Learning revolution or evolution?

I loved watching Sir Ken Robinson’s Bring on the learning revolution TED talk today, and it’s exciting to see the attention it’s been getting. Anyone who knows me (in an educational context) knows that I am passionate about learner-centred education. Equipping and facilitating learners with the skills to define and direct our own learning goals – rather than having them defined for us and locked up in the Learning Management Systems of educational institutions –  is of fundamental importance for education (which is why I’m  spending lots of my spare time working on some life-based learning tools).

One of Ken’s main points is that “reform is of no use any more… because that’s simply improving a broken model… what we need in education is not evolution, but a revolution.” At first I thought it’s just a choice of words that motivate people more – revolutions are exciting instant changes, where as the evolution of a system is slow and boring – as I know lots of educators within institutions that share Ken’s point of view.

But then I remembered how I struggled while working in such a context – how frustrated I became while trying to bring together the needs of a group of self-paced individuals learning in a social setting with requirements of a linear assessment framework. I think I only survived the four-and-a-half years that I worked as a learning facilitator because my manager allowed me to break various rules.

The talk ends with the challenge that we need to move from an industrial model of education (linearity, conformity) to something more organic (another loaded word – but in this context just meaning that we’re enabled to grow in different directions as we flourish in our learning environment).

I think it sounds less like a revolution and more like a grass-roots movement… but either way, it’s something that I’m personally excited about and hope to be involved in in the future. Does it excite you?

BTW: Other interesting TED talks that I’ve watched lately:

7 comments to Learning revolution or evolution?

  • Lorna Nelson

    Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to be able to speak for 16 minutes in such an interesting (and amusing) way? He really gets his points across effectively, and obviously you were trying to use this philosophy while you were teaching too. I certainly hope such a revolution can take place, but knowing how ponderous institutions are it may take quite a long time.

    Loved the bit about the fireman and also the 3 year old’s resume.

  • Pat Mesthos

    Thank you for sharing this on Twitter. My son is trying to choose a path at 23, and I want to support him, but I worry. This TED Talk was a comfort. I sent it on to him.

  • Well mate, it is something that gets me going too. Lately I’ve been reading more and more of Illich. Basically everything KR says here, is said more sharply by Illich. Some notes on my blog, but two key readings I think. Deschooling Society 1971, and Tools for Conviviality 1973. I’ve been reading and blogging about more obscure work of his lately though.

  • Hey Leigh! Yeah, I’ve been reading your posts – but hadn’t delved into Illich yet. You’ve been reading him for a long time now right? (From memory you said that when your mum studied education it was standard reading, but you could only find a copy in a bin when you were studying?)

    I’ll have to make time to look at Deschooling Society soon!

  • @mum (Lorna) Yeah, we laughed about the fireman bit too… and the pre-school interview – stories/jokes like that are great for getting a point across.

    @Pat I hope your son is able to discover his own talents, passions and work with them in a fulfilling way :)

  • Can’t help but wonder what form that revolution is going to take in the VET world. While the registered training organisations have a lock on handing out certification there’s not a lot that can be done in the trades (it’s unlikely that employers will risk their businesses by employing non-accredited workers in areas that have legal requirements), but I see lots of scope for recognition of prior learning – which doesn’t really feel very revolutionary at all.

    • Hi Peter. Yeah, I don’t think he’s envisaging a revolution in certification – as you said, recognition of prior learning (or current competence) is nothing revolutionary (now).

      AIUI, in a VET context it would be the idea that our “courses” or educational institutions could change to support different learning paths to the same certification. That is, some learners could follow the same linear path paved by someone else, while others could work in groups with similar interests on projects, gradually building up their portfolio and identifying themselves what is remaining for them to demonstrate the required skills. Do you agree or disagree? I think we both have pushed that type of learning in the past, but as I said above, I was only able to do so because I had a *very* supportive manager… not sure what your experience was/is?

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