The World is Open

In The World Is Open, educational technologist Curtis Bonk explores ten key trends that together make up the “WE-ALL-LEARN” framework for understanding the potential of technology’s impact on learning in the 21st century:

  • 1. Web Searching in the World of e-Books
  • 2. E-Learning and Blended Learning
  • 3. Availability of Open Source and Free Software
  • 4. Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
  • 5. Learning Object Repositories and Portals
  • 6. Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
  • 7. Electronic Collaboration
  • 8. Alternate Reality Learning
  • 9. Real-Time Mobility and Portability
  • 10. Networks of Personalized Learning

In addition, this book contains a link to a .pdf copy of the book that is in fact different then the hard copy, as Bonk recognizes that the world whilst becoming increasingly open, is definately not on a level playing field economically. The companion website and supplementary .pdf is available to everyone for free at http://worldisopen.com/.

Bonk states,

“Learning is no longer the boring activity you sat through begrudgingly for a dozen or so years and thankfully left at age 18 or 22. In the 21st century, learning is the essence of being human. If current trends continue, this century will be known as the learning century.”

Bonk’s main idea is that almost everyone now has the ability to learn what they want, when they want, from who they want. He includes many resources and anecdotes that are useful and interesting. He predicts that as we experience huge disruptive societal shifts, learning will become more important than stock market reports, the weather, sports, or the daily news. Those who know how to learn will be the ones who succeed while those who do not, will fall by the wayside.

This book has definately challenged my thinking when it comes to seeing the global inequity to quality education and resources. Whilst I believe that technology will be the great enabler, we are not at that stage yet.

Will we see the digital divide in fact widen before ubiquitous access closes the gap? Something to think about…

Brain Rules

Just finished reading Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina. Medina is a molecular biologist and shares an informative and humerous account of brain science and how it might influence the way we teach and the way we learn. While I definately don’t agree with everything Medina says, and while some of what he shares almost seems to be just common sense, his 12 Brain Rules is definately some food for thought – especially for educators wishing to improve the learning experiences of their students.

In each chapter, he describes a Brain Rule – what scientists know for sure about how our brains work – and then offers transformational ideas for our daily lives.

Watch the 45 minute introduction to the book at http://www.brainrules.net/dvd. The film really compliments the book well.

His 12 Brain Rules to live by are:

Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power

Rule #2: The human brain has evolved

Rule #3: Every Brain is wired differently

Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things

Rule #5: Repeat to remember

Rule #6: Remember to repeat

Rule #7: Sleep well, think well

Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way

Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses

Rule #11: Male and female brains are different

Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers

Also check out Garr Reynolds presentation on the book, Brain Rules. Garr is a leading authority on presentation design and delivery.

Brain Rules for Presenters

View more presentations from garr

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology written by Allan Collins & Richard Halverson, offers some insights from a balanced point of view, is succinct and easy to follow, and is one that I believe all administrators and educators in positions of responsibility should read. It could and should form the basis for discussion about educational change in schools, (in particular, required changes in pedagogy), and would aid in the construction of school vision, strategic and annual implementation plans.

Halverson and Collins call for a rethink about what is important to learn in a world with ubiquitous access. With the explosion of the availability in information and indeed the amount of available information, students now more than ever, need to learn about how to learn, rather than acquiring more information through passive conduits. The rate of information and technological development is increasing exponentially and if you believe Cisco Systems Inc. futurist Dave Evan, in five years we’ll be creating the equivalent of 92 million Libraries of Congress worth of data a year . No one can now know all there is to know – it is an impossible task.

Halverson and Collins share a a series of questions that they argue act as a framework and should encompass the types of thinking and action required for adaptive thinking in an information-rich world.

1)From what viewpoint are we seeing, reading or hearing this?

2)How do we know what we know? What’s the evidence, and how reliable is it?

3)How are things, people or events connected? What is the cause and effect? How do they fit?

4)What if…? Could things be otherwise? What are or were the alternatives?

5)So what? Why does it matter? What does it all mean? Who cares?


I was lucky enough to be able to participate in an interview with the authors of this book on Tuesday, February the 16th at 12pm AEST. The interview was facilitated by Will Richardson and was held using Elluminate with over 100 participants actively engaged in discussion via the backchannel and having the ability to ask the authors questions directly. Listen to the recording here.

With the explosion in information, the proliferation of web technologies and the emergence of new forms of teaching and learning, what role will school play in the future? Historically, school was identified as the place of learning – increasingly this is no longer the case.

Disrupting Class

Just finished reading Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the… by Clayton M. Christensen. It is an interesting read about school and educational reform that clearly highlights the problems that we now face. The message in a nut-shell is that we need to move to a more customized, personalized education system that may look nothing like the 19th and 20th century industrial model that we currently possess. Christensen argues that the heart of the problem lies in standardization – the polar opposite of personalization. (As I was finishing this book it was interesting to see current media coverage about the possible NAPLAN boycott in 2010.)

A more personalized educational system will require a fundamental, architectural shift that will involve combining subjects, reordering who does what and even having flexible school hours.

He states, “If we acknowledge that all children learn differently, then the way schooling is currently arranged – in a monolithic batch mode system where all students are taught the same things on the same day in the same way – won’t ever allow us to educate children in customised ways. We need a modular system.”

I agree. Open content or modular learning will free the teacher from being a major developer of resources (reinventing the wheel – teacher centred) to devoting more time to being a supporter of the learning. (learner-centred) This is the type of learning that we need more of. Gone are the days where the teacher can stand up the front and lecture to students who are content to be passive recipients of information. Technology will be the great enabler and while access to technology is increasing in schools, “…schools use computers as a tool and a topic, not as a primary instructional mechanism that helps students learn in ways that are customized to their type of intelligence.” We need to make the shift but it will require disruptive innovation.

Christensen shares – “At every crossway on the road that leads to the future each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”

I’m often asked how the the inspiration I find through my reading plays out in my day to day work with kids. What has changed? What do you do?

Its interesting to reflect on the transformations within my own classes….

I now very rarely lecture to students and only spend a very small percentage of classtime at the front of the room. I take time to listen to all students and actively encourage discussion and exploration around current and real-world events and developments. Students are inquisitive by nature and yet all to often in education teachers squash this because they say they don’t have time, use the crowded curriculum as an excuse, or sometimes because the teachers themselves don’t know the answer to the question that is posed. The most powerful thing a teacher can do is to become a learner. Be part of the process. Encourage the deep questions and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know all the answers. But follow this up with “That’s a great question which I don’t really have an answer to. Lets hypothesize and then find an answer together.”

If you came into my class you would find students all around the room – they may be up at the whiteboard trying to work out a problem or even showing one of their peers how to solve a particular question. You would find students working in small study groups, using appropriate technologies depending on the circumstance and genuinely engaged because they are learning. There is a lot of inquiry-driven learning that is taking place and sometimes it goes off on a tangent that may be outside the scope of the curriculum. That is a good thing. It is personalized in the sense that students are at different stages in their learning.

To teach this way you have to have a feeling of what it is that interests, challenges and engages students. Talk to them. Find out their likes and dislikes. Take risks and challenge the old assumptions. If I had to offer words of advice in a world of increasingly ubiquitous access to technology it would be “See the opportunities rather than the obstacles.”