When I left school more than thirty years ago, there was no internet. There was no smart phone. There was no digital camera and video recorders were expensive and bulky. Everything about school was about how well you could play the game of information retention and regurgitation. Yes, I managed to get good grades based on my learnt skills of information recall. But in reality the things that I remember from those school days regarding facts, figures, dates, formulas and names are only those ones that I have often had to recall via a daily crossword or two.
So what do I value the most about that schooling experience? Well, just knowing how to articulate an argument was a short cut to exam success for most of process and this skill has been invaluable for my whole life. But this is something that only realised in hindsight. The real engagement when mastering a new subject or topic came from timely and well directed feedback. A recognition that my efforts are valued regardless of the subject, skill or topic. And yet there is also something more that lies underneath this. Many of us are driven to know why things are the way they are. To find a reason to do the things we do every day. I guess in short, an addiction to learning is born out of need to find context for existence and I can see this daily in the friends, family, colleagues and clients around me. Whether it be a new language, learning an instrument, how to create animation videos I seek new skills but I note that the persistence and practise only sticks when I get the feedback payoff similar to those days in school.
So I look at where education in our schools are now, mostly through the experience and eyes of my children. I am often challenged by the idea that a lot of schooling today is still based on teaching them ‘what to learn’ rather ‘then how to learn’. Having said that, I cannot dismiss the fact that I survived the system of the seventies and eighties and in fact may have even thrived as a result of it. Maybe this is something every generation considers and is possibly why schooling has changed so little over the last century in terms of delivery style. But just as the pen changed the relevance of the chalk and slate, surely the internet will change the relevance of the text book. My children have full access to any content they can imagine, and if the content isn’t there, they can make it. But they don’t need to focus on content. If they need to know an answer to a question they can ask Siri or Cortana. Even if it was a rather complex question they can reach out via community forums or platforms such as fluther. What is it that drives them to learn new skills? What is it that will keep them engaged?
Most likely it is the same things; feedback based on having their position or argument valued. In simple terms that might be the dopamine hit they get from posting on Instagram and receiving likes. The thumbs up from their friends and families from a Facebook post that keeps them engaged to want to do more, learn more but more importantly share more. I mean we all do it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all about the quantity of the post but they soon learn that the quality of the post is what matters. This is about still striving in those areas of off line activities, think sports or hobbies where the posting is the validation part of the process where the feedback comes into it. ‘I get awarded a trophy at a football presentation. It’s in a room full of people and I feel good. People take photos which are subsequently posted on line. People I don’t even really know give me an on-line thumbs up. This actually feels better than the room full of people. It has a permanency of record as it becomes achieved for all of history.’
And like my own experience it is more than just the feedback, it is feedback from their tribe. The need for belonging is intrinsic in all of us and has been iterated as one of the greatest underlying issues when it comes to social health issues such as mental health well-being and addiction. Regardless of how small your interest, the specialty of your niche, there is now a digital tribe (often in the first instance) that can bring that individual into not only an on-line community but an off-line community as a result.
So I write the above in response to a question posed to me via an on line learning session, “Why the importance of open education?” I didn’t really have a clear way to articulate all the pent up learnings that I have on this subject so I stripped it back to the argument as above. I mean I could have just stated, ‘It is inevitable that open education will continue to thrive and proliferate. It is in our DNA, and it is in our best interest to do away with the tethers of copyright.’
Over the past few months I have ‘read’ (listened via audiobook) the following narrations that do a much better job at arguing this reality than I could ever do in this short post; “Tribes. We need you to lead us” Seth Godin / “Sapiens”, & “Homo Dues. A brief history of tomorrow” Yuval Noah Harari / “The selfish gene”, Richard Dawkins / “The Inevitable. Understanding the 12 technological forces…” Kevin Kelly / “The rational optimist” Matt Ridley. This is the deep learning that gives me the context to know that this is the future of learning. That open learning is underpinned by human nature to ‘seek, sense and share’. Note, I am reminded of something I read in a blog recently – ‘collaborate to validate’. I mention this for one particular reason and that is a reminder that, just because it is written or said doesn’t necessarily make it true. So the importance of life experience can not be understated. (Subject for another time).
One final point, just as audio books have changed the way I engage with my self-education practices and underpins where my deep learning comes from, what will that look like for my children. It is quite possible that it won’t be from reading (or listening) as in my preference, but will more likely come from computer simulations (think virtual reality and gaming). The copyright is not the content, or the concept or the idea but how the idea or concept is applied, interpreted or presented. People are doing it every second of the day via Facebook and Instagram with video, photos and memes. How many are being chased down and held to task re copyright?
Can we really own an idea? If an idea falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it really exist? I look forward to your feedback…