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There's been lots of talk over the past couple of years about the revolution afoot in the educational world. A revolution that will mean learners and teachers working in a new relationship, with a new, more appropriate curriculum; developing skills that will help them become better learners, who are more able to deal with the rapidly changing world (and job market) around them, and using communications technologies to expand horizons beyond the classroom wall.
Some places have taken this at a high level and run with it (eg. Tasmania's Essential Learning Framework), but most countries, local authorities, school districts, corporate learning & development departments etc seem reluctant to embrace the inevitable disruption and political backlash that would happen.
And it is disruptive... The traditional, top-down view of learning, where a person is given a teaching "position", ...
... is changed, through the effective use of communications technology, to an apprenticeship model, where the mature learner chooses the teacher:
There is a total shift in the balance of power. But it depends totally on learners being mature enough to take advantage of it, and teachers being mature enough to accept that their position is fixed only while they are useful to the learners.
For people involved in leading & administering learning it is very easy to drop back into the comfort zone of programmes, courses, tests etc - what some people call the "industrial model" of learning. Yet that model just will not survive in the current, rapidly changing world, where knowledge is out-of-date faster than you can forget it.
Learning can no longer be seen as an activity separate from other information and knowledge-based activities. Learning, knowledge management, content management, information management, and other knowledge capital systems must function coherently as a whole. George Siemens: Google Whitepaper (pdf)
What is needed, at all levels of education and learning, is an emphasis on developing:
- mature learners, who know how to learn, how to manage information, who to ask, how to find out, and what questions to ask.
- mature teachers, who know how to learn, but also know how to coach and mentor.
- systems and environments that can be used to support learners in their learning process. It's not about creating "programmes", it's about creating "environments" within which a "learning ecology" can flourish.
How this is worked out will depend on the situation people are working in, but the critical thing, whenever you are talking about learning ecologies, is they are based around networks of individuals, and their connections. Starting with that premise will give a good foundation on which to build.