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MOOCS & The Future of Education

I found the following TED Talk fascinating because it deals with one of the most important topics in the world: education. How do we, that is, prepare an emerging generation to face the challenges that lie ahead, noting that the challenges we know about – global warming, scarce resources, overpopulation – are gargantuan and that there are tons more we can’t even imagine.

But it’s not just the emerging generation. How do we educate ourselves? How do we keep learning in an economy where people are likely to change trades – not just particular jobs but trades and professions – six or seven times in a lifetime?

Anant Agarwal is a professor of computer science at MIT. And I found particularly striking his observation that although so much has changed in our world – from the means of capturing and sharing information to various ways of interacting with each other and the world – the way we teach is relatively unchanged. (Sounds a little like the way we do church, as well! But that’s probably better for another post. ☺)

And while I don’t think MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are necessarily the final or only answer, I do think they offer us the opportunity to experiment with a number of elements including distributing our learning across great numbers of people and geographical distances, putting more of the responsibility for learning on the learner, and creativing collaborative learning environments.

The world is changing…and so must our teaching. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing of value in the ways we have educated our young and each other. There is much to be gained from the tradition. But it does mean that we ought to seek out new possibilities for teaching, experiment with new methods, be willing to hold traditional methods up to critical scrutiny, and find together a new way forward. (Again, sounds like church!)

The world is changing…and so must our teaching. Let me know what you think.

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