Friday, July 4, 2008

Response to July's Learning Circuits Big Question - Lead the Charge

I apologize for being away for some months, I was involved in a rather intense project and neglected the blogs for a bit. This post is in response to Tony Karrer's question/post on The Learning Circuit's Blog: "Leading the Charge."

I'm not sure whether this month's query is a question or a proposition, but I happen to agree with it whole-heartedly. I believe that this issue is not restricted to the technology du jour either, whether we're talking about Web 2.0 or Audio / Visual capability (remember language labs) or the introduction of computers or even typewriters it is part of our responsibility as educators to understand the technology that learners must use or that learners can exploit to help understand whatever it is they need to learn.

Some of us have taken this to different levels, myself for example. Originally I had pursued a degree in education but eventually switched to Information Technology. This led to an interesting mixture of motivations and projects which in turn got me involved in E-learning at its inception. I still consider myself an educator but in a new and different context. My view now is this: I can empower others to learn through the technology solutions I design and/or deploy rather than being directly responsible for 'teaching' or 'training' others within the context of a specific set of expectations.

This is more or less what I've been describing for the past number of years as "The Learning Enterprise" or "Me-Learning." (see previous posts in this blog). Ultimately, I think that this philosophical shift is much more important than any particular technology that might be applied to Learning per se. The real revolution is one of personal empowerment; i.e. giving the Learners the freedom and responsibility to think for themselves. We preach "critical thinking' all the time but traditional education has practiced conformity since its inception. We are indeed at a cross-roads in our perception of what learning can or should be be. It is definitely a revolution, one that can be equally applied to both the personal and organizational level.

Those educators who truly believe that the learners come first and that learning is a continual process should not feel intimidated by whatever new technologies emerge that might be applied to education. This is not a threat - it is enhancement that enriches both learners and educators. The single best way that I can envision to help educators cope with and learn as their careers progress is an open-minded attitude, both on their part and the part of the organizations that support them. The expectation should be from day one as an educator that tools and methodologies will evolve and that this evolution is a good thing.

copyright 2008, Semantech Inc.

1 comment:

Peter Isackson said...

I agree with the gist of what you are saying, but I would take things one step further and look forward to what, for want of a better term, I would call the Web 2.5. "Me-learning" should, or at least could, morph into "we-learning". You're right about traditional education practicing (and preaching) conformity. The paradox is that at the same time, and very consistently, it has actually promoted a form of "me-learning". It's not enough simply to turn the tables and give priority to the learner over the teacher. Everything needs to be redefined. In its extreme individualism, industrial age education has been all about personal achievement, or "me in competition with the others". "We-learning" and the Web 2.5 would mark a more radical shift from using networks alternatively to consume and show off (networks of narcissism) to using them to build a culture of mutual support and encouragement on the model of CoPs. To my mind, stopping with the paradigm of "me-learning" is tantamount to the naive belief in pure laissez-faire capitalism, i.e. if everyone blithely pursues and promotes their self-interest, everyone will benefit. Trickle-down education?

The way I see it, when we begin realizing that there are common goals which we can collectively discover for ourselves and implement (no need for an educational authority to tell us what we need to know, but we might listen to and take account of some suggestions drawn from experience), then the networking tools we are just beginning to get used to will enable us to turn ourselves into a learning society.

In other words, there is a deep cultural change that must take place and not just the superficial shift in technology that makes self-indulgence easier to achieve. The marketers would love to leave it at that, but learning at least potentially involves going beyond a purely marketing vision of the world. The twentieth century gave us the almighty consumer; perhaps the twenty-first will give us the almighty learning community.

- Peter