“Discuss the ways in which learning must change in the 21st Century and the ways in which it must continue to build upon solid theory and models. Elaborate on ways in which Khan Academy or Peer Instruction are either accomplishing those goals or falling short.”
I’m not sure there’s anything significant to say about how education must change in the 21st Century. If we’ve learned anything from the past 200+ years or so of history in America, education usually only changes as much as is absolutely necessary to stay in operation and, occasionally, pay lip service to significant changes in the world.
If this sounds unduly pessimistic, it could be. I’m not known for my ready reserves of optimism. But look objectively about what is different for a student in a typical higher education classroom of today versus on from, say, 1912? Then consider changes that are actually changes in educational practices (not the accoutrement that surrounds them), or in pedagogy that effects that practice. What do you see? I see some changes in the perceived importance of memorization and a radically incomplete acceptance of discussion–discourse really–as a valuable aspect of practice. Everything else is–as far as general practices go–just abstract philosophical talk.
So, as I see it, there’s very little about education that must change, whether in response to technological change or advances in pedagogical theory and models. There are, however, many ways learning could or should change.
Education could involve taking a stand against technological determinism, tackling how we can choose not to cede our human agency to the seemingly inexorable sway of machines and information. Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget could be a required part of the curriculum.
Learners could routinely participate in their education in open learning environments that are part of the “real world” involving very real stakes and obligations, whether through the presence of an audience or integration with real world organizations and research.
The promise of constructivism could be realized with the use of technology (though it could have been realized with technology no more complicated than paper and pencil) that can make the synthetic processes that much easier.
The rich possibilities of connectivist and rhizomatic learning theories could be taken seriously as a means to explore all three of the previous areas.
Khan Academy is a fine, but inert, resource. It’s only particularly interesting to those who have ignored the last decade or more of open education and sharing efforts…or those whose vision of educational innovation is so stunted that they see a simple assemblage of content as some kind of teaching and learning process. It strikes me as equivalent to stacking a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas on the chair where a teacher once sat and dancing around it in some kind of deluded celebration of our genius.
What does Khan Academy achieve in the area of the constructivist classroom? How does it encourage participation and collaboration? What about Connectivist theory? Of course it does none of these things. Nor should it. But it’s about as innovative as a stack of DVDs and about as useful on its own as those same DVDs without a DVD player.
Peer Instruction, on the other hand, goes much further toward being something more than a static learning resource, because it focuses on assisting in the practice of teaching using a conversational, constructivist model in a way that supports the educators who are actually doing the work. It is a simple, but powerful looking model that lends itself not just to use, but to general replication.
It’s hard to fault Peer Instruction for not having everything that educators need to bring to the table w/r/t new and emerging pedagogies, but it’s unfortunate (or insufficient) that concept tests remain at the level of simple questions for discussion. Were they accompanied by examples of bridging those discussions into further generative activities that address, for instance, each dimension of the Information Fluency triad, the tests (or such supporting material), would be exponentially more powerful. This is less a fault than a possible future direction…and one that must involve remembering how individualized such extended activities are, making examples and models more useful than instructions.