Friday, April 23, 2010

The Future Belongs to Those Who ...

I just read The Future Belongs to Those Who...which has as its subtitle "a guide for thinking about the future."  This is the first suggested reading for the Open Course in Education Futures run by George Siemens and Dave Cormier.  Amazingly this course has over 500 participants who are all concerned about and involved in the future of education.

I found The Future Belongs to Those Who...quite enlightening.  It clarified for me why forward-looking researchers call their endeavors "futures studies".  The plural is used because "there is no one preordained future that is fated to occur.  Rather there are many different possible alternative futures."  In order to explore these various possibilities, futurists use various methods including trend monitoring and scenarios.  One of the trend monitoring techniques, scanning, for example,   involves "searching through a variety of information sources to identify trends and emerging developments."  This reminds me of what many of us do through daily scanning of rss feeds from edubloggers and by checking tweets from other educators. 

From the data that is gathered, futurists develop sets of various possible scenarios which could occur.  The purpose of these scenarios is "to encourage people to think about how to navigate successfully across the different circumstances that might be encountered." 

Having just read The World is Open by Curtis J. Bonk, which is about all the changes that are occurring right now in the field of education, I am eager to hear what scenarios the participants in this course come up with.  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Disrupting the University

Katie Hafner's recent NYTimes article An Open Mind, answered some concerns I had had about students learning through free, online courses such as those offered through the M.I.T. OpenCourseWare Initiative.  

One of my concerns was that students accessing these courses as independent learners would have no one to answer their questions or reply to their reflections. One solution to this concern is answered at the Peer 2 Peer UniversityPeer 2 Peer University, which is a tuition-free nonprofit experiment financed with seed money from the Hewlett and Shuttleworth foundations.  At P2PU a 'course organizer' leads the discussion but you are working with others so when you have a question you can ask any of your peers.  Ability to network with others taking the same course could be extremely helpful.  It sounds as if you could even create online study groups.

Another site which pulls together open courses from various universities and encourages students interaction is the University of the People.  According to Kafner's article, students not only interact, but  students even grade one another's papers!  My reaction - Why not?  In my own teaching experience I've found that given a good rubric to follow, students usually grade each other very effectively and sometimes even offer good, constructive feedback.

My other concern with open educational resources was accreditation.  Students may accrue a great deal of knowledge, but if they don't receive any official certification of this knowledge would it ultimately be useful to them for job-seeking purposes?  Both Peer 2 Peer University and the University of the People do not at the present time offer accreditation, but both seem to be in the process of seeking to offer it in the future.   It's a wonderful world!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Disrupting Class and the Future of Education

I am currently reading Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen., Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson. You can get a quick synopsis of the book by listening to this interview with one of the authors.  According to the authors, If we acknowledge that all children  [and adults] learn differently, then the way schooling is currently arranged-in a monolithic batch mode system where all students are taught the same things on the same day in the same way-won't ever allow us to educate children in customized ways. 

My interpretation of the view of education in the book is to have each student accrue knowledge  through his/her best learning style for that subject matter.  This means that teachers will piece together an array of modules containing different ways of learning the same material based on various learning styles.  These modules will have been created over time through online networks with teacher and user input.  When enough modules have been developed, then teachers can start piecing together enough ... modules to create entire course designed for each type of learner.  In this view teachers will serve as content architects and learning coaches supporting students in their choice and interpretation of online modules.

As I see it, some of this is currently being done.  For example, the number of online networks where teachers share their insights and expertise now exist and are growing exponentially.  Here are some examples:
And here is a snapshot of a present day classroom that may foreshadow classrooms of the future, This is Our Classroom .  There are also currently projects such as NYCDOE One to One project which incorporate some of  ideas of teaching students through their best learning styles.

The future of education  is the topic of an open course  beginning on April 19, 2010 and being facilitated by George Siemens   and Dave Cormier  through the University of Manitoba.  I'm sure many of the ideas presented in Disrupting Class will be discussed.  I'm really looking forward to the course!