Sunday, September 28, 2008

Let Go Of The Content... It's All About The Connections...

I've been an educator, mostly an adult educator, for over 32 years now. I hold both bachelor and masters degrees in education, with my masters specializing in adult education and training. In all of my formal training as an educators content was king - I learned a lot of content, I had to have subject matter expertise and my "job" was to ensure that my students got all of the content that they deeply deserved.

Well guess what everyone - we are not in Kansas anymore - given our new realities of education and the learning tools available to our "learners" (yes, they are no longer students), as educators we are faced with a new paradigm - content is dead - it's all about the connections made and the learning communities that count now. In fact, I have come to discover that content is actually mostly irrelevant in my role as an educator, and what my focus has become is developing learners so they can learn for themselves and find their own content through the development of communities and connections. So what does this all mean?

We are facilitating (not teaching) a new generation (actually generations, as most adult learning environments these days are multi-generational) of learners for a new generation of jobs and careers, many of which have not even been created yet. Technology has become pervasive in most learning environments, and the one technology that has had the greatest influence is the computer and its greatest learning tool, the Internet.

Learners have the Internet as their primary tool for information gathering and research - in fact the so-called Millennials or digital natives (Prensky) have even been said to be 'wired" differently as to their approach to information finding and gathering and their ability to multitask information gathering. They are exposed to an almost unlimited amount of content on any subject. What is lacking are the following skills and knowledge:
  • Gathering information
  • Processing knowldege
  • Context and relevancy of information
  • Sharing and using information
None of these skills are content-centric or specific to a particular subject area, but rather they should be considered as essential skills regardless of the chosen profession or academic track of the learner. It is our job as facilitators to ensure that our learners acquire these skills in order to succeed in the information age.

As facilitators of adult learning we must step away from our traditional role of content providers and move into one of facilitating connections - connections with information, connections with learners for the development of team and interpersonal skills, the connections with multiple (and massive) sources of information, the connections between raw data and the skills needed to make it useful information, and the connections that learners will need to be successful in their chosen professions, whatever those connections may be.

The most important connections that we can foster are the connections of community - learning is now a team sport - there is just too much information out there for one learner to make sense of - we need to foster and develop the creation of learning communities and environments that will assist in the success of our learners. This will become even more important as more and more learners choose to do their learning in environments outside of our traditional "brick" classrooms.

So, let go of the content and get connected. It's our future... Hmmm...

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