The End of Learning as We Know It!

FullSizeRenderOne of Beth’s bookshelves

The other day I was having ramen (as prescribed by my doctor) with a good friend who is an architect and an educator. He’s a remarkable educator who takes high school students out into the world, into buildings to study architecture. They don’t just study architecture; they study the religious beliefs expressed in the architecture, the contemporaneous mathematics and music. They discover how and why architecture arises, how it impacts us…through discovery.

I had just come back from London where I visited the Tate Modern and the Sonia Delaunay exhibit; my architect friend borrowed a book from the exhibit and brought it for his students. He brought a lot of books on art and architecture. His students were excited and engaged and not one single one of them touched a book. Not one.

(I thought sadly of my bookshelves groaning under the load of 1000’s of books. I am afraid that they too may become the bar of a trendy coffee shop, or 3-dimensional wallpaper in some sure to be short-lived boutique.)

The student’s used their phones; they Googled what they wanted to know.

This morning I opened an advertisement from Bloomfire. I was glad to get it because I have the app but I hadn’t been able to figure out what I am supposed to do with it. It turns out that Bloomfire is a social learning system. The ad narrated the end of my profession. According to Bloomfire, taking time away from work to learn is a thing of the past. From now on, we will learn socially, on-the-fly.

I know that in some profound way this is true (and I acknowledge that there is small voice of protest shouting in the back of my mind. What about reflection? What about challenge? What about guidance? What about design? Insight?).

I list the evidence:

  • I am enrolled in a MOOG at MIT on Presencing.
  • I’m in a program for social innovation from DSIL for which I am attending 15 hours of webinars or their recordings.
  • In HCD Asia/Pacific, we have a self-organized group studying Non-violent Communication; they meet virtually since they are in HK, Taipei, Vancouver and Manila.
  • We send each other TedTalks and Yammer our reflections.
  • We are organizing Peer Learning events for a network of coaches.

I remember, maybe ten years ago, running an experiment that Dr. Thiagi invented. We dressed up a colleague in a robot suit and made a video of him giving instructions. We put the video (back in the Jurasic days of tape) on the table and left a note for the participants to turn it on. They did. They followed the instructions of the fake robot on the video and ran the first hour of the class themselves.

Ok, it is true. The way we learn is changing. Now what? Are teachers and trainers passé? Are facilitators redundant? Or are they simply morphing into content-creators?

I wonder, ‘what I should do now?’ Shall I organize virtual events? Be one of those 20-minute windows into some esoteric subject? Shall I write a book that people will buy but not read? Mash up a new assessment instrument? Open a bakery?

Author: Beth mAcdonald


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