The Future of Education Doesn’t Get Announced. It Just Happens.

“The future of education is now here!” If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that, well… I would probably have more money than every company that made that declaration.

It seems that the best way to kill an educational innovation is to proclaim that it is the next big thing. Before it actually becomes the next big thing, that is. Web 2.0 was a big deal before most realized it. But then everything that was declared Web 3.0 fizzled out, followed by the term Web 3.0 itself.

With the announcement today that Harvard and MIT are creating edX, many are proclaiming the future of education is here. To me, the names behind an idea and the money they put into it are irrelevant. Are they going to do something that actually uses good learning design, or are they going to just give away the same old “multiple choice test, online video lecture, write a paper” approach that has been used forever?

Passive learning is just passive learning, no matter how free, open, or massive it is.

I don’t care how many people you get in your free class. If all they do is pick the right answer on a multiple choice test – so what? I can train a monkey to do that.

We really need to ask ourselves: “is this good for the future of education?”

The work of Jim Groom, Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, and many others of their type are good for education, not because they are doing open education (which is important, but not for the point being made here), but because they are using educational designs that are engaging and beneficial to the learner. They are using community-based designs that encourage out-of-the-box thinking (for both students and instructors). They are avoiding rote memorization. They are creating classes where students actually have to pay attention to the syllabus to know what is going on (how many online classes could actually just skip having a syllabus because they are so cookie-cutter?). They are making students participate in the actual creation of the course assignments. All kinds of crazy things that you don’t see in most things labeled as “the next big thing in education.”

Or then again, maybe I just have a problem with the name “edX.” Did someone ever bother telling them that creating brands with the “x” signifier got way over-used about 10 years ago… and never recovered? Guess not…

I hope that Harvard and MIT come up with something great here. I really do. But the honest truth is,  when I hear Jim Groom talking about innovation as a communal act, I get really excited about the future of education. When I hear Harvard and MIT talk about edX, I just shrug a bit and say “hope they don’t mess it up.”

The Future of Education Doesn’t Get Announced. It Just Happens.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Education Doesn’t Get Announced. It Just Happens.

  1. Just have a thought about Web3.0….. Today I just heard someone said there will be no Web 3.0 – why? Because there may not have “web” for the next “big” time :).

  2. Matt Crosslin

    That’s true – a lot of people predict that “mobile-only” technologies like Instagram will not have a real web site. They still store the photos on a web site, but someday we might see the web used more as a storage place, while the end user is interacting with apps on a mobile device.

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