While preparing for a presentation I’m delivering later this week, I was struck (again) by how significantly things have changed due to the internet’s affordance of connectivity.
I don’t use textbooks in my courses. I use a combination of my own writings, augmented with websites, and supported through dialogue and learner to learner interaction. My intent is to provide learners a diverse set of voices. A textbook is most often a one-sided view of the knowledge of a particular space (and, in certain fields, they can be dated by the time they are published). I don’t view content as something that learners need to consume in order to learn. As I’ve stated before…learning is like opening a door, not filling a container. Content is something that is created in the process of learning, not only in advance of learning.
In previous posts, I’ve stated my preference of connections over content. However, it’s impossible to ignore the valuable role that content has in the learning process. Content is a core of society. Content is the codification of our knowledge, our art, our vision, our dreams, and our aspirations. As little as five years ago, content came pre-packaged. You could get your content fix in the form of a textbook, a CD, a newscast, a newspaper, or a classroom. Not any more. I think the subtlety of the transition leaves many unable to see its depth.
We can now acquire our information in any manner that we desire. Learning, seen as content consumption, doesn’t fit this model anymore. Learners piece together (connect) various content and conversation elements to create an integrated (though at time contradictory) network of issues and concerns. Our learning and information acquisition is a mashup. We take pieces, add pieces, dialogue, reframe, rethink, connect, and ultimately, we end up with some type of pattern (meme?) that symbolizes what’s happening “out there” and what it means to us. And it changes daily. Instead of a CD with the songs of only one artist, we have iPods with a full range of music, video, audio files/books, images, etc. Our classrooms, instead of the pre-packaged views of an instructor or designers should include similar diverse elements.
It’s easy to make predictions when trends are substantially developed…and this is so obvious that many know it intuitively: Learning is no longer pre-packaged. Tomorrow’s courses and learning experiences will be structured with different tools (bye-bye LMS’ as we know them today)…and learning itself will be perceived more as an activity that occurs in networks and ecologies, not hierarchical, pre-organized structures. The central filtering agent is no longer the teacher or institution. It’s the learner. Think about what that means to our education system as we know it today. It changes everything.
Re-reading this post, I recognize that I really haven’t said anything new…but it just strikes me that as educators, we are not grasping (or prepared for) the depth of the change that is occurring under our feet. If it’s happened (breaking apart the center) in every other industry – movies, music, software, business – what makes us think that our educational structures are immune? And what does it mean to us? What should we be doing now to prepare our institutions? Ourselves? Our learners?