Random Thoughts

The beginning of the end cont…

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Last week I wrote about the beginning of end for schools with the creation and launch of the University of the People that will accept its first class later this year. A University degree for free…or for very little money comparatively. Using free content on the web and a notion that learners can teach each other the university could be the beginning of the end. Maybe not this university, but this is a concept that I think we’ll see others try and build upon. It’s the idea that is interesting to me and that gets me thinking that the end is just a bit closer.

I feel the momentum of change coming. With the recent news of India trying to create a $10 laptop that would bring the Internet to a whole new group of people.

Again…..it’s the idea that this could even happen. Even if they make a laptop for $50 what have they done? Who have they given access to? And what will be created in its wake?

And then there is the cell phone:

Ten years ago, there was a mobile phone subscription for 5 percent of the planet. Today there are 3.95 billion mobile phone subscriptions (lets call it an even 4 billion, we’ll be at 4 billion in January). Even at 3.95 billion today, that means there is a mobile phone subscription for 59% of the population on the planet.

You might want to read that stat again. Almost 60% of the worlds population has a cell phone. I wonder what percentage of the world has access to paper and pencil? That would be an interesting comparison.

Worried yet?

Me neither…just because you have the tools, it doesn’t mean you know how to learn with them. Good thing we dodged that bullet and bought ourselves some time!

Oh…and then there is this story from David Warlick:

One of the best stories I heard was told by a school librarian, Kathy Gallagher.  Her daughter is a senior in high school and is currently shopping for colleges.  Kathy said that all of the schools her daughter is considering have their own Facebook groups — except for one, a fairly small liberal arts school.  …So her daughter set up the the group for the school.  She said, “In just a couple of days, the group grew to over 300.”

This was very impressive — to all of us.  But hoping to learn more, I asked, “So why did she set up the group?”

Gallagher looked at me, as if I had completely missed the point.  I had completely missed the point.  She said that her daughter was visiting the Facebook groups to get answers to questions about student life at the schools from the perspective of students.  She wanted to ask the same questions about the small liberal arts school, so she created the community for the school, grew the community, and then had over 300 sources for answers to her questions.

Wait just a minute….a student…an actual student….found a way to create a network that gave her the knowledge she was looking for. You mean students might actually search for knowledge on their own..and when they can’t find it create a network that will help them find it.

Please do not let students know they have this kind of power! If they could get information, and/or create learning networks without us and learn on their own we’d be doomed for sure!

Good thing somebody hasn’t applied this to education. I mean you could end up having…say…a University that people could go to to learn from each other in a peer to peer setting.

And then there is Scott McLeod’s recent short post:

I think it is becoming increasingly
clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There
are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it
to continue to exist in its current form.

The only question, then, is: How long are we going to thrash around before we die?

Wait a minute a University Professor is worried that our current education system might be going away….and by system I don’t think he’s singling out the US system. Most education systems around the world follow the same age based system the US has adopted.

I don’t know about you…but I see the pieces slowly moving together. It’s like looking at a map for the first time after learning about the Continental Drift Theory…and for the first time you step back and you look…..and you see it….you see how all of the pieces could fit together…and you have a moment…a moment where you go WHOA!

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  4. Jeff: I do think our current educational system is going to eventually pass away, but that is not going to happen for quite awhile. I’m over halfway through Christensen’s book “Disrupting Schools” and his view in light of innovations theory is that traditional schools will eventually be bypassed/overcome by education/learning opportunities which are not directly competitive to them today. I’m curious to understand more fully where those opportunities are and how they can best be supported and accelerated.

    • I’d agree with that statement. I found this today: http://academicearth.org/

      1500 high quality videos. It’s a start. Why go to school for a lecture when I can get a lecture at home. 🙂

      I have a feeling it’s going to happen faster than we think. The problem will be that is will be so revolutionary that the old system will not see it coming until it’s too late.

      Twitter is a perfect example….it goes from being nowhere near mainstream to being mentioned on TV shows in what seems like overnight.

      There are pieces out there, the ideas are floating around…what I’m not sure is will the downturn in the economy slow this rate of change down, or actually accelerate it as people look for opportunity. That’s the big question I think.

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  6. How many students are now opting for online courses in high school? How many home schooled students are electing to participate in this type of learning? I don’t have the answer to those questions; however, in my school the numbers increase each semester. This form of education will continue to grow. The question for me is how are we supporting these future learners in being prepared for this learning environment? Presently, the students at our HS struggle with these courses. Why shouldn’t they–they haven’t been prepared.

  7. Hi Jeff,

    Knowing of your work with WetPaint.com and with engaging teachers in continual professional learning, I thought I’d drop you a note to invite you to share your insights at http://www.twitterforteachers.com.

    Maybe you have some ideas about how we might better organize the site. I know that free time is at a premium, but any contributions you could make to the project would be very much appreciated.

    All the best!

  8. Jeff,
    Mindblowing information, indeed! It’s funny, because it wasn’t that long ago I was resistant to buying a cell phone, resistant to signing up for Facebook, and now these 2 things are, let’s say, a mainstay in my life. Having moved overseas last year, Facebook has been my main method of staying connected with my friends back in Canada.

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  10. During my EC&I 831 class today, I asked Stephen Downes (http://www.downes.ca/)if he sees the end of High Schools as students discover alternatives to the traditional classroom. I know online schools are actively selling themselves as alternatives to the brick and mortar buildings and I too wonder how long it will be before schools end not because of a government decision, but because students chose to seek a more engaging and less controlling way of learning. Stephen’s answer though was simply that institutions exist long after they are necessary or something to that effect. To see Stephen’s presentation go to http://eci831.wikispaces.com/02-24-09.

    Nevertheless, change is coming and the traditional school is undoubtably going to see some significant changes in the years ahead. As an educator, I have recognized that if I do not keep up with technology, I may soon be redundant!

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