This past week I attended a technology conference in Niagara Falls Canada. During the three days that I attended, there were a number of things that I observed that I think are pertinent to a discussion of virtual education.
There were three main and familiar groups represented: Google, Microsoft and the Social Media camps. One of the observations that I arrived at was that we still can not overcome the idea of promoting the consumer complex when it comes to education. In all the sessions, including the keynote sessions, the theme was the same. You must get and use this app or that app. There were elaborate presentations using a multitude of online tools but the underlying message was the same:"Be good consumers and we will do everything else for you."
In my opinion, this is a death sentence for the advancement of the present generation and the next . For once, it would be nice for a conference to have the theme that in this conference we are going to have you collaborate to create new knowledge. You will need to consider present barriers that exist to advancing our societies and cultures and develop a prototype solution. In working together, you will need to set up times so that you may draw in the voices of expertise from other areas of the planet.
At the end, your collaborative group will share and defend the vision that this effort is based on.
Young people who are digital natives to the online world need something to aspire to. Being consumed in the social media environment may satisfy an internal need to belong but it is time that the will never get back. It is time that they could devote to exciting explorations into the creation of new ideas and new knowledge that will help build a viable future; a future of amazing possibilities.
Teachers in online education need to be innovators of new techniques of teaching and true mentors on which students can pose exciting ideas. Teachers need to dissect and dispose of the industrial model of education. In one of my sessions which was hosted by a University of Toronto professor, he postulated that the industrial model of education will never disappear. He then proceeded to use a PowerPoint presentation and gave us a Socratic lecture all the while complaining about the faults of the technology he was using. Ironically, the title of his lecture was :"Surviving the Coming Online Education Age..." What is wrong with this picture? Is this typical of post secondary teaching? If so is it any wonder that many students in the lecture hall are on Facebook and Twitter??
The advancing technology is making possible things that we have never dreamed about in the past. However, in order to benefit from these advances we need to be part of the new knowledge and skills exploration and production. We need to use our imagination and inspire others to explore this new frontier and to break the addiction that makes others a profit but does not inspire others to use new skills.