What’s It All About, Peter?

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,

More accessible,

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.

7 thoughts on “What’s It All About, Peter?

  1. For me, the thread that runs through this writing is “experiential”! And it makes sense; after all, hasn’t it been said that “we are the sum of our experiences”?… Then, “I will not die an unlived life” brings to the fore the fear that most have that we have not lived to the max, that we could have done so much more, that time has short changed us somehow. How much of it all should satisfy us as we enter eternity?

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  2. Your blog reminds me of a 2016 article that I recently read about the Madison County School District experimenting with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and it got me thinking about the potential implications as it relates to the digital age of higher education. Higher education must think outside their traditional box of “if you build it, they will come.” Learners are no longer attracted to the institutional silos but rather a more holistic opportunity that now includes open resources, learning that is personally applicable, and learning that is mobile (and I’m not referring to online learning).

    BYOD is becoming a consumer expectation in the classroom just as Twitter, Netflix and iTunes has mastered content delivery. Educause listed BYOD as one of the top 10 IT issues of 2015 and called it the “new normal.” That is certainly supported by a Pew Research Study that indicates in the U.S. that 89% of the population use the internet and 72% own a smartphone.

    I’m not advocating for BYOD. I’m suggesting that we take notice of where our learners are. The next time you go out to eat or to the mall, look around – – people are on their devices and are connected to each other, to information, and to content at the speed-of-now. We need to provide the seamless, tap-of-a-button access to learning!

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  3. Your blog reminds me of a 2016 article that I recently read about the Madison County School District experimenting with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and it got me thinking about the potential implications as it relates to the digital age of higher education. Higher education must think outside their traditional box of “if you build it, they will come.” Learners are no longer attracted to the institutional silos but rather a more holistic opportunity that now includes open resources, learning that is personally applicable, and learning that is mobile (and I’m not referring to online learning).

    BYOD is becoming a consumer expectation in the classroom. In fact, Educause listed BYOD as one of the top 10 IT issues of 2015 and called it the “new normal.” That is certainly supported by a Pew Research Study that indicates in the U.S. that 89% of the population use the internet and 72% own a smartphone.

    I’m not advocating for BYOD. I’m suggesting that we take notice of where our learners are. The next time you go out to eat or to the mall, look around – – people are on their devices and are connected to each other, to information, and to content at the speed-of-now. We need to provide the seamless, tap-of-a-button access to learning!

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  4. Things have certainly changed in terms of the technology available to teach and think in new and different ways. I however continue to be concerned about a number of things. The following from a great thinker E.O Wilson illustrates one of my concerns —

    We have Stone Age emotions,
    medieval institutions,
    and godlike technology.
    It’s a very dangerous mix.”
    E.O. Wilson

    It would seem that what Peter is thinking about addresses institution situation but I am worried about how we deal with the Stone Age emotions. As I watch my grandchildren grow up in a rural environment full of opportunities to learn from nature, but spend more time with the technology I am concerned. I think a great deal of work needs doing so we make the technology ours and technology doesn’t take us. We have only to look at what TV has done.

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