User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Visions of Education Futures Floating Around in My Head

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Walk into a classroom in any part of the United States, even the world, and you most likely will scratch your head in disbelief asking yourself questions such as:

  • Why do the classrooms look pretty much like the ones in which I, my parents, and my grandparents learned?
  • Many students (of all ages) own computers in the form of their cell phones that are more powerful than all of the computer power of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon. Why aren’t they using them for learning?
  • Why are the kids still categorized and sorted by date of manufacture (birthdates)?
  • Why are the students using paper-based textbooks that are older than the students, themselves, and provide no options to check for information accuracy or to extend their learning based on areas of interest?
  • Why is there one person standing in front of the room doing all of the talking with students sitting passively at uncomfortable desks when we know that active, social, and experiential learning promotes interest, engagement, and deep learning?

Slowly, ever so slowly, 21st century technologies, networking, and daily living practices are inching their way into our public school institutions. It may, to the chagrin of many of us, be at a glacier’s pace, but there is hope for the future of education. Technology will free us to ask questions that have never been posed, to envision beauty never before unveiled in the mind’s eye. To achieve this, though, we’ll need to educate people very differently (Robot-Proof: How Colleges Can Keep People Relevant in the Workplace). This generation has never known a life without technology and are constantly inventing new ways to use it for education, communication, innovation, recreation, and creation. Their visions for how people should learn will permeate the current systems of education and they will hopefully be the change agents bringing in a new era of education. They are growing up in a world full of connection, networking, and innovation and will demand that their educations reflect that connectedness, inventiveness, and orientation towards the future.  “By creating millions of networked people, info-capitalism has created a new agent of change in history: the educated and connected human being (PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future).  There needs to be a different type of learning experience to prepare students for the future. The potential for the future of education is limitless. A vision for this future given technological and crowdsourced inspired advances include the following:

Information is abundant and education will become more evenly distributed. Our world is now marked by information abundance, surplus, and access. Learners are consuming real time and constant information, media, and news via Google, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and forms of social media via their mobile devices. Due to the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices and increased bandwidth, quality education will be accessible to everyone regardless of geographical location and socio-economic status. The futures of education will include learners being given the skills and agency to access this information and use it to inform their learning. The human mind plus our current technologies will far exceed the sum of these individual parts potentially for everyone throughout the globe.

Social based and networked learning will become the norm and an expectation by both educators and learners within all types of educational venues – formal, online, face-to-face, and job training. The borders such as those between grade levels, communities, ethnicities, states, countries that, in the past, way too often created artificial demarcations in educational opportunities will diminish and eventually disappear as globalization reinforces and rewards learners’ collaboration and interdependence with one another.

The emerging pedagogy of this century isn’t carefully planned. Rather, it’s developed fluidly. Our traversals across networks are our pathways to learning, and as the network expands, so does our learning. We share our experiences, and create new (social) knowledge as a result. We must center on the ability of individuals to navigate this space and make connections on their own, discovering how their unique knowledge and talents can be contextualized to solve new problems ( ).

We have technologies to access any type of information and to create products that match the pictures and voices in our minds. We will use technology to get the assistance and feedback from folks around the globe for own personalized learning.

The technologies associated with customized avatars, haptic sensors, and online language translators will evolve enabling us to hold Holographic Meetings. This will allow learners from all over the world to meet virtually face-to-face and network in real time where they can see and hear one another as if they were in the same space. Learners will come together for real time communications, brainstorming, problem solving, and collaborative learning.  Learners of all ages from all geographical locations will meet via these holographic meetings to discuss areas of personal and academic interest, ideas for creative pursuits, and entrepreneur-related initiatives.

Textbooks and lectures of the past will be replaced by augmented and virtual reality simulations. 3D, 4D and even 5D will create many opportunities for learners. Informational texts in the future will not just show 2D pictures and plain text. It will be built to display 3D images, videos, and simulations.

Project Based Learning and DIY (do it yourself) will replace drill and kill instruction. Today’s education too often focuses on thinking about things rather than actually engaging in hands-on and experiential learning. Learners will embrace the DIY movement, making and creating as much or more than consuming. Humans have an innate need to create, innovate, dream  . . .  to do rather than just to be. The learners will be the voices and drivers of their own self-tailored, real world, and authentic projects. Their educations will be interdisciplinary as is life. Skills such as reading, writing, math, and other related disciplines will be learned within the context of real life projects.

Learners along with their connected networks will create their own mash-up of learning materials – print, online, video, and others forms of media. These educational resources will be gathered, curated, and disseminated freely and openly through a sharing economy. Educators and learners as well as policy makers and businesses will embrace this sharing economy as they realize how much a sharing economy can benefit current and future learners.

On the local level, learners will find their way to Neighborhood Learning Centers. These neighborhood learning centers will combine the best of coffee shops, libraries, technology centers, and makerspaces. The sites, sounds, smells, and interactivity that attract people to these places will replace the dry, often lifeless classroom environments filled with uncomfortable desks, only one person taking at a time, passive learning, and lack of real life learning opportunities. Educators would be the facilitators in these spaces acting as mentors, coaches, guides on the side especially for the kids and young people who come there.

In other words, these meeting and learning spaces will be learning labs. Learning labs are innovative spaces that prepare learners to meet the challenges of a complex global economy and gain the skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing world, while allowing them to follow their passions and to inspire one another. Learning labs enable people to build the skills and knowledge to pursue a personal interest or passion in an environment that provides support from friends and caring adults, and can link this learning and interest to academic or career success or to civic engagement (The Spread and Evolution of Learning Labs).  The learning centers and labs will drive technological and human advancements rather than being environments characterized by late adoption as is typical of today’s school systems. They will act as think tanks, be the hubs for visionaries and trendsetters, and be the leading edge of innovation that will influence all other institutions.

Interest and passion-based learning groups will form within these learning communities and labs. These groups will emerge as members interests emerge. They will be fluid as membership changes and members’ interests grow, evolve, and change. Because there will be a number of neighborhood learning centers in every community, each center will have its own unique voice, personality, and passion-based groups. This not only will give learners choices within a given neighborhood learning center but additional choices within other neighborhood centers.

The groups will be mixed ages and genders where members act both as learners and as teachers. There will be situational teaching and learning.  This means that if someone has the knowledge or skills related to a certain area of learning, then that member will emerge as the teacher regardless of age.  Contributions by all not only will make everyone feel valued, the community as a whole will benefit.

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude, and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts.

John Dewey, Education Philosopher in Early 20th Century

Professionals will go to these learning labs to locate and recruit learners to come to their organizations for short and longer apprenticeships. Learning in apprenticeship is not just about learning to do (active learning), but also requires an understanding of the contexts in which the learning will be applied. In addition there is a social and cultural element to the learning, understanding and embedding the accepted practices, customs and values of experts in the field (Models for teaching by doing (labs, apprenticeship, etc.). The organizations will benefit by having the fresh perspectives of the apprentices who received their training and educations at the learning centers. The apprentices will benefit through gaining experience in the real world of work, and the learning centers will benefit as the apprentices bring back their experiences to the centers creating a full and fresh cycle of learning.

Learners will be asked to publish apps, articles, videos, or games; or develop a new invention or some form of new technology in order to graduate. New technologies are emerging at rate never seen before in the history of humankind. Each day brings new ways in which media, news, entertainment, photos, videos, games, apps, and augmented and virtual reality are being conceptualized, produced, and disseminated. Graduation requirements from High School and College will be based on learners adding something of value to their fields of interests and thus, to the world. Educational institutions, including the learning centers discussed earlier, will create ecosystems that support all kinds of student entrepreneurship and reinforce the values of inventiveness and innovation. Knowledge and skills will be demonstrated through portfolios and public demonstrations of completed projects. It’ll be a micro-credentialed and competency based education so employers and interested others will know the knowledge and skill sets of potential employees. This will include service to others.

Globalization creates an increased awareness and fuller picture of world issues which often leads to increased empathy. Today’s kids are growing up witnessing social activism via social networks, crowdsourced fundraising for those in need with initiatives like DonorsChoose and Indiegogo, and resourceful students doing projects to serve the underserved such as creating prosthetic arms with 3D printers and turning plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The result will be a world where Altruism and Service will become the norm addressing the need for humans to create safety, opportunity, and prosperity (intellectual, emotional, social) for all. We will err towards humanitarianism as global stewardship will permeate all aspects of education. Writing, inventing, creating media, and entrepreneurship for change will drive educational endeavors supporting the belief that all humans want to live a life based on, “I want to do things that will change people’s lives.” Problems will always exist in the world, but the collective whole of the human race, given the advancements specified in this article, will actively and proactively seek their amelioration.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 5, 2016 at 11:22 pm

2 Responses

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  1. You had me at “Why are the kids still categorized and sorted by date of manufacture (birthdates)?” I envision an education system where children participate in classes that are appropriate for their own learning level instead of their own age. And I am often frustrated by the age of some of the books we have use. I am in the middle of teaching a required STEM unit in which one of the books we had to read aloud to the class was written in 1987. It is no longer relevant, not to mention a giant yawn fest. I would very much like to see some changes. I guess we really do have to be the change we want to see.


    February 6, 2016 at 3:36 am

  2. Love this.

    On Friday, February 5, 2016, User Generated Education wrote:

    > Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. posted: “Walk into a classroom in any part of the > United States, even the world, and you most likely will scratch your head > in disbelief asking yourself questions such as: Why do the classrooms look > pretty much like the ones in which I, my parents, and my grandp” >

    Kari Smith

    February 6, 2016 at 4:25 pm

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