At what point do educators have a responsibility to face the radically changing employment patterns facing our students? And how can we re-think university to complement, not compete with, their informal learning? To my opinion, the discourse surrounding formal learning is becoming further detached from the lessons I see when learning happens outside formal boundaries. The grades that students recieve for their university projects matter little compared to the comments found on their blogs, or the feedback they recieve during interships. Learning which is ‘open’ — outward-facing, highly collaborative, co-created and purpose-driven — offers the promise of addressing the two biggest challenges facing educators: – development in how we work;
– development in how we learn;
– development in how we work.
We are at a point at which our labor market has more freelancers than full-time employees. The growing automation of knowledge work means that, globally, we lose around 2 billion jobs by 2030. Also, rheir will be some new jobs created, but they’re going to be of the low-paid, temporary, variety. Today’s university students are facing what has been termed as a ‘high skills – low income’ future. The recent rapid growth in ‘knowledge process outsourcing’ may transform the economies of developing countries but at the same time causing ‘the end of jobs’ in the west. The breaking up of salaried jobs into bid-for tasks is an rapidly growing approach.
development in how we learn
The learning which is taking place socially is also purposeful: we have more control over our lives now, and we learn so that we can collectively take action. This is often driven by values and humanitarian concern. Because educators neglected this kind of learning they have not seen the true revolution that it represents. And stil it is a difficult paradigm for many educators, developers and management.
back to basics?
You would expect a forward-focused discussion on the challenges of the labor market or the opportunities presented by informal learning. What I have seen from politicians and policy-makers tends to be a nostalgic desire to return to the certainty of the so called ‘basics’. Such traditional approach leans on the PISA performance of countries favoring traditional pedagogies.
While this somehow irrelevant argument takes place, the motivation between the learning that our students have to do, and the learning that they choose to do, grows wider. Meanwhile, the implementation of standardized testing and high-stakes accountability leaves an unsuspected side effects: increasing student and staff disengagement. The loss of autonomy and trust in the teaching profession is feeding this idea.
If we want to re-engage learners, re-professionalize teachers, and re-think how we prepare students for a globally competitive working life, we need to follow the learners. In following them we have to develop more open learning systems.