What I love about how Sir Ken Robinson discusses Changing Education is he shows clear insight of how through the evolution in innovations and technology of the last few hundred years (if not longer), our behaviour and responses to the world around us has changed in our every day life - in what we do, what we pay attention to, and the internal and collaborative processes we use to learn, adapt and survive in a rapidly changing technological environment. He then contrasts this very eloquently with the view that for what ever reason, the pace of change in how we think about education, learning and formal learning contexts has not changed at the same pace or in the same way. He uses school education to exemplify his point. For me this video also spoke of higher education.
In higher or further education in some spaces (though not all) we have become more protective over what we know, learn and research (because its an asset to sell); more static in how we share it or educate others (because change is hard and requires resource); less welcoming of creativity and innovation – diversity in others (because it scares us); and more reliant on the standardisation and marketization of education driven by external measures of quality (because it has become the industry norm). But what do I remember about being a student of learning …
My best experiences of my own learning do no fit the picture above, my memories are about meaningful episodes of creativity and autonomy. They include: high school days when my art teacher encouraged me to ‘create’ and share ‘my voice’ on how I was seeing the world through drawing (without guidelines); or my history teacher who encouraged us to read fiction novels on historical topics as well as our textbooks (though not on the reading list); or my 2nd year university professor who taught statistics in the context of music, shopping and magazines (to make the equations meaningful); to my doctoral supervisor who encouraged my ideas on knowledge, learning and web technology (though unverifiable for a journal – they were ideas to still discuss).
I think in many ways, I was fortunate in these instance in my learning to have inspired others who encouraged me through how they saw the world. However, like many Sr. Ken Robinson describes in his video, I too traversed a conveyor belt of education, in age cohorts, expected to perform higher and better on standardised measures to enter the halls of academe to continue the process. So I became conditioned. Certainly we all are – all in society, not just the educators. But the politicians, the policy makers, the teachers, the lawyers, the parents, and grandparents … and increasingly the children. Conditioning us in what formal education is and in this losing sight of the aspiration what could education be … perhaps built instead on a model of what ‘inspires learning’ … not just how to measure, sell and protect it.
For me Social Web technology in the classes I design and deliver has been a way to start to unpick my own preconceptions and practices around how I educate and see learning in business management education – especially in marketing and organisational communications. Social web technology has helped me to start to think differently and let go of control in what education is. Letting go of control is I believe our first step to changing how we think in this embracing fear. It doesn’t matter how much I use social web technology, there is still the fear when standing in front of a class of 100 new students introducing them to the world of blogging, wikis, Twitter and Google docs, wondering “what challenges will I face this semester?” coupled with the excitement of wondering “what will they create and learn this semester?” And these challenges come from all places, to my own preconceptions. I live, work and traverse a complex system of people, practices and social norms.
Sir Ken Robinson, raises an excellent point in his video. To change what we do in education we need to change how we think about education, learning, learners and creativity. Over the past three years, I’ve been doing my best to unpack my thinking about the role of ‘lecturer as distant expert’ and ‘controller’ of the space, and instead create a learning space wherein, ‘we are learners, sharing, contributing and helping each other’ and ‘move the focus away from the grade to a focus on learning’ (I’ve certainly not cracked it yet, but I’m trying). I’m only a few years into the journey, and it is hard because it is not just I but also my students, my colleagues, my discipline, the sector, and those associated with it who see the world in different ways. Shame our learning systems don’t yet embrace divergent thinking in education design and practice. To heed the words of Sir Ken Robinson in the above video, to change what we do in education, we need to change how we think about education.
In this … “We are all learning!”