It’s around this time of year when people all over North America are graduating from school and starting their new lives. If I were to offer one piece of advice it would come straight from this post about learning in networks.
We are still about control, not sharing. We are still about distribution, not aggregation. We are still about closed content rather than open. We are static, not fluid. The idea that each of our students can play a relevant, meaningful, important role in the context of these networks is still so foreign to the people who run schools. And yet, more and more, they are creating their own networks, sharing, aggregating, evolving to the disdain of the traditional model of schooling that is becoming more and more irrelevant.
The biggest problem is how few of our educators still cannot relate to this description. They are neither networks unto themselves or nodes of a larger system, and they understand little about what it means to be either in a world that is more globally interconnected. And our students are not only left without models of what it means to be networked, they also get relatively little content that is contextualized through the network. So network literacy, the functions of working in a distributed, collaborative environment…is an important aspect of learning and education that precious few of our students get a chance to practice. And it is only by practicing these skills, whether teachers or students, that they can truly be learned.
My advice would go something like this: forget everything school has taught you about what it means to learn. From now on you will grow and learn and acquire new skills and knowledge from the most unlikely places. Don’t look at the people at the front of the room for the answers, look at the four people sitting around you and engage them in a deep conversation. The answer lies there. Or if not the answer, the next question, and it is finding the next question that is going to keep you going for the next 70 years.
And never forget those four people. You will see them again. This is because contrary to what school tells you about questions and answers, the truth is that the world is an oracle waiting to be consulted. You must take time to frame the good questions and then pose them to the world and then you must wait to see what result you have made with those questions.
And for those of you who are starting to think about sending your kids to school, I have two pieces of advice. First, if you can help it, don’t. Unschool them instead. Second, if you can’t do that, ban homework from your house and give your kids opportunities to use that free time to learn in networks, pursuing whatever interests them in what ever way they can and don’t, I repeat, DON’T mark them on it. That is the literacy – channelling their passions into finding the teachers that can bring richness and purpose to their lives with no one worried about performance measures or how good they are. They will need this skill set and they aren’t going to get it anywhere else.