10 things to unlearn

A nice piece from Will Richardson on 10 Things educators need to unlearn. There’s a bit of rhetoric about it, and sure it hides a wealth of complications, but if I worked in a strategy unit of a university or major corporation, I’d be asking myself ‘what would education look like if we tried to address these 10 issues?’ If we take just one of these e.g. "We need to unlearn the practice that teaches all students at the same pace. Is it any wonder why so many of our students love to play online games where they move forward at their own pace?" then that would have significant implications for how we structure education – it might lead to more e-learning for one, with user determined pacing, subscription models of content, changes in assessment practice, changes in the academic year (a semester doesn’t make much sense in a self-paced world), as well as possible negatives such as difficulties in establishing groupwork, loss of identity with the immediate cohort (although a wider one could be established), etc.

I think it is the wider ramifications of these changes that makes educational practice so resistant to change. I was discussing personalisation with someone the other day, and when we began to unpick it there were drastic changes required to how academics operate, what students do, how universities are funded, and so on. Within 10 minutes we felt the need to create a whole new educational structure, and that’s a bit much, so rather like naughty children who had unwrapped a Christmas present early, we packaged it back up as best we could and thought ‘best leave it alone.’

So while you might agree with a lot of Will’s 10 items (and I do), the tricky part is then translating them in to small, practical steps. This delivering is often undervalued in higher education (I know, I’ve made a career out of almost delivering). Steve Jobs, back when he was leading the Mac development team and before he became a professional messiah, used to have a mantra ‘real artists ship.’ Perhaps we should adopt that in education: ‘Real educators deliver’ (this would then be followed by a 100 page treatise on what constituted ‘real’, ‘educators’ and ‘deliver’).

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