“The Classroom is Not a Place…”

shifting-conversations-logoThis week I bring you news from “My Best Teachers Who I’ve Never Met Department,” one that’s filled with dozens if not hundreds of faculty members who I’ve connected with over the past 15 years online. One from fairly early on in my learning about social media and learning, Mark Pesce, popped back up on my radar on Thursday, and I’m really glad that he did.

Mark is an educator/thinker/futurist from outside of Melbourne whose blog I started reading back in 2006, and he’s one of those people that every now and then either makes my brain melt or serves to reaffirm my own ongoing synthesis of the modern learning world. One of his posts in particular, Fluid Learning from 2008, articulated a growing sense that I had of the world, and I still remember reading the words “connection is king” and feeling like something just solidified in my brain.

Anyway, it has been a couple of years since I’d run across Mark’s work. Like so many, he left blogging for a while, changed his domain, and I just lost track of him. But this week I ran across a half-hour video keynote that he did recently for the Methodist Ladies College, the same school we’ve been highlighting here at EML for the past couple of weeks. I’ve embedded it below, and I’d urge you to watch it as it hits on a bevy of important themes including the maker community, learning theory a la Piaget and Papert, cultural learning, and the gender inequity in the field of programming and technology. But the biggest theme, of course is learning in general. He’s another in the growing chorus of voices who is convinced that we have to rethink what an “education” looks and feels like.

While there is much to think about in his presentation, I want to pull out two lines from his presentation that I’ve been returning to over and over since I saw it:

“The classroom is not a place; it’s an attitude. Almost anything we want to learn is now in our power to master.”

So that’s a not so small shift to think about, huh? And while I know there are things that we should want and need to learn in a classroom, there’s no escaping the fact that increasingly, we learn on our own, on demand, with or without other mentors and experts who are not in our physical space lives. And this, by the way, is a really good thing.

Mark focuses on an interesting equation for modern learning, though he doesn’t specifically call it that. First, it’s a belief (which I share) that we “learn by doing,” the constructivist mantra that Piaget and Dewey and others preached across the 20th Century. Add that philosophy to what he calls “hypermimesis,” the idea that we learn by copying one another and that now we can do that on a global scale. Combine those two things and you have deep, powerful learning that requires not a physical space but a disposition, and I would add a literacy, to learn.

Most of us do some form of this regularly on YouTube. We look to copy those who have recorded and shared instructions on everything from how to change the power window motor on a car to making amazing bouillabaisse. When we follow their instructions, we’re learning by doing…we’re constructing. We have a passion to learn something, the access to learn it, and, hopefully, the ability to discern the best resources and people to help us achieve our goal. No classroom required.

Again, I’m not saying that we don’t want classrooms to help us learn certain things. But we have to admit, we don’t need classrooms any longer to learn the vast majority of what’s currently taught in the traditional curriculum. Most of what our students learn in their lives they will be learning without us. The question that should be concerning us more than any other is are they ready to take advantage of all of the resources available to them now that the classroom has exploded into a globally networked space. That’s going to require a different attitude toward learning.

Here’s the video. Enjoy!

Will Richardson

Co-founder of Modernlearners.com and Change School. Author, speaker, instigator, surfcaster, husband, and father to two amazing young adults.

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