This blog series, A New Universe of Learning: Personalized Learning in the Digital Age, is about the future of lifelong learning. It describes the coming of a time when, for the first time, the consequences of personal, experiential, and formal learning, powered by digitalization, will be harnessed to provide a collective impact for adult learners that is far greater than what any of them have historically produced alone. In the new universe, all people will have access to the resources and support to personalize their learning; organizing, recognizing, and supporting their learning needs, and creating a new universe of opportunity in the process as well.
If the sweep of this vision seems grand, it is because the undiscovered and untapped potential that lies before us is as unprecedented as it is extraordinary. It is as different from the higher education systems that we grew up with as the itinerant preachers of the Middle Ages were to early American universities. We will focus on the impact of this radically new ecosystem for the organization, support, and understanding of learning; one unimaginable even twenty years ago; one whose outlines are only just beginning to emerge from the fog of disruption and change.
This writing will:
- Move beyond place-based definitions of education and learning to focus on harnessing the value of all learning – personal, experiential, informal and formal – and employing it in service to the learner, clarifying her needs and aspirations at any given point in time.
- Challenge the false dichotomies that have rhetorically separated the liberal arts from career-oriented learning, asserting that, in a competency-based learning world, you can, for example, learn critical thinking and problem-solving while becoming a nurse’s aide.
- Describe a world in which superb content will be neither print-based nor expensive. It will be virtual, ubiquitous, and in many cases free and adaptable, and
- Look around the corner and try to answer my adaptation of Wayne Gretzky’s famous comment to “skate to where the puck will be”. My question: “Where will the puck be in 5-7 years, and beyond?” And who is skating to that place?
My experience, professional, experiential, and personal, has taught me that the heart and soul of the American Promise can be found in the hope that is generated by the promise of opportunity for each and all. The American proposition holds that, if opportunity were a table, it does not have limited seats. You do not have to outwit, outwait, or push someone away in order to get a seat at the table of opportunity.
The American promise is far greater, more ambitious, and more revolutionary than that. We assert that everyone has a seat at the table of opportunity. And education lies at the heart of this promise. Education, drawn from the Latin “ex ducare”, “to lead from or beyond” is about far more than knowledge and capacity. It is an orientation towards life and living. In John Dewey’s words, “the university is not an education, life is an education.” And now we have the opportunity to see life as the laboratory for learning. We have much more work to do as a country to achieve the promise of opportunity. And, the new universe of learning can move us towards this goal, if we understand its potential and organize its revolutionary potential for the common good.
More than 15 years ago, I came upon a remarkable poem by Dawna Markova, “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life.” This writing is part of my continued personal and professional attempt to stay true to her words and to the revolution of hope and opportunity that lifelong, personalized and postsecondary education represents to all people. Hear her words and their meaning.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
Of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing,
A torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which came to me as a seed
Goes to the next as a blossom
And that which came to me as a blossom,
Goes on as fruit.
My goal is a seat for each and all at the Table of Opportunity through personalized learning in the digital age where learning of all kinds, done by all people is personal, consequential, ongoing, and valued. So, each of you has a seat at this table. Please share your thoughts and let’s get the conversation started.