Question from John Traxler - 'Education - Fit for purpose?'

John Traxler commented on my post from last Saturday Review of Traxler’s ‘Students and Mobile Devices’ and stated that the following question was his overriding concern for the article:

My over-riding question... is something like 'do the social changes associated with universal connectedness and mobility mean major aspects of the education system are bust and not 'fit-for-purpose'? or will technical/tactical fixes (maybe 'mobile learning' is one of these) and compromises continue to see us thro?'

It took a while for me to get my head around what this is asking, but once I did I could see that it was worth reflecting on. In essence, what John is asking is:

Does the social media/Web 2.o mean that the education system isn't 'fit for purpose?' Or can we compromise the protect what we have?

The short answer is YES. And we will compromise but in my utopia we shouldn't.

The first thing to consider is what has Web 2.0 taught us about learning? Most importantly, it's taught us that humans are SOCIAL. We are social beings, we want to communicate, share and network with eachother. It this wasn't true facebook and twitter wouldn't have exploded or we wouldn't keep inventing new and better ways to communicate with eachother. So what does this have to do with learning and changes to our educational system? I guess this has to do with how important you think these things are to learning. For me, communicating, sharing and networking are a fundamental of it. What Web 2.0 does it give this 'social learning' a massive outlet. An outlet that grows and develops all the time. Why not utilise this? By the way, I've deliberately stayed away from talking about pedagogy here. Partly because I'm no expert on this and partly because I try to keep things non-academic on this blog.

So to put this issue simply, the education system isn't social enough and, by using the social media (amongst other things), we should make it more so. All this threatens is the didactic, transmissive model of teaching which for many IS teaching.

Other things Web 2.0 has taught us? There's the whole area of formal vs informal learning which I'm going to link here to the issue of why have a physical entity that is the school or university. These areas are both challenging the notion that you can compartmentalise learning. That you can give learning a elite status that can only be accessed through formal educational institutions when and where they deam to convey it. This is just rubbish. Learning happen all the time, or it can do if you believe and recognise this. Web 2.0 allows us to believe and recognise this. It's been called 'informal' learning which is useful when you want to distinguish it from 'formal' learning but really it's just learning. Of course, you can and do learn in the specialise learning environment, but there is an artificial exclusiveness about it which programmes us the wrong way.

The final area I'm going to raise is the issue of personal choice. Personal choice doesn't exist much in the learning journey through education at the moment. Well it can now! The main reason here is the access to information, access to others to learn from has exploded through Web 2.o - OER, OET, social networking, blogging, micro-blogging etc.

So what about the compromise. I said that we will compromise but shouldn't. Iit's probably better to say dilute instead of compromise. This is because currently any tool adopted gets diluted as we seek to fit it neatly into what we have. By diluting, we lose the essence. For example, sticking a blog tool in an LMS closes it in and thus loses it's social, open nature. This cuts it off from the blogosphere which is the lifeblood of any blog (in my view). So why the compromise? It's because education is run by the educational institutions for the educational institutions. New ideas and tools are fine as long as they don't threatens their existence. In these circumstances they will, of course, defend their patch. You have to think about it in terms of what's most important - if it's the educational institutions then you dilute anything new to fit in what you've got; if it's the learners or the learning there interests come first. The best learning experience is debatable but it would be an easier debate if you took out the inhibiting factors of the rights and interests of the educational institutions.

Interestingly, what links the 3 areas I raised above is CONTROL. Educational institutions will resist them because they cannot control them. In some ways, current education is about control.

Anyway, these are some thoughts on this question which you could probably write a book about. If you have any comments on this, I'd be interested to hear them because there are lots of angles you could come at it from.