What does a future of flipped classrooms and blended learning look like? I don’t know, but that is the point: we have to adapt to a world of more continuous evolution where success is not guaranteed. This struck home two days ago following a Twitter conversation; thanks to Josie Holford, Head of School at Poughkeepsie Day School, an outstanding coed K-12 day school in the mid-Hudson Valley.
Josie: Any teacher who can be replaced by Khan Academy should be.
Grant: Teachers and Khan Academy are not mutually exclusive but must be mutually inclusive. Leverage strengths, mitigate weaknesses=Art of War
Josie: Sounds good, but have no idea what that looks like in theory or practice. Maybe need to start with a definition of learning?
Grant: No one can define it today; that is why we must engage innovation: creating value with tools of our inevitable future. No magic.
Josie: Are you saying we cannot define what it means to learn? Are you sure? Is this confusion between learning and teaching?
First, thanks to Josie for engaging such a provocative thread. Protagonists are the wellsprings of informative discourse. This Twitter-constrained conversation frames the heart of perhaps the key disruptive innovation in education. It is not about Khan Academy; it is about the fundamental relationship between students, teachers, and knowledge that has existed, relatively undisturbed, for millennia. Increasingly universal access to knowledge disrupts that relationship.
The process of learning is not what we have defaulted to in the past. I don’t mean the actual process of cognitively absorbing information; I mean the process by which we engage students to truly, deeply learn. Up until a very few years ago, the primary (sometimes ONLY) mechanism to create a truly engaging, wonderful, transformational learning environment, one full of “ah-hah” moments when a student turns on to the value and pathways of knowledge, was to place a passionate teacher together with an inspirable student. Great teachers inspired their students to push themselves in ways we all applaud; weak teachers did not.
We now have a set of tools that open an entirely new universe of options to HELP create those conditions of learning. We maximize the utility of each tool in our belt to create a new overall learning construct which uses the strengths of each: the efficiency of Khan-type online sources; the personal passion of a human teacher engaged with a student each day; real-time conversations with student and teacher-learners on the other side of the world; digital tool boxes that allow learners to create knowledge as well as consume it; and more. As I have posted before, we are witnessing the birth of what I have termed the cognitasphere, a vastly more fluid, permeable, connected construct in which the creation and management of knowledge takes place. I am working with others on fleshing out what this may look like in detail; we hope to have a book draft done later this year.
So many great educators are starting to mine this vein. All over the world educators are meeting in person and in cyberspace, and one of the key points of apparent agreement is that whatever this learning construct looks like, it must be highly evolutionary and self-adaptive. The rate of change in the world continues to increase; there is no plateau in site. What we define today will not be a solution, but a self-adapting paradigm of evolving solutions, which is why I named this blog The Learning Pond, a place of constant motion and interconnectivity.