So sue me if sometimes I get too smitten with those who write compellingly and with vision about what all of this connective learning stuff means for the long term, but I love to read stuff that makes my head shift and hurt at the same time. Case in point is this post by Mark Pesce titled “Fluid Learning” which I read first last week and have reread a few time since. I know it’s not free of holes, but I have to admit that the picture he paints of higher education in the near future resonates with a lot of my own thinking, and it’s got me ruminating even more deeply on what all of this means for my 9 and 11 year old in terms of what their education is preparing them for.

Start with this:

The computer – or, most specifically, the global Internet connected to it – is ultimately disruptive, not just to the classroom learning experience, but to the entire rationale of the classroom, the school, the institution of learning.

That will at least give you a sense of where he’s going with this, and I’ll give you the briefest of synopsis with the hope you’ll read the whole thing.

He starts with the story of RateMyProfessors.com and the influence it’s having on decision making by students and universities in terms of the courses they take and the people they hire respectively. During a PLP session last night where we were talking about this, Robin Ellis chimed in that her son had relied heavily on the site throughout his college career, and I’m sure others would attest to that as well. (I pinged a few of my former students on Facebook and they all were avid users.) While this wasn’t the original intent of the guys who created the site

…knowledge, once pooled, takes on a life of its own, and finds itself in places where it has uses that its makers never intended.

But what I’m really chewing on is the idea that we can do much of what higher ed offers on our own these days. That, I think, has huge implications for my kids and for the way we prepare students for their learning futures. Pesce asks

Students can share their ratings online – why wouldn’t they also share their educational goals? Once they’ve pooled their goals, what keeps them from recruiting their own instructor, booking their own classroom, indeed, just doing it all themselves?…Why not create a new kind of “Open University”, a website that offers nothing but the kinds of scheduling and coordination tools students might need to organize their own courses?

And, to really push that thought:

In this near future world, students are the administrators.

Whether or not my kids decide to go to college, the question for me right now is shouldn’t my school system be preparing them equally as well for a world where traditional college is not the only route to academic success? Shouldn’t my kids get some concept of how to gather their own information, find their own teachers, develop their own collaborative classrooms and write their own curricula? I mean at the very least, shouldn’t we let kids know that is an option these days?

And as the role of students changes, so to does the role of teachers and classrooms. Teachers are mentors and facilitators (not a new idea, I know) and classrooms can be anywhere.

The classroom in this fungible future of student administrators and evolved lecturers is any place where learning happens. If it can happen entirely online, that will be the classroom.

Pesce ends with four recommendations. First, “Capture Everything”:

This should now be standard operating procedure for education at all levels, for all subject areas. It simply makes no sense to waste my words – literally, pouring them away – when with very little infrastructure an audio recording can be made, and, with just a bit more infrastructure, a video recording can be made.

Second, “Share Everything”:

The center of this argument is simple, though subtle: the more something is shared, the more valuable it becomes.

Third, “Open Everything” not just using open source, but creating “device interdependence” and in taking down the filters:

Education happens everywhere, not just with your nose down in a book, or stuck into a computer screen. There are many screens today, and while the laptop screen may be the most familiar to educators, the mobile handset has a screen which is, in many ways, more vital…Filtering, while providing a stopgap, only leaves students painfully aware of how disconnected the classroom is from the real world. Filtering makes the classroom less flexible and less responsive. Filtering is lazy.

And fourth, “Only Connect”, connecting students to their teachers and their peers:

Mentorship has exploded out of the classroom and, through connectivity, entered everyday life. Students should also be able to freely connect with educational administration; a fruitful relationship will keep students actively engaged in the mechanics of their education… Students can instruct one another, can mentor one another, can teach one another. All of this happens already in every classroom; it’s long past time to provide the tools to accelerate this natural and effective form of education.

I know this last is a huge challenge for teachers and schools, but the reality is that we can connect to our teachers any time we like these days, and there are always teachers available. It’s just another way in which the traditional classroom is looking less and less like the real world.

Read the whole thing and, if you like, come back here and push the conversation in terms of K-12. I’ll write more about this later, but I am approaching the breaking point in terms of what my kids are getting at school. I’ve got to figure out a better way…