Lengthy blueprint for reinventing higher education

A lengthy piece in EDUCAUSE Review has many of the same memes that have been floating around, but breaks the reinvention idea this time into two core concepts: collaborative learning and collaborative knowledge production.

Collaborative learning redefines the information presentation model from that of broadcast, or one-way transmission from transmitter to receiver, to that of many to many. As discussed in the article, it defines how the culture of education process flattens and shifts. Given proper access to intellectual resources, also known as a wireless connection to the internet, students can assist in the role of teaching. More often than not, there are students who pick up any given material quicker than the others. With the established pedagogy, there is no advantage to being a quicker learner; with collaborative learning, being the quicker learner means that other opportunities arise to take a more active role in the teaching process and practice leadership skills. The responsibility of the professor is to be a curator, or act as a master guide to the learning process.

Collaborative learning also implies learning through practical application of knowledge, as opposed to simply being a static vassal to be filled. Choice quote:

As Seymour Papert, one of the world’s foremost experts on how technology can provide new ways to learn, put it: “The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.” Students need to integrate new information with the information they already have — to “construct” new knowledge structures and meaning.

Collaborative knowledge production, however, articulates how the dynamics of the web can alter the traditional content production role of the university. Instead of an emphasis on scarcity, it would instead focus on abundance and universal access, and it describes how this might affect intellectual content from course material to academic research. To achieve this goal, however, you need effective tools for distributed collaboration:

What higher education desperately needs is a social network — a Facebook for faculty. But it shouldn’t be a standalone application; it should be integral to the Global Network for Higher Learning. One such project, part of the Portuguese education system, is creating an online community of teachers across the country. The system will use collaborative methods for creating, managing, sharing, and deploying curricula and for tracking the results via a sophisticated learning management system. There are many benefits, including much greater collaboration among teachers and a more consistent measurement of students’ progress.

The real world gives professors collaboration opportunities in their department and with whom they meet, but just think of the potential serendipities a people-indexer like Aardvark could produce.

Most importantly, however, is that all of these ideas are business opportunities, and innovations the efficiencies of the market will be able to capitalize upon a lot quicker than those invested in the ivory towers.

Thanks to Suzi Steffen for sharing this with me.

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