Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Drive Behind Advances in Learning Technologies

I just returned from the Learning Technologies Conference in London. Amid dozens of vendor booths, I found myself wandering the exhibit floor halls asking this question: What's driving the advancement of learning technologies? Is it technology itself or the needs of learners?

What I enjoy most about the LTC is that the conference keynote speakers and presenters often ask the attendees to consider why we are doing what we are doing and how is it impacting pedagical and andragogical practices. For example, Nicholas Negroponte from One Laptop Per Child shared his research about children receiving tablets without any instruction in remote parts of the world. Within weeks, these children were singing the ABC's sans facilitation by a teacher or preacher. The children also discovered how to hack into the system within 2 months. His keynote reinforced the human nature and desire to learn, explore, and investigate unprompted by an authoritarian figure.

Gerd Leonhard shared his futurist examination of technology and how it is shaping and driving our capacity to interact with each other and information in ways that the Matrix asserted. We are downloading apps and data to have ready at our fingertips for immediate command and execution in carrying out our primary roles and responsibilities at work or play. We are realizing a world where technological innovation is only confined by the limits of our own imagination. What we can dream we can now manifest at least virtually if not in real time and space.

Tony Buzan who brought us the mind map reminded us that we come into this world innately curious. We are scientist, poets and artists. All we need do is watch an infant explore a sheet of paper to reconnect with this fundamental nature of being human. The infant will examine through all senses what a sheet of paper can do: does it make noise or music, can I use it to communicate, does it provide shelter, can I eat it?

Sadly, up until the last 15 years, we have been hobbling along though with outdated pedagogical and andragogical approaches, stemming from the industrial age.  I humbly submit, we have been funneling youth and workers through prescribed content like widgets on the assembly line for too long. We have designed curriculum with content in mind over context.

Thankfully, we are now entering this age of connectivism supported by technology because the human spirit is predisposed to seek, find, and explore; to hypothesize, synthesize, and analyze concepts; to share, connect and collaborate - all without imposed limitations. Witness the increase in home school programs for youth and online programs for adults; all self-directed learning.

We are stepping into an era that is going to turn our educational systems upside-down and our authoritarian management principles inside-out. Think about it:   Today we have 100,000's of apps being tapped by children in Ethiopia to executives on Wall Street. Academic institutions and professional organizations are inundating the World Wide Web with enough content for any person with an internet connection to get an ivy league education in their home, at a library or coffee shop for the mere cost to acquire broadband connection. We are moving into an era shaped by our natural born instinct to learn and thrive --- to be scientists, poets and artists -- without the confines of school fences or corporate firewalls.

Learning technologies, pedagogy and andragogy are inexplicably intertwined at this point. One is feeding the other; there is no division or separation.  It is a fluid dynamic. And it is all stemming from the best source: the human spirit's desire to learn, adapt and thrive!

No comments:

Post a Comment