In the previous post in this series, I introduced the reason I was writing these blog posts and brought you up to date with the current situation of technology and learning.
In this, the second post, I am going to talk about whether we are actually keeping up with changes and whether we have lost sight of innovation altogether.
Things are changing
Although you might not necessarily agree, according to Thomas and Brown (2011) change does have the ability to motivate and challenge. How we approach the future changes really impacts how we engage with them and, in some cases, successfully implement them. Many changes are enforced onto us. Working in education for all my working career I have seen two curriculums, several strategies and a range of different components which will need to be implemented effectively. Even in higher education, I have been subjected to changes in approaches, revalidated modules and even new systems to monitor learning. My own personal views about these changes have sometimes been negative, but it is important that rather than just seeing these being enforced onto us, we see them as possibilities.
How we learn is also changing rapidly but the glacial rate of change of education itself often either struggles or completely fails to keep in sync and this is I see as a major problem.
Who is leading the change?
If I ever want to gain inspiration about learning and how we should approach it, I look to the younger generation who are engaging in informal learning. While learning informally, they are able to engage with their own learning using approaches they are either familiar with or which they have found to be effective. I am very much aware that I should not be looking at learning from beneath my nostalgia hat. Things have changed and although there might have been approaches which I learned very effectively, times have changed and so has learning.
I am often fascinated by the amount of knowledge and understanding some children have. There exists many Harry Potter experts. Their depth of knowledge and understanding is fueled by their personal motivation and curiosity. But how they gain knowledge is also important. They search for the information themselves, using everything which is available to them from books to the internet. They further develop their understanding by discussing with their peers, challenging each other and supporting their own point of views.
But before you start typing in the comment section about the ‘worth’ of Harry Potter knowledge, it is not the knowledge which I would actually like to discuss. For me it is not the end point which is important but the process by which they got to this point. This learning is both effective and efficient for the generation and we need to acknowledge from this and learn from it.
Innovating like crazy!
I am lucky enough to be engaged with a range of forums across the internet from Reddit to Tapatalk. These are not the dead discussion forums of higher education when posting is demanded and engagement enforced. These are the forums where people join, post and interact with each other without any register of attendance being taken. Threads expand rapidly, with users expressing and justifying their points of views, challenging others and even generating new ones. And this is only the visible learning. Many more engage with the posts thinking and talking about the content.
Yes, I know that there are sometimes aspects of nastiness experienced, but for me it is a haven of interaction and engagement, something that from the formal education viewpoint I certainly view with envy eyes.
But it does not stop there. Discord channels exist set up by individuals to promote what are definitely communities of practice. Media and links are shared, people comment on via referring to specific users (@command) or a range of icons. And, if needed, the conversation can be taken into ‘RL’ (Real Life) as the system allows for audio and video chat.
In the world of gaming and streaming, the application needs match the needs of the users, if it does not then it will not be used. My point is, outside the formal world of education, innovation is everywhere. Things are tried, tested and kept or rejected. If it doesn’t suit the user or meet the need, it will be cast aside and ignored.
Where we are going wrong
So, if there is all this innovation why is it not happening within formal education?
First, I wonder about the passion for learning that some people have within formal education. Are the learners highly motivated to learn and engage or are they still in the system because they feel that they ‘should be’ or it will lead to a better job. If learners are motivated and curious to learn then there should be no need for attendance monitoring or requirements for engagement. Learners will want to attend and engage. They will want to discuss and justify, exchange information and challenge each other. FOMO (Fear of missing out) would have a completely different implication in a world of motivated learners. If they do not want to do this, then I would query there place in the formal education system.
Secondly, formal education is glacial. It is institutionalised where innovation has its hands well and truly tied. Everything has a financial implication and needs to ‘prove’ itself. By the time that the current technological approach has been implemented, the ‘real world’ has moved on as have the learners. Money is invested in ‘improvements’ which means that people are ‘encouraged’ (I was going to put forced) to use them which, in turn, are imposed on learners. Departments need to be lead by innovators who have had their chains removed so they can interact with the current changes and determine how to use them effectively within learning.
We are being left behind
As I am sat typing this I remember a time when I wanted to engage with a ‘chat system’ with the learners only to be told that I would have to create some terms and conditions which would have to be agreed with at various levels of the institution. I declined.
Thomas and Brown, back in 2011, stated that the old ways of learning are unable to keep up with the rapidly changing world. As we start the year 2020, nine years later, I can only imagine that we are now so far behind that we actually think we are in the lead and that innovation is so far ahead that we have lost sight of it completely.