls of the school building. That’s SO old-school.

“I never teach my students. I only provide them with the conditions in which they can learn.”
– Albert Einstein

References:

A Glimpse into the Future of Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.knowledgeworks.org/sites/default/files/A-Glimpse-into-the-Future-of-Learning-Infographic_0.pdf

Gray, P. (2013). Free to learn: why unleashing the instinct to play will make our children happier, more self-reliant, and better students for life. New York: Basic Books.

Hesketh, T., Zhen, Y., Lu, L., Dong, Z. X., Jun, Y. X., & Xing, Z. W. (2010). Stress and psychosomatic symptoms in Chinese school children: cross-sectional survey. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 95(2), 136–140. doi:10.1136/adc.2009.171660

Richardson, W. (2012). Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (Kindle Single). TED Conferences.

Wheeler, S. (2013, May 5). Self Organised Learning Spaces. Learning with “e”s. Retrieved from http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/self-organised-learning-spaces.html

Xueqin, J. (2010, December 8). The Test Chinese Schools Still Fail. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703766704576008692493038646.html

Yong Zhao (2009), Catching up or leading the way: America education in the age of globalization.

Being a Parent Does Not Give Us Carte Blanche.

It’s strange, but it’s true. Just because we aided in the creation on another person (because, let’s face it, complex carbon chemistry had a lot to do with it too), does not mean we always get to take part in actions which will taint the potential of that person in the future.

We do it all the time. That is part of parenting. By teaching our children good table manners, we are ensuring they will not be embarrassed with a multiple course table setting, and will not be shunned for eating with their mouth open. By making sure they say “please” and “thank you”, we are ensuring a positive reaction to their general manners in the future. We do everything we can, or should be doing so, to ensure they have the best possible chance at making good impressions in their adult lives.

Why then, do some of us seem so intent on ruining all that good work by plastering baby pictures all across the internet and web? Potentially embarrassing photos, pictures that may not paint them in a positive pictures, photographs that will stay around in digital format online forever.

Forever.

That’s a very long time indeed. We seem to forget that once published online, the images and words we think are transitory reflections of moments in our lives have far reaching ramifications into the echoes of the future. They may not get picked up by search engine bots some time down the line, but they can always be found. Always.

I happened to read this article this morning, while attempting to wake up. I will grant, it took me a couple of goes. It is written from the perspective of a parent writing to the future version of their child regarding the ways they have reduced their potentially damaging digital identity production through online gloating. Not publishing photographs online of your children is not “just” a safety step against potential abuse, but it is also a conscious decision to allow your child to grow into the person they want to be, allowing them to become who they think they are.

As parents, we work on building their self-esteem, making sure they don’t bow down to peer-pressure, don’t feel they have to be the same as every one else, and try to combat the lack of desire (sometimes) to outshine their contemporaries. Why then, do so many of us feel that documenting our children’s lives online for all and sundry to see it alright? Surely it is counter-productive, and counter-intuitive? What might be the fall-out of a prospective employer seeing your teenaged child in something entirely unfashionable, if they are applying for a job in fashion in their twenties? It’s a somewhat shallow and superficial example, but if that is what your child is aiming for, who are you to ruin that opportunity?

Your facebook photo album is not a digital version of the photo album you pull out when your child’s dates come over for the first time. It is not a personal account of your child’s formative years. It is a very public domain which, even with the closest of “security” settings, can be viewed by pretty much anyone.

I have taken steps to ensure I do not damage my child(ren)’s potential digital identity. Despite her now being in double digits, and me leading a very “connected” lifestyle, I can count the pictures I have published of her online on my fingers. I ask that people ask me before they put up pictures of her on facebook or the like. I do not call her by name, and ask that others do the same. This was never to “save” her from potential child molesters. It was, first and foremost, because I was very aware of my actions potentially impinging on the future identity, on and off line, of others. You will find that any partners I may have rarely get referred to by name. This is a further step to not have my actions reflect on their built identity.

I think it boils down to the single directive by which I think all should conduct themselves:

You do not have the right to have any of your actions damage anyone else.

Simple as that.

Media140 Perth.

I was fortunate enough this week to volunteer for this event.

For those not familiar with what Media140 is all about, the site is here: media140. They can explain themselves better than I can, suffice to say it was a three day event covering the digital future we are facing and how best to move forward in that world.

I was the tweet-queen for this event. You can find my colleague’s storifies for the three days here: Digital Business, Digital Me, and Digital Family..

Through all of the talks and presentations, there were some over-riding concepts.

We, as in the current generations of adults, are entering the world of a truly digital future. This requires new ways to look at this new world, as the old ways of thinking are not necessarily conducive to moving forward. While we embrace this new technology with open arms, we are still trying to overlay them with old modes of thought that do not run concurrent. As such, we need to adapt our minds as we adapt our lives and bodies to these new devices we seem to take everywhere. This means new ways of thinking about commerce, connectivity and engagement with life in general. Part of the responsibilities in this new role we have taken on is to open the channels of communication about the issues surrounding web use.

Our children learn first by watching our examples. If we do not lead by example, how can we assume they will listen to us when we try to sit down and speak with them about the potential pros and cons of the web? Notice I used “speak with” and not “speak to”. This is something very important to me personally, and was touched on by a few speakers. We need to speak with our kids and not orate to them. They actually know more about the digital world than we may give them credit for, or even the they give themselves credit for.  We need to allow them to bring what they know to the table, but also give them an environment where they feel they can ask us about things they don’t understand. *** Potential backlash warning *** I think this is a fundamental problem in many families I have seen. Sometimes this includes my own. We do not give our children what they so desperate need, and that is the feeling that it is okay to fail, it is okay to ask questions, it is okay to not know.

And at this point, it’s time for some squee. Miss9 just came up for big squishy huggles. Okay. Squee-mum is done. Back to the other stuff.

Ahem. So. Where was I? Yes. Too many parents that I see think they can fix all of their kids problems for them. How does this give them the space to learn from their own mistakes? We have this societal mentality of failing being such a bad thing. Combine this with the idea that we, as parents, do not want our children to have to make the mistakes we have made, and we have a recipe for disaster. To this end, I have given up on trying to give my child access to the repository of my learning. My mistake, vast and varied as they may be, are not hers to learn from. They are mine to learn from. While some may see it as a kindness to try and impart their knowledge to their kids, I strongly believe all it achieves is resentment on their end at not being allowed to discover for themselves.

Right, so that’s that rant over and done with. Yes, those were the main themes covered by the event Media140. New ways of thinking for new technologies. Food for thought most sincerely.