We’ve been talking throughout the semester in the Core II class in the ITP program about the idea of “School 2.0” (which I’ve also explored as “the University of the Future“). It wasn’t really an intended theme of the course, but we do seem to keep coming back to it.
And at a meeting recently I heard someone say “you could take a professor from the 19th Century, and drop him into one of our classrooms, and aside from some of the technology, he would be completely familiar with everything that was going on there. It would all look just the same as what he was used to.” This was said somewhat approvingly, as a measure of how we’re doing things right. But I don’t think it’s right. It’s probably not even true, but if it is, it’s not a good thing at all.
Over the weeks I’ve been thinking more and more that we’re missing opportunities if we’re not keeping up with what happens in terms of learning outside of that same-old, same-old sphere. It’s probably always been true that just as much (or more) learning goes on outside of classrooms as inside, but we’re entering an era where there can actually be recognition and formal acknowledgment of that, and if we in higher ed want to cling to our exclusive role as credentialers of learning, we’re going to lose the race and be rendered irrelevant.
Knowing how to ask becomes a more important skill, a more useful credential, than a score on an exam or a grade in a course, in a world of open access to educational resources. Something like whuffie, or the respect of a group of peers who know your work in a digital environment, becomes a real transcript or references. An eportfolio (made up of small pieces loosely joined) is more effective and more persuasive than a CV.
And none of these credentials are going to be judged exclusively by what the university thinks of them. Our role has to be to guide and support, to be a resource.
This is why I think that to some extent Mark Taylor misses the point in this morning’s New York Times. He’s totally right that we need a restructure, that the old disciplinary boundaries and holding to tenure when it prevents innovation need to go. He’s completely correct that students need to work on different sorts of projects than dissertations that won’t be published (or even read).
But there is a School 2.0 coming, and it doesn’t take place in school at all. It takes place in blogs and discussion forums, on wikipedia and twitter and digg and instructables. In order to have relevance to students who do most of their learning outside of school, we need to be outside of school ourselves. We need to be teaching and learning where teaching and learning is going on.
That does put us at risk–our authority, our own credentials, are no longer unquestioned or unquestionable, and we lose a certain amount of prestige. But we stand to gain, in learning for ourselves and making our teaching more effective and powerful (and collaborative!), much more than we lose.