As an educational leader, I have been asked why I choose not to opt my son out of high-stakes testing. It’s because I don’t care about the tests nor his scores. In fact, I don’t really care about any of the assessments nor grades he’s given in school, high-stakes or otherwise. I care much more about the skills my son is developing and the knowledge he is constructing; and that learning takes place within every aspect of his life (home, school, play, etc.). It simply cannot be measured through any sort of test.
Our students waste a lot of time in school (and with homework) complying with compulsory tasks that do nothing to develop within them the skills they’ll need as they make their way in this ever-shrinking world – testing included. Opting out of a few high-stakes tests won’t change that.
As educators, we need to be in the business of facilitating students’ construction of knowledge.
This can be done by modeling, guiding, mentoring, and purposively facilitating learning opportunities around critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, perseverance, exploration, reflection, and other soft skills WITHIN and THROUGH disciplinary content (e.g. social studies, science, health, math, language).
Unfortunately, our schools have devolved into places where information memorization is valued over knowledge construction, simply because while students’ retained information can be tested and quantified, their knowledge cannot.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with award-winning author, educator, and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff. Our discussion focused on his new book “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now,” his advisory role at Codecademy, and the impact of Present Shock on education.
Most simply, Present Shock is the human response to living in a world where everything happens now. It’s a real-time, always-on existence without a past or a future, without origins or goals. It’s just the present. This presentism, or Present Shock, really effects us on a person level, on a social level, politically, economically, and even spiritually, in terms of how we organize our experience in life.
My concern is that instead of really seizing the new now of the moment we tend to get disoriented. We respond to the insistent pings on each of our devices. We kind of chase the moment that Twitter or Facebook or one of these devices offer, forgetting that we’re the ones who are living in real-time. The devices and the software is what’s chasing us. It’s really about, how do we seize the true present that’s being offered by a digital age, by our liberation from an industrial age clock and how do we avoid the kind of faux-present of the insistent pings of the digital universe.
What are the challenges and opportunities for formal education resulting from Present Shock?
Well, I mean there are a bunch. One of them, one bias of the digital age is that it gives us more choice. So rather than following the prescribed paths of the masters of the various academic disciplines, someone can go online and get the course or the information and what they want when they want it. You don’t have to go through architecture 1, 2, and 3 to get to architecture 4. And while there is some tremendous liberation associated with that there’s also something you lose in that. What you lose is the path. You become very focused as a student on the data and getting that piece of information as if that’s the thing that’s valuable and you lose the centuries of thought that went into how these things were arranged.
I was in the library and I was thinking about the card catalogue the other day, and I understand that the digital search lets you find the thing you want right away and you get the number and you go and you get it. But what you lose when you lose the card catalogue is not just an alphabetical listing of the books by title and by author, you’re also losing the subject area. You could go into a card catalogue and find the area that you’re in and look through the cards that are in that section, and they’ve been put there, they’ve found their way there over centuries of the organization of information by people. It’s not to say that it should cripple you that now you have to engage with information the way that the greats have been doing it for centuries, but there is centuries of knowledge and insight that went into that. As education becomes more à la carte as kids get what they want when they want it. As we use Spark Notes to do Shakespeare because we have authority over our time and I can decide to not really read it, but just read this paragraph. I lose a sense of the journey. It becomes very results oriented. That’s a big, big challenge.
The other biggie is, as we spend more of our time fetishizing these devices these new avenues for education, I feel like the human bonds of the classroom, actual people who are in the same room together, that loses it’s cohesiveness, it loses it’s power. The big challenge for people today is doing very simple things like maintaining eye contact, generating rapport with other human beings. Understanding how to work with others, that’s the kind of stuff you can get in a classroom and you can’t get on a Wii when you’re at home. I’m really encouraging educators not to use classroom time to have kids all staring at the SMART Board or at their iPads, and instead to use that valuable few hours of class time you have helping kids and students orient to one another in real space because 94% of communication that happens non-verbally is starting to get lost as our noses get closer and closer into our smart phones.
In 2001 you hosted and co-produced the Frontline documentary “The Merchants of Cool.” The film describes the techniques used by corporations like MTV to research and sell products and lifestyles to young adults. You close the film by saying, “So is there anywhere the commercial machine won’t go? Is it leaving any room for kids to create a culture of their own? And what if they turn and fight? The battle itself is sponsored and packaged and sold right back to them.” In 2013 what is the status of “The Merchants of Cool,” and young adult’s ability to fight back?
I guess “The Merchants of Cool” are here and are bigger and better than ever. Instead of watching kids, “The Merchants of Cool” at that time were sending out little spys and scouts and kids with Polaroid cameras and video cameras to really try to record youth culture and then feed it back to itself putting the things that they found into ads and TV shows you kind of sell kids back to themselves. There was this feedback loop between the trend hunters, the cool hunters, and the kids. And now kids through social media they deliver themselves directly to the marketer. You know the marketer doesn’t need to observe them, the kids are already posting everything up there, so where in the old days, the quaint days of 2001 the marketer would have to go into the kid’s bedroom and to see what posters he’s put up on his wall and how and photograph them. Now the kid is putting these things right up on their Facebook wall so they are broadcasting everything their new form of cultural expression. And when you can see what works and what doesn’t by how many “likes” that thing is getting. It’s funny I’m just starting on an update to “The Merchants of Cool” and I’m calling it “Generation Like,” and the idea is that kids are living in a world where their own self expression now is what they like. It’s all relative in the sense that they are what they like and what they like matters to them really almost exclusively for the power it has to get them “liked” themselves. It has sort of moved into a hyper version of its former quaint self. And there’s just as many millions of dollars going into it, but now it more into the big data analysis of every key stroke that these kids make in order to predict where they are going and what they are going to be doing next.
In Chapter 1 you discuss the collapse of narrative. It got me thinking about the American Dream the idea that you work hard, you play by the rules, you go to college and this is the gateway to the middle class. What does Present Shock have to say about our classical notions of the American Dream?
The American Dream is kinda over. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, I think largely it’s a good thing. We are no longer Great Gatsby staring at the green light trying to attain the unattainable. The American Dream, while on the one hand it was great for motivating the progress of the 20th century and building factories and getting us all to do lots of stuff, it was false. We are there, and we don’t have pension funds, we don’t have 401K plans, we don’t have the stock market that is going to grow infinitely into the future, we don’t have new territories to expand to, we don’t have new conquests to make. We are in a different time of a world now where we understand that growth is the Booby prize, growth is a requirement of central capital that’s lent out at interest that needs to be paid back, growth is not necessarily a sign of health. New housing starts are good for the economy the way we currently have it configured, but they are not good for the environment, and we already have more than enough houses, we need new housing starts the way we get them is by tearing down other houses that we don’t let people live in because they don’t have jobs which we can’t find for them to do because we already have more than enough stuff. On the one hand, the idea of education as a way, I’m going to do this so I can follow on this path and get this job and do that thing, that doesn’t make so much sense anymore. Because it’s false, and it’s kind of a lie and a lot of people who have gone through the whole college thing and ended up $300K in debt and without a job, or a way to pay it back, or a way to go into bankruptcy even, they understand that full well. I think what that does though is that it changes the nature of education towards something that is really frightening for educators but is, what is it about right now. Am I learning? Am I enriching myself? Am I becoming a smarter more innovative human being. That’s what’s going to serve you in the real job market of tomorrow. By the time the corporation has told the city college what skills it wants from its future workers you are going to graduate and those skills will have changed anyway. You are going to have a bunch of people coming out of college who know how to use the Excel spreadsheet when the company has moved on to Oracle something-or-other. It doesn’t really work that way. The only way to educate yourself in this world, in a world that is gonna be more and more about freelancing is to actually acquire the skill of skills acquisition, to learn how to think critically about the world and digital media environments that you are spending all this time in. So it’s a much deeper kind of a learning in some sense. It’s more Liberal Arts not less.
Douglas, you mentioned student loan debt briefly earlier. Current estimates suggest that American students currently have somewhere between $900 billion and $1 trillion in outstanding student loans. Given that tremendous burden placed on the next generation, what are your thoughts on the cost of college, and our process of paying for it through private and federal loans?
It’s very tempting for people to say look, why do college when I can go do whatever, one of these Coursera kinda things for free. And I can just get the course and do it. On one level it’s a healthy challenge to the university’s that are costing $50K, $60K a year for what? I mean I totally get that. The real reason why university educations are supposed to cost a lot, or why they do cost a lot, is that your money is not just supporting what you are learning, it’s supposed to be supporting the research. You know you are coming to a research institution, they are doing Tier-1 research and they are using some of your money to do that. It’s hard to justify, right, because the direction we have to go in, is to really bifurcate or divide the skills acquisition nature of education from the deep nature of education. Skills acquisition, if you want to learn code or something, you can learn that on Codecademy for free right now. I’m an advisor there, it’s a great program, it’s absolutely free and you can go pretty darn deep into it, you know as much as any regular person can handle. You know, if you are then going to become a computer scientist then you might want to go to a real school for computer science and actually go into that. But we can in some sense free up the university from that basic skills creation. You know turn it into less of a consumer zone, of aww I’m going to go and get these skills and go get that job. That’s not what that’s for, that’s trade school. Or that’s what those Barrons books are for in the Barnes & Noble. You can really self-educate basic skills like that, or apprenticeship, with an electrician or someone else, or the way they train policemen, that’s not a college education, that’s something else. And it would free up these institutions for people who want to get that. It’s more, at that point, I’m sorry to say it’s either it’s going to be a luxury or it’s going to be something that is publicly paid for. I’m looking at teaching at the university now and I’m having a hard time as a I guess a Leftist and an Occupier. I’m having a hard time justifying going to some $50K liberal arts college and teaching the wealthy or the indebted. Where I can go to hopefully Queens College or City College, kids, I mean men or woman are spending $5K or $6K a year to go to a Tier-1 university. At that point how can I justify the expense. The research is being paid for by, or should be by corporations or governments anyway so I just have a hard time asking for that much money from people.
I’m glad you brought up Codecademy. What have you learned so far from working on the project?
Well the biggie that people aren’t getting yet, because I’m reading like Tom Friedman and all these folks in The Times and they are writing about MOOCs, and I guess Codecademy counts as a MOOC to some extent, but Codecademy only teaches code. They are not trying to teach philosophy, you know, to teach the Socratic method online seems really sad when folks like Aristotle and Socrates were talking about how you have to be in person, conspiring with people, literally breathing with a small group of people in a room in order to get anything so I feel like it’s a site specific education place. It’s really cool for teaching code. It’s a great environment to teach code, better than a seminar room but it’s not a great environment to do a seminar I think. It’s a substitute for it. Just as it’s not a great environment to do Sabbath, or fellowship. I wouldn’t want to go to an online AA meeting. I think you got to be in the room with the people. A seminar is more like an AA meeting than it is like a lot of things, in some sense. The other big thing I’ve discovered is that the thing that being disintermediated is not the student to the teacher. It’s not like, they think that what’s happening is that we’re getting the curriculum out of the way so now students can get right to the teacher directly through all this stuff, through the Internet rather than having to go through the university. And I don’t think that’s it, I think the real possibility here is not for students-to-teacher learning to have a new venue, but to see the birth of genuine peer-to-peer teaching and learning. You know what Codecademy is, is much less of a place where people have access to a teacher, they have access to one another. You know the curriculums are written by other members of the community, so you end up with communities of learning because the Internet is a peer-to-peer place. It’s not the place to do hierarchical learning which still needs a role. You know I want to go sit in a room with Stanley Fish, you know and find out about how poetry works or how reception theory works, or someone wants to sit with me and really understand the biases of media, that’s something that happens in a room. And yes, in a lecture, which should not go out, in a seminar, in a preceptorial, that’s what those forms do and just because we have a new technology through which to disseminate information, doesn’t, and which through which to forge community, doesn’t mean it replaces every other form of human contact.
In 2011 you published “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age.” Two years later have you thought of any additional commands or revisions to your previous ten?
The big idea I want people to get from that, you know beyond the individual commands which are kind of convenient ways of talking about the biases of digital media, I want people to get that they are in command. It’s just that digital media, the word digit even goes back to the fingers, you know these are digital media, they’re media that you can kind of use with your hands, you are not just sitting with your eyes watching something like TV or some other pre-digital media, these are media through which you make things. Some of the biases I didn’t discuss because I didn’t want the book to be all Marxist, is that this is really bias to production more than consumption. The iPad maybe is biased towards consumption, the iPhone, that the newer tools without keyboards are really turning much more into viewing screens, entertainment devices, easy ways to buy things, and to stream media. But they are not these great tools of production like computers are. It’s exciting to me that there are these machines with keyboards, and printers, and uploading speeds in everybody’s homes. This is the way we can make stuff and trade stuff. So this technology is biased towards transaction, towards real people transacting, creating value, and exchanging that value with one another. And I feel like companies are intentionally repressing that bias of this media because it’s so destabilizing to the kinds of companies that really depend on us being consumers and not producers.
I’m interested in your thoughts on the future of human and technological evolution. In chapter 5 called Apocalypto you discuss your skepticism of the concept of The Singularity. What is your biggest critique of The Singularity?
My biggest critique of The Singularity is that it’s just not true. Some of the best minds of my generation, or I guess the generation older, that slightly older cyber theorist type people, the technology theorists, they seem to have to look at this as a story. They can’t understand that technology is just here, it’s just now, it’s just what’s happening. It doesn’t necessarily have to be going somewhere. There inability to contend with a presentist world, where the world is actually happening now has led them to take the old Christian apocalyptic overlay and stick it on top of this presentist timeline. It’s going somewhere, so where is it going? Well it depends on what technology wants. They are humanizing this while they are dehumanizing us saying OK, technology is on this inevitable quest towards great states of complexity, and once it’s more complex than we are humans beings no longer really have a role. We can sort of retreat and recede into the background and let technology achieve consciousness and continue on without us. And the narrative that they are painting, the story that they are writing to try and understand what’s going on, because they’d rather have a bad story that deal with the existential quandary of real life. Their story is that information has been evolving towards greater states of complexity since the beginning of time and that human beings are just one stage in information’s inevitable journey towards higher states of complexity than we could even imagine. And to me that really has the medium and the message reversed. I don’t think information even exists without a human mind to understand it, to process it, to give it meaning. Without us it’s not information any more, it’s just is, it’s just there. So I’m trying to debunk The Singularity, and to debunk the apocalypse because it has become much easier to imagine a zombie apocalypse than it is to imagine next year. That’s troubling to me, and it’s really because we haven’t yet embraced the present. We’re finding difficult to do it without losing our sense of place, without losing our sense of meaning. And there’s other ways to find meaning, to find your place. Just begin doing pattern recognition to begin understanding the never-ending game of life, or life as an infinite game, rather than as a game that you have to win, declare victory, then see who is saved and who is damned, that you can go on, rather than worry all the time about where is this going. And that’s the real challenge of Present Shock.
What are your thoughts on the future of work? Throughout Present Shock you wrestle with the challenges of our global economy. What knowledge, skill, and abilities do you think people need to be cultivated to be successful?
I mean on the one hand if we do this right, people are going to have to work a whole lot less than they did before. I’m really of the belief that we’ve gotten really good at providing goods and services for pretty much everybody who wants them. The real jobs problem that we are having today is not that we need more people to make more stuff, it’s that we need people to have jobs so that we can justify giving the stuff that we already have in abundance. There’s more than enough houses, there’s more than enough food. We are destroying houses in California as I speak. We are burning food every week to keep market prices high. So it’s not a matter of that, it’s a matter now I think of people looking at how they can contribute to really making the world a better place towards, how do I help? Look at the areas where there is real crisis, whether it’s sustainable energy, global warming, the alarming rate of kids being born with Autism and Spectrum Disorders who are going to need care takers of one sort or another. There’s so many real challenges coming up other than, how am I going to increase housing starts, or create more mortgages, or do all of these kinds of fake things. Because the fake things are going to become less and less relevant, more and more of those people are going to get laid off as the corporations that are really running on fumes lose the ability to do so. And our ability to participate not just in that big economy, but in the local economy of real goods and services, the value that you are actually able to create for other people where you live, or through the Net is going to become a much more, I hate to use a word like this but a much more marketable skill than the kinds of things that you think of currently as careers.
Knowmads are nomadic knowledge workers –creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas industrialization required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific concerning task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work within a broader options of space, including “real,” virtual, or many blended. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.
The authors explore knowmad society in terms of socioeconomic evolution from industrial, information-based society to knowledge-based society, to a creative, context-driven Knowmad Society. Educational and organizational implications are explored, experiences are shared, and the book concludes with a powerful message of “what’s it going to take” for nations and cultures to succeed in Knowmad Society.
Key topics covered include: reframing learning and human development; required skills and competencies; rethinking schooling; flattening organizations; co-creating learning; and new value creation in organizations.
Which begs the questions, a) what should an education degree or a teaching certificate require when increasingly anyone with a connection can be a teacher of content, and, b) more importantly, what changes when the world begins to accept a definition of “teacher” as someone who knows “how to make and post a video”?
Indeed, if we view teaching as simple information delivery, and teachers as delivery mechanisms, then teachers have something to be worried about: If they can be replaced by machines, they should be (paraphrasing Arthur C. Clarke).
But, most teachers would argue that they give students knowledge. Do they? To be clear, let’s define the differences between data, information, knowledge, and innovation.
Data are bits and pieces here and there — from which we combine into information;
Knowledge is about taking this information and creating meaning;
And, innovation is about taking action with what we know.
I think this is the greatest problem facing teaching: We need to decide if we want to train kids to regurgitate data and information, or if we want them to develop personal knowledge and enable them to act on what they know. We are trying very hard to manage “knowledge,” and, as a result, we confuse it with information. We focus on information delivery and the quality of students’ ability to repeat it (i.e., through standardized tests).
Knowledge isn’t something that is ideally generated through watching a Khan Academy video or sitting through a classroom lecture. Knowledge also is not about being able to Google something.
Knowledge is something that is more personal and has intangible qualities that combine tacit and explicit dimensions. What we know, individually, is not easily measurable through the principles of industrial psychology that we embrace in schools. It is qualitative in nature.
If we continue to treat teachers as content delivery machines, curricula as industrial blueprints, students as future factory workers, and obsess over measurements of industrial quality, the Khan Academy and its contemporaries have a bright future.
If we start to think of teachers as having a real role in knowledge development and its application (innovation!), then the world of teaching and learning will look very different. The Khan Academy in such a context becomes supplemental in an ecology of options, and not a replacement for an outmoded machine.
Photo: library cards Creative Commons BY NC SA 2.0 dorywithserifs
Despite radical attempts to meet the changing needs of every generation of scholars critics have argued that the library — in its current form — may have outlived its purpose. For some change at the library hasn’t come quickly enough. A recent editorial inThe Chronicle of Higher Education codifies this position, accusing practitioners of being complicit — spending the last few decades rearranging the books in the Titanic library. Sullivan, (2011) contends:
“… it is entirely possible that the life of the academic library could have been spared if the last generation of librarians had spent more time plotting a realistic path to the future and less time chasing outdated trends while mindlessly spouting mantras like “There will always be books and libraries” and “People will always need librarians to show them how to use information.” We’ll never know now what kind of treatments might have worked. Librarians planted the seeds of their own destruction and are responsible for their own downfall”.
I disagree. There is ample evidence that library leaders have in earnest set their sights on the future — most notably, two of the largest American academic library professional organizations (The Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries), recently produced future oriented reports to catalyze support for the value of academic libraries, and to provide vision for the future. In my mind, these reports capture the excitement of an institution in transition, and provide insights into the future of higher education as a whole.
Futures Research The first report, from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), a nonprofit professional organization which represents 126 of the largest college and university research libraries in the United States and Canada, created the ARL 2030 Scenarios project to address their strategic focus:
“How do we transform our organization(s) to create differential value for future users (individuals, institutions, and beyond), given the external dynamics redefining the research environment over the next 20 years?
ARL members were invited to participate in individual interviews, focus groups, and a survey. Key stakeholders from within and outside the academic library community codified the results into four distinct scenarios. The results were intentionally distributed inside of a user’s guide to ensure that the scenarios were packaged with an accompanying template for utilizing the scenarios at academic libraries as part of their strategic planning process.
Scenario 1: Research Entrepreneurs
In this future “individual researchers are the stars of the story”. Academic institutions and disciplinary silos are no longer relevant for entrepreneurial researchers who chase short-to-long term contract work from private and public sources.
Scenario 2: Reuse and Recycle
Scenario 2 outlines a world defined by an “ongoing scarcity of economic resources” which forces the reuse and recycling of research activities, with virtually no public support for research. Academic institutions persist, but have little to offer scholars.
Scenario 3: Disciplines in Charge
Utilizing advances in information technology “computational approaches to data analysis dominates the research enterprise”, fostering massive research projects aligned around “data-stores”. Two classes of researchers emerge: those who “control the disciplinary organization and their research infrastructure” and everyone else who “scramble to pick up the piecework”.
Scenario 4: Global Followers
As funding forces dry up in the West academic power shifts to the Middle East and Asia. Scholars continue to do their research but with new cultural influences from Middle Eastern and Asian funding agencies.
Figure 1: ARL Scenario Space, Creative Commons BY NC ND
The real strength of ARL’s scenarios is the user guide toolkit. Scenario planning — and futures research in general — is often criticized for being too empyreal. ARL addresses this criticism head-on featuring six chapters dedicated to implementing of the scenarios within an academic library. Also, as part of an ongoing process towards validating and refining each scenario articles, studies, and reports are being collected and coded as they pertain to each of the 4 possible futures.
Research for this study began with an intensive two-month review of quantitative and qualitative literature related to how academic libraries demonstrate their value. ACRL staff then combined the results into 26 possible scenarios. ACRL members were surveyed on the probability of each scenario occurring, the impact of each scenario, the speed at which the scenario might unfold, and whether the scenario reflects a threat or opportunity to academic libraries. The survey results were then visually displayed on a problem space with a number corresponding to each scenario, with green numbers representing opportunities for academic libraries, and red signaling threats (Figure 2).
Figure 2: ACRL Scenario Space, Creative Commons NC SA
The survey results concluded nine of the scenarios were highly probable and impactful including: “breaking the textbook monopoly”, “bridging the scholar/practitioners divide”, “everyone is a ‘non-traditional’ student”, “I see what you see” [advancements in IT make collaboration with users easier], “increasing threats of cyberwar, cybercrime, and cyberterrorism”, “meet the new freshman” [librarians help non-traditional student cross the digital divide], “right here with me” [advances in mobile technology for research and publication], “scholarship stultifies”, and “this class brought to you by…” [increased corporate sponsorships of courses and research].
The combined 30 scenarios presented by ARL and ACRL describe the potentially hostile, but promising world for academic libraries in the next 20 years. The three most common themes throughout all of the scenarios: the impact of technology, the changing informational and infrastructural needs of their users, and the challenges to creating novel funding sources to combat acute budget shortfalls present real opportunities for leadership on the part of library administrators.
Although some have criticized these first attempts at futures research as a waste of time, I argue these reports have been successful because they have forced the debate about the future of the academic library to the forefront of the profession. Certainly futures research cannot predict the future, however these scenarios provide academic libraries a chance to both strategize for what is most likely to happen, while advocating from an informed position for their most desirable future.
Association Research Libraries. (2010). The ARL 2030 Scenarios: A User?s Guide for Research Libraries. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/arl-2030-scenarios-users-guide.pdf/.
Connelly, P. (2011). SXSW 2011: The Year of the Librarian. Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/sxsw-2011-the-year-of-the-librarian/72548.
Staley, D. J., & Malenfant, K. J. (2010). Futures Thinking For Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/value/futures2025.pdf.
Sullivan, B. T. (2011). Academic Library Autopsy Report, 2050. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Academic-Library-Autopsy/125767/.
The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.
[…] called up one of the donors, Jason Fried, chief executive of 37signals, a hip business-services company, who recently gave an undisclosed amount to Khan Academy, to find out what the attraction was.
“The next bubble to burst is higher education,” he said. “It’s too expensive for people—there’s no reason why parents should have to save up a hundred grand to send their kids to college. I like that there are alternative ways of thinking about teaching.”
A review of the comments appended to the article suggest that many readers agree that higher education faces serious competition from online knowledge repositories. What the article misses however, is consideration of the conversion of information acquisition/collection to personal knowledge. Schools such as MIT, through their support of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, have demonstrated their understanding that the real value of higher education is not the downloading of knowledge through texts and lectures, but rather through the production of new and personal knowledge that their unique environments offer. This tacit, added values provided by the institutions are what define quality higher education.
European colleges and universities are notorious for having embraced lectures over other course formats (i.e., seminars, laboratories). In these environments, student learning does not occur as much within lecture halls as it occurs outside of the classroom — through interactions with other students, individual and informal study groups, independent or directed research, etc.
In the age of YouTube lectures, universities need not worry about their bubbles bursting, but rather, what they should be doing in the classrooms instead of lecturing.
Professional futurists continue to make outstanding contributions toward the development of understandings of the future, but is futures thought limited to this select group? Definitely not! With a do-it-yourself attitude, and leverage of the right resources, anybody can become an effective futurist. Here’s why:
Nobody knows the future – don’t trust anybody who says otherwise. The world is changing at an accelerating pace, and it’s simply getting harder and harder to imagine what will happen next, let alone 20 years from now. We are all white belts when it comes to approaching the future. We have never been there before, and it is hard to model a world that does not exist yet. What futurists provide is their “best guess” — hopefully supported by quality research and trends analyses.
Futuring is easier than you think. While some futures research methodologies, such as the Delphi method, require an element of professional experience and expertise, many others are easily done — and should be done — by just about anybody. Environmental scanning, for example, involves simply exposing yourself to as much data and information on a broad range as possible (i.e., reading as many newspapers as you can, daily). The futures wheel is related to mindmapping, and can be easily done within individual or group settings. Jerome Glenn and Theodore Gordon wrote an excellent volume on methodologies used by futurists, Futures Research Methodology Version 3.0 (Available at Amazon.com). For do-it-yourself futurists or those wishing to explore the field, it is an excellent resource that will get you going.
We are all futurists. Few activities are as natural and universal among humans and human cultures are storytelling. We use stories to share our memories and imaginations of events that have happened or will happen. We use stories to share histories, fables and myths of the past. We also use stories to share visions of and for the future — including goal setting, promises of change, narratives of how we improve ourselves, and even apocalyptic nightmares. Even in our sleep, we often dream about future scenarios. Futurists explicitly tap into our stories and the power of storytelling to share their visions and dreams. So can everybody else.
You can access the same information as professional futurists can. Unless if you’re divining knowledge from an isolated and highly controlled information source, the ubiquitous availability of data and information in today’s networked society mean that you can easily and cost-effectively build up your knowledge base of future trends. Moreover, you are welcome to join the same professional societies that professional futurists participate in, such as the World Future Society, providing you with the same connections and access to professional society-level knowledge they have.
We all create the future. Futurists do not create the future, everybody does. Time may move forward, but the future does not just “happen.” Rather we share a responsibility to ensure that the futures we create are positive (ideal outcomes for humanity, the world, etc.). Moreover, in our interconnected world, we cannot disconnect from our futures. We cannot “futureproof” an organization. Nor can we find ways to fight it as individuals. Rather we can harness our inner futurists and lead in the creation of futures of our own design.
The world continues to get “smaller” and “flatter.” But we see now that being connected isn’t enough. Fortunately, something else is happening that holds new potential: the planet is becoming smarter.
That is, intelligence is being infused into the way the world literally works—into the systems, processes and infrastructure that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold. That allow services to be delivered. That facilitate the movement of everything from money and oil to water and electrons. And that help billions of people work and live.
The world is becoming instrumented. By 2010, there will be a billion transistors per human, each one costing one ten-millionth of a cent.
The world is becoming interconnected. With a trillion networked things—cars, roadways, pipelines, appliances, pharmaceuticals and even livestock—the amount of information created by those interactions grows exponentially.
All things are becoming intelligent. Algorithms and powerful systems can analyze and turn those mountains of data into actual decisions and actions that make the world work better. Smarter.
What does this mean for the futures of our various institutions? For our hopes in quality of life? IBM examines these questions in their blog, Building a Smarter Planet. They don’t provide answers, but they get the conversation going.
With the world becoming increasingly instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent, what new opportunities and challenges are presented to education and human capital development systems?
On her blog, Elena Benito-Ruiz shares a draft chapter on “‘Infoxication 2.0’ as one of the main downsides to Web 2.0 and its educational application.” Infoxication is a state of intoxication of the mind, caused by an overload of information. Although centered around technology, this is thought to contribute to a decline in intellectual performance. The problem is increased in Web 2.0 environments as such environments require both a push and pull of ideas.
Currently, she suggests, RSS readers (when used properly) provide a remedy for teachers and students. That’s a good way of compiling and simplifying information, but what can be done about new knowledge generation in the Web 2.0 world? Perhaps something beyond RSS tools are needed?
Gustavo Andrade at UNAM in Mexico City just posted a video from a conference I participated in last April. He writes:
3G technology allows us to build an innovative vision of education. Education anywhere and at anytime, with a device that can be your own cell phone. John Moravec at the University of Minnesota explains the features of this form of learning, compared with that which is practiced among the brick walls that make up the classroom. For his part, Cristóbal Cobo of FLACSO-México explains that students and teachers must learn to unlearn in order to innovate in their teaching practices, and learn to respond to the accelerated pace of today’s digital revolution. If you want to know where is this “ubiquitous” information society in schools, take your time to see and hear this video. greetings