The future of learning is here


The good people of MIT have done it again with an impressive new report called “The future of learning”. With minds on the front edge of theory, application, and innovation, they’ve shown leadership in harnessing and shaping the emerging trends between technology, media, and learning.

Thanks to funding from the MacArthur Foundation, The MIT Press has published a series on digital media and learning (with open access electronic versions), which they describe this way:

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning examines the effect of digital media tools on how people learn, network, communicate, and play, and how growing up with these tools may affect peoples sense of self, how they express themselves, and their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systematically.

In their report, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg investigate how technology and the internet are transforming shared and interactive learning. They suggest the following 10 principles as “fundamental to the future of learning institutions”.

1. Self Learning
Self-learning has bloomed; discovering online possibilities is a skill now developed from early childhood through advanced adult life.

2. Horizontal Structures
Given the range and volume of information available and the ubiquity of access to information sources and resources, learning strategy shifts from a focus on information as such to judgment concerning reliable information, from memorizing information to how to find reliable sources. In short, from learning that to learning how, from content to process.

3. From Presumed Authority to Collective Credibility
Learning is shifting from issues of authoritativeness to issues of credibility. A major part of the future of learning is in developing methods, often communal, for distinguishing good knowledge sources from those that are questionable . . . We find ourselves increasingly being moved to interdisciplinary and collaborative knowledge-creating and learning environments in order to address objects of analysis and research problems that are multidimensional and complex, and the resolution of which cannot be fashioned by any single discipline.

4. A De-Centered Pedagogy
In secondary schools and higher education, many administrators and individual teachers have been moved to limit use of collectively and collaboratively crafted knowledge sources, most notably Wikipedia, for course assignments or to issue quite stringent guidelines for their consultation and reference.26 This is a catastrophically anti-intellectual reaction to a knowledge-making, global phenomenon of epic proportions.

Instead, leaders at learning institutions need to adopt a more inductive, collective pedagogy that takes advantage of our era.

5. Networked Learning
The power of ten working interactively will almost invariably outstrip the of one looking to beat out the other nine.

6. Open Source Education
Networked learning is predicated on and deeply interwoven into the fabric of open source culture. Open source culture seeks to share openly and freely in the creation of culture, in its production processes, and in its product, its content. It looks to have its processes and products improved through the contributions of others by being made freely available to all.

If individualized learning is largely tethered to a social regime of copyright-protected intellectual property and privatized ownership, networked learning is committed in the end to an open source and open content social regime. Individualized learning tends overwhelmingly to be hierarchical: one learns from the teacher or expert, on the basis overwhelmingly of copyright-protected publications bearing the current status of knowledge. Networked learning is at least peer-to-peer and more robustly many-to-many.

7. Learning as Connectivity and Interactivity
The connectivities and interactivities made possible by digitally enabled social networking in its best outcomes produce learning ensembles in which the members both support and sustain, elicit from and expand on each other’s learning inputs, contributions, and products. Challenges are not simply individually faced frustrations, Promethean mountains to climb alone, but mutually shared, to be redefined, solved, resolved, or worked around—together.

8. Lifelong Learning
It has become obvious that from the point of view of participatory learning there is no finality. Learning is lifelong.

9. Learning Institutions as Mobilizing Networks
Network culture and associated learning practices and arrangements suggest that we think of institutions, especially those promoting learning, as mobilizing networks. The networks enable a mobilizing that stresses flexibility, interactivity, and outcome.

10. Flexible Scalability and Simulation
Networked learning both facilitates and must remain open to various scales of learning possibility, from the small and local to the widest and most far-reaching constituencies capable of productively contributing to a domain, subject matter, knowledge formation and creation. New technologies allow for small groups whose members are at physical distance to each other to learn collaboratively together and from each other; but they also enable larger, more anonymous yet equally productive interactions.

What do you think about the future of learning? Is there a business model in the future of learning and will it sustain itself?

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Great post – principle 9 reminds me one of the gaps learning institutions must address, and that’s the creation of networks *across* graduating classes.

    Learning institutions might currently do a decent job of providing a (physical) venue for creating networks amongst your peers, but they do a poor job of fostering networks from one year’s students to the next, missing out on opportunities for networking and mentoring.

  • Hey Haig,

    Coming to MTL for a visit? Hope you are well. Are you sick of Sushi yet? Caught your site through Stephen Johnston’s profile on numubu. Still at it.


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