In the fast moving world of technology, what is cutting edge knowledge today could be obsolete by tomorrow. Now, more than ever before, it is important for us to keep upgrading ourselves with new information as and when it becomes available in any particular area. Institutions have started taking the new developments into account and that is why the focus of pedagogy is now changing from cramming knowledge into the mind of the student to enabling the student to learn the art of learning.
When asked, most students would automatically cite a desire to learn as the primary reason for getting into school or college. Teachers assume that because they are teaching the students must be learning. The students assume that because they have memorised a few facts, they are full of knowledge. But today learning is not supposed to begin from time of formal education and end when one gets out of college. It is not about memorising a few facts or ideas. It is a lifelong process. Along with little bit of formal education, a school or college is also supposed to inculcate the desire to keep learning new ideas.
Lifelong learning is important. During the course of your life you may need to learn a new skill or language to advance your career. Such picking up of new knowledge can be difficult, if you have not already developed the habit of learning by yourself early in life. You have to migrate from the ‘taught’ mindset to the ‘learning how to learn’ mindset.
For self-learning to occur, you not only need repeated exposure to the information, you also need some time in between for reflection. Most importantly, you must have a genuine interest in the subject. You don’t do self-learning for sake of mere passing of examinations, you do it for personal or professional reasons. When you are perusing your professional career, a welter of information will flow past you on a daily basis, you have to keep track of your learning goals. You may have to use technological tools to shift through the information flow and discover what is essential for your needs.
The disruptive changes that technology can bring to our lives are all around us to observe. Facebook today boasts of more than one billion users worldwide. Micro-blogging has exploded on the cyber-space and statistics suggest that there are more than 50 million tweets everyday. Then there are millions of users who are hosting their own blogs, websites and playing online video games. All this is leading to a proliferation of information, which in turn leads to seminal changes in the way we work and live.
Digitally interconnected world
While in school or college, students have to become independent learners. At the time when they pass out of college and report for their first job, they have to be capable of thinking for themselves, acting decisively and learning new ways of doing things. But the environment in which learning is being conducted remains the same: a building, divided into classrooms and linked by corridors. Classrooms consist of tables and chairs, usually arranged so that children face a teacher and an interactive whiteboard – the technological equivalent of the old blackboard.
In the traditional world, a college degree or a diploma was usually regarded as a signal to stop learning. In the Internet world everyone must always keep learning. Knowledge doubles every six months. Careers can shift overnight and industries may collapse readily. New businesses may arise unexpectedly and provide hereto unimagined avenues of personal and professional growth. We have to learn, and learn faster than we ever have before, in order to stay ahead in this interconnected world of constantly evolving technology.
A system for personalised learning will not grow from inside formal education. Education is like a field that’s been over-planted with only small patches of fertile soil. Too many stakeholders (parents, unions, administration, faculty, etc.) compete to promote various ideas about how to change, acting like weeds or plagues that choke off plant growth. The fresh and fertile soil of the open Web can foster the quick growth of a personalised learning system. Then, like a good fertilizer, it can be used to replenish the soil of formal education and help us to reach that “Holy Grail” of education: personalised learning for all.
Growth through learning
Many students, especially those new to college, do not have a clear understanding of what it takes to be successful in the college environment. They fail to remember that the choices that they make while in college will affect the course of their life. They are unable to make the right choices because the focus of modern education has shifted from learning to grades. A good grade in college may get you a job initially, but your overall success in life will depend on your ability to observe the environment around you for better understanding and master new skills and ideas that are necessary for your growth.