“The Death of Education, The Dawn of Learning”

I’m not usually one to give out spoilers, but that is a quote by Stephen Hepell at the end of this video:

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Dan Brown (no, not THAT one) makes the same argument in a more controversial and tongue-in-cheek sort of way:

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Education, as an institution, is in decline. People are no longer reliant on institutions as the dispensers of knowledge. With access to the internet, the cost of knowledge is now essentially $0.00! Because of that, it has never been a better time to be a learner. Interested in mathematics? Take some courses from MIT. Want to find out how to use photoshop? YouTube has you covered.

Knowledge, of course, is only one aspect of learning. As Punya Mishra said in his keynote at #21clhk, “Go to Google for knowledge. Come to me for wisdom.” It is through connecting, collaborating, constructing and conversating that we find wisdom. This is where the transformative powers of technology really come in to play. We, as learners, now have the ability to connect, collaborate, converse and construct meaning with groups of people around interested in the same topics. (This COETAIL cohort is a great example of this!)

From a practical teaching point of view, getting involved in collaborative projects, whether global or just around the corner, requires a different level of preparedness. Teachers must be willing to be flexible, both in terms of time in the classroom with students (to deal with inevitable technical difficulties) and in terms of course pacing and objectives. I’ve talked with teacher who have balked at the idea of global projects because the are ‘messy’. I’m not sure how to change the minds of those teachers other than to point out that life is messy. Things rarely, if ever, work out perfectly and there is a certain amount of negotiation has to take place “in the real world.” But aren’t these the types of lessons that we want to guide our students through? Aren’t these the skills that will best serve our students in the future? Isn’t this the learning that we want to see and be a part of?


  • March 13, 2012 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Whilst most technology + education videos paint a sunny picture of the future, both of these videos have strayed towards the dark side as they eagerly foretell the death of education.

    But I’m not sure that education will go so willingly or as quickly as people might hope. Whilst I have several reasons why, let’s take an equally dark approach and focus on power.

    Education especially in the USA has become a means to deny social mobility and to retain power and wealth amongst those who currently hold it. Although knowledge may be liberated in that anyone can access it, it is also being increasingly controlled, in that knowledge and skills are worth more depending on the source that validates them. For example a student with a degree from Harvard, Stanford or Brown will be granted better opportunities, jobs, and wages than a student with an identical set of knowledge and skills from Nyack College, Bellevue University or Great Basin College. How do you get a degree from Harvard, Stanford or Brown? You pay large amounts of money for it. Not just for college tuition but also for the tuition of the private prep schools that give you the best chance of attending one of these universities as well as paying for all the extra-curricular activities that are needed to round out your college application.

    Technology may change learning but until we change the manner within which society validates learning then education will still thrive. Just think of your own reaction to the Dan Brown video. Dan appears to be a motivated, intelligent young go-getter that you would like to employ or introduce to your daughter; that is until the end of the video when he declares that he has dropped out of college. Now he suddenly seems bitter and crazy. Not that this is your fault or even true but rather this is how society has taught us to validate, and measure the worth of an individual’s education and thus their worth.

  • May 6, 2012 - 3:28 pm | Permalink


    Right on. The messiness of collaboration is where the wisdom will grow. Education is as much about the social interaction of people working together as it is about obtaining knowledge. Dewey and Vygosky pointed this out long. Their ideas about collaborative communities seem to be making a resurgence in the digital age.

    Your link to Punya Mishra surprised me. I had him for a course called Learning Technology Through Design during my masters degree work through Michigan State. By far the most inspiring professor and course in the program.

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