Education on the verge of its own reformation

As we have written here before, change is scary.  It provokes a desire to hold on to the here and now, the stable and secure.  The problem with big significant change is that there’s just is no stable and secure to hold on to.

It’s like trying to hold back the tide.  Just look at how corporations have reacted to the prevalence of social networking – by trying to ban it.  Carol Rozwell of Gartner summed this up well:  “Banning access to social media from the corporate network is futile, the world we live in is digitally enabled and socially connected.”

This is highly relevant to the changing landscape of education, and eloquently articulated by Prof. David Wiley in a video at the TED conference in New York on March 6, titled: “Open Education and the Future.”

His talk focused on how critical the act of sharing is to education and learning;  he described education as “a relationship of sharing, between two or more people.”  Much of his talk was from the perspective of an educator, and tries to remind his audience that using technology to limit the sharing of information is fundamentally at odds with the fundamentals of education.

Sharing as the critical connective tissue in learning is scary to many, precisely because students are doing the sharing, and they’re the most digitally enabled and socially connected individuals, ever.  Students are redefining how sharing takes place, and where it takes place.

Prof. Wiley makes the analogy to the Reformation, a time when a powerful new technology introduced change so significant, so democratizing that huge demand was also unleashed.  This demand provoked a reaction to attempt control, to limit access.  And we all know this just didn’t work.  Think of it as “Enterprise computing meets social networking, 16th century style.”

Today, the mobile computing and social networking are making it easy for students to share and collaborate with each other  are exactly the same ones that are reforming and reshaping the landscape of learning and teaching.  The change is being driven by students, with them showing the way and educators in many cases following.  Some more comfortably than others.

This couldn’t be happening at a more critical time.  The demand for education is great, and those demands are only going to escalate on a worldwide basis.  Scaling education to meet that demand is going to require a lot of sharing.

Education really is on the verge of its own reformation.  A reformation enabled by technology, driven by students, and all about sharing.

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