Sunday, April 08, 2007

Is There A Classroom In My Future...?

Stephen Downes is an amazing guy. He works for the National Research Council (NRC) in Moncton, New Brunswick where he specializes in online learning, content syndication, and new media. He also produces the OLDaily newsletter (subscribe TODAY!), and has several blogs including "Half An Hour" where he writes about various educational and technology topics. If you are an educator, you MUST consider Stephen's writings as required reading. His insights and opinions are thought-provoking and provide clarity in what has become a very complex field.

In one of his recent posts, "To The School Or Classroom 2.0 Advocates", he makes the point that:

"technology allows us to change our approach to education, from one where we segregate learners in specially designed education facilities (classrooms, training rooms, schools, universities) to one where learning is something we do (and what educators provide) in the course of any other activity.

The idea is that 'School 2.0' is the first step toward being non-school, and that our objective should be to use technologies to leverage our ability to personalize learning, and in so doing, facilitate students' learning while taking part as full citizens in the wider community."

This really struck a chord with my own beliefs of the future of adult education (although I will concede that this could apply to K-12 as well). What I think Stephen is describing is personal Learning environments of PLEs, an individualized and customized approach to learning that I think is the future of adult education and our role as educators. PLES will provide learners with greater opportunities for learning success as they will permit learners to learn within an environment that will maximize their learning as it will best suit how and what learners learn.

Stephen goes on in his post to talk about the future of schools and classrooms - schools and classrooms are a creation of the industrial age. This makes a lot of sense to me - schools and classrooms are really just another type of factory - the product is knowledge (and hopefully learning, but this isn't always the case). So what are the implications for me as an adult educator? I think that the main one is that I need to be ready and able to help learners create their PLES and as we move more and more towards "Education Without Boundaries" (one of the key tenets of my college's strategic plan), I have to be more adept at existing in traditional classrooms, blended deliveries, online learning and learning environments not yet thought of. Don't get invested or stuck to the delivery location or method - be dedicated to the learning.

Stephen makes another point that struck home for me:

"Educators need to realize that today's students are exposed to much more television, online communication, and other electronic communication, than they are to traditional classroom instruction. School, even as it is, makes up only a small percentage of their learning. It plays virtually no role in values formation, culture and self-identification, language learning and art. If school provides any learning of science, mathematics, geography and history, it is only because the students' cultural environment is almost completely bereft of those subjects. Their performance in those subjects - and especially the latter two - shows just how abject their learning has become."

Boy does this explain a lot about my learners when they first come to the College. We need to find ways to bridge the gaps that learners have as a result of their school experiences. Stephen suggests offering students limited full-time employment while still in school. Hmmm...

Amazing stuff Stephen, thanks for sharing with us.

(Drawing - School20 By Stephen Downes)

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