I stand for educational choice and possibility. I am not referring to some programmatic use of the word choice (e.g. “school choice”). I simply mean the ability for students (of all ages) and families (of all forms) to have educational choices available to them. As I reflect upon my posts and research over the past year, this is a theme that returns. I have written about letter grades, the role of assessment, alternate schools, digital literacy, project-based learning, game-based learning, open learning, educational entrepreneurship, the challenges and opportunities in P-12 and higher education, online learning, changing roles of teachers, as well as a variety of reflections about life in the digital world. I often took a stand on each of these issues in 2012. Most of the time, however, my position was not an absolute one. It was an invitation (for me and others) to expand our concept of education in a way that welcomes and embraces many perspectives and approaches; to leave room for digital age learning environments and organizations that are diverse and distinctive. I do not support cookie-cutter one-size-fits all perspectives or policies, educational initiatives that are about power and preservation more than service and students, and efforts that demand dominance of the scalable and efficient at the expense of more intimate and messy learning. I want both, and then a third and fourth option as well.
This perspective drives much of my work and thinking. It is for this reason that a review of my work (in this blog and elsewhere) may sometimes seem contradictory. For example, you may witness me:
- embracing the power and potential of the MOOC while also championing the cause of the contemporary equivalent of the one-room schoolhouse;
- devoting research and effort into leveraging social media and then presenting on the need for digital detoxification and addressing information overload;
- championing for the importance of face-to-face learning while advocating for the potential, access and opportunity of emerging forms of online learning;
- teaching a course on blended learning and then giving a keynote on dis-integrating technology;
- advocating for the positive (and negative) contributions of for-profit educational efforts, private education, religious education, and public education (in various forms, including charter schools);
- teach about the significance of social learning while positing the importance of learning entirely alone;
- speaking openly about the affordances and limitations of self-directed as well as expert-directed learning;
- experimenting and expressing excitement about new and emerging educational technologies, while drawing attention to important concerns and critiques from our neo-luddite colleagues;
- promoting the potential of gamification and game-based learning while cautioning about the dangers and limitations of learning environments that are too focused upon extrinsic motivations and principles of behaviorism;
- advocating for the power of project-based learning as a tool for deep learning, while acknowledging the value of teaching that effectively builds a broad and cursory knowledge of a subject;
- lobbying for student choice and self-direction and then preaching about the necessity of accountability and the persistent importance of learning the “grammar” of a subject area;
- lamenting and seeking to discuss problems of grade inflation and low expectations while challenging the value of the current grading system, arguing for alternatives and a focus upon formative assessments;
- calling for educators to reconsider what is essential versus important or merely present, while pointing out the value of tradition;
- defending the value of the traditional liberal arts and then devoting hours to teaching and presenting on 21st century skills, interdisciplinary (even post-disciplinary) studies, digital literacies, and new literacies;
- speaking in favor of teaching disciplinary thinking, and then pointing out the limitations, transience and short history of disciplines;
- highlighting the importance of the teacher and then un-bundling the role of the teacher or pointing out the fact that “leaner” is the only non-negotiable when it comes to learning;
- engaging in a variety of open learning initiatives while working inside an international higher education system (referring broadly to higher education and not specific Universities) that is, by current design, largely closed.
Education is important, but learning is essential. Knowing the difference between the two allows me to explore a wider array of possibilities. It also biases me toward choice, possibility, innovation, exploration and experimentation as I consider education in the digital age. If this resonates with you, then I invite you to join me as I continue to blog about it into 2013.
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