Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Education 2.0

Education is a very big issue. While we’re all busy talking about 2.0, America’s children are being taught like the computer has yet to be invented. If we think making change in the media/tech world is hard, try your hand at education. Trust me, I have a mother whose job it is to find ways to help schools connect with students the system’s disenfranchised.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of money in fixing schools, so smart people tend to use their brains for other causes. Luckily, there are a few brilliant people who do it anyway, like my mom and George Siemens.

In a recent entry about a roundtable discussion he had with museum professionals, Siemens discusses his response to the concerns of the group around their “desire to get people to use virtual museum resources.” Siemens writes:

I think this is the wrong question. People don’t want to visit your content. They want to pull your content into their sites, programs, or applications. This is a profound change, largely not understood by educators. We are still fixated on the notion of learning content, and we think we are making great concessions when we give learners control over content (and start to see them as co-creators). That misses the essence of the change: learners want control of their space. They want to create the ecology in which they function and learn. Today, it’s about pulling content from numerous sites and allowing the individual to repurpose it in the format they prefer (allowing them to create/recognize patterns). Much like the music industry had to learn that people don’t want to pay for a whole album when all they want is one song, content providers (education, museums, and libraries) need to see the end user doesn’t want the entire experience – they want only the pieces they want. We need to stop thinking that learners will come to us for learning content – our learning content should come to them in their environment.

What does this actually look like? Well, it means that our education platforms should be designed to allow for learners to pull our content into their space. We need to make content open and available to be accessed so that exploration and dialogue can happen on the learner’s blogs, wikis, or personal eportfolios. It’s not about us, it’s about them. The dialogue and learning will happen on their time, in their space, on their device. We must create the ecology that allows for maximum innovation, so that the greatest number of recombinations are possible.

Sound familiar? Of course it does, this is unbundling at its finest. Those same ideas we’ve been talking about to reform media can be used to fix the educational system. After all, it’s pretty much the same model. For years educators have broadcast their teachings to students who were expected to provide their full attention and unwavering belief. Then all of a sudden technology starts to fragment that attention when students start clicking around the internet and realize that following your own path is not a bad thing. Add in the fact that all of a sudden that institution at the center of every school, the library, is increasingly meaningless and you realize that schools are stuck in a world that’s passed them by.

So what can we do to help? Well, I think we can start by including them in the conversation. After all, if you really want to change the world, there’s no better way than starting when they’re young.

My question to everyone is what other 2.0 models could be applied to the educational system? Think about it.

March 15, 2006