Reflections on the Future of Education

I recently presented a keynote address at the Missouri Online Distance Learning Assocation (MoDLA) annual conference in St. Louis on the role of online education in educational reform. The process of preparing to present was actually what spurred me to agree to do it in the first place. Keynotes are not my favorite thing to do 🙂 But in this case, I was really interested in the opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture – I’m usually so immersed in my everyday teaching and research activities. What I concluded was that we are on the verge of real change – it’s absolutely unavoidable given the  evolutionary trajectory of technological advancements creating more rapid innovations in learning, and the increasing involvement of the private sector in public education along with their ability to respond quickly to market demand. Whether it occurs as a complete implosion of our traditional educational systems or a swift transition to new models of teaching and learning is anybody’s guess.

Fast forward a week or two and now I am heavily immersed in 3D Game Lab Summer Camp. One of my assignments is to reflect on an interview with Jim Gee back in 2008…

Jim Gee also draws a similar conclusion is his interview with Edutopia (2008) on the role of gaming in educational reform – he refers to the crisis of global competition in spurring innovation and a paradigm shift in how we think about education. Chances are good that the shift will come first in higher education where student choice has a more resounding impact on the economics of higher ed institutions. Jim denotes the same barriers in our educational system that most reformers do, although not necessarily responsible for preventing a paradigm shift, as much as creating the opportunities for one – deprofessionalization of teachers, schools as test prep academies, etc.. And don’t forget, we are still arguing whether or not technology should even be in the classroom in 2012!

What gaming does is take advantage of children’s natural ability to learn (see Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall Experiments), recognize mastery and competency-based levels of advancement, acknowledge kids as producers and co-creators, provide language on demand, promote problem solving, and encourage participation in communities with high standards. I would say that these characteristics parallel those of all effective online learning environments and further argue, it’s not a far stretch to anticipate a convergence of gaming elements into mainstream education regardless of modality. Jim Gee predicted a paradigm shift in 2008. It’s clearly evident we have the tools. The only thing stopping us, is us. And it’s time already!!

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