Friday, January 28, 2011

Learning and eLearning

My expert opinion: learning is funky. No one seems to understand it. As Sly Stone says, "One child grows up to be somebody that just loves to learn/And another child grows up to be/ Somebody you'd just love to burn. "And when you're all grown up, learning and the willingness to change, grow, be wrong...becomes funkier.

For a very long time, I've made claims that technology and its "just in time" and personalized learning affordance has created a love of learning that we've never seen before, learning we understand even less. eLearning: obsessive, compulsive, all-the-time learning that creates passionate communities and keeps you up half the night clicking and commenting; changing, growing, adapting...learning. I've seen it in the work of my students and in my own life and work.

Elder faculty poo-poo it (technical term) and tell me that "it can't reproduce the magic of the classroom." I quietly mutter that there was seldom magic there for me (but oh you Google!) and attempt to show them the evidence.

I use scholarly evidence that eLearning is "just as good" (see No Significant Difference). It quiets them down, but never made enough sense to me. If researchers are finding no significant difference, they're measuring wrong. There IS a difference, and it's ownership, engagement, collaboration, being heard. I know that. I feel it. I see it in my students. I just don't know how to measure it.

But we see it all the time, and others are beginning to describe it. Chris Anderson of TED describes it in relation to internet-taught shifts and crowd accelerated innovation. New ideas are spreading and changing and transforming in rapidly adapted new memes via the Web. People are spreading ideas by finding like-minded explorers and exchanging links, creating content, inventing on top of what came before. Young people are learning new ways of being in the world by learning from each other via the Web. Young people are changing disciplinary practice by , tossing out what has been and demonstrating what could be.

The world of finance changed thanks to two young women who (separately) believed in microfinance and created (Jessica Jackley) and the Acumen Fund (Jacqueline Novagratz). Their new way of thinking CHANGED the lives of millions and changed my belief that there was little I could do.

The world of dance CHANGED due to young, untrained dancers learning moves from each other via YouTube videos. No one who's ever watched Lil Demon or the YouTube trained and promoted dancers of LXD doubts this regardless of measure. Crowd-accelerated access to evidence, crowd-supported desire to learn, the crowd shining light on your passion. Via the Internet.

Now, the dark and sad secret of my own passion: I am in a field that still rejects the open light that drives crowd accelerated innovation and love of deep learning. Education lags behind open source, open learning, open access. More and more young people love learning, hate school. But eLearning can change that. We can change that.

eLearning peeps: keep fighting that good fight. Let's keep posting the clips, showing the evidence. Let's find better ways to measure besides citing the numbers that are deserting the F2F experience for online programs. Let's continue to create and spread innovative practice. And let's keep posting great evidence like Chris Anderson's TED talk on crowd accelerated innovation.

Still working with scholarly types who like text better? Ask them to subscribe to Wired Magazine and read about these ideas. Or...tell them to read about crowd learning and innovation in Wired's story on the Web!

We're the teacher and the student and the crowd: plug in, teach, learn, transform the world. eLearning rocks!