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Will anyone remember a classroom in 10 years?

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First, ask yourself, “What is the purpose of an education system?” If your answer is, “To provide the structure for training people in subjects that align with their skills needs”, you’d be thinking in the pre-disruption way. You’d be thinking of people as products, fed information in a proscribed manner, in a structured setting and then tested to see what stuck. You’d see an assembly line of knowledge that weeds out defective parts. Who decides who’s in the classroom?

Consider reversing the paradigm and thinking of people as self-motivated seekers who are sponges for information. You’d suddenly see education as something fundamentally different and just as quickly, you’d go about the process of teaching and learning in a completely different way. You’d realize the best students aren’t consumers of structured learning, but are instead those who have the motivation to find and assimilate the right information at the right time.

You’d redefine what a good student really is. You’d redefine a classroom, courses and testing. Heck, you might redefine how the world operates and who ends up on top. Are you ready for that?

We’re arriving

E-learning, online learning, CBT’s, whatever you choose to call it, are rapidly disrupting education in a highly connected world. In today’s TechCrunch article Online Education is Replacing Physical Colleges At A Crazy Pace, Gregory Ferenstein gives examples that show just how quickly things are changing. Ferenstein mentions Khan Academy founder Sal Khan’s ‘futuristic’ predictions just two years ago that are coming true today, faster than anyone expected.

Khan has been called the Ben Franklin of our time for his views on education that discard the old model and think of learning in new ways. What remains to be seen is how well the rest of the world adapts to something that revolutionizes things many hold dear (including jobs).

Are you ready for that? The answer may depend on whether you personally had access to the best classrooms that gave you access to the best jobs. If that’s not you, you’re likely to embrace this change wholeheartedly. As California’s university system and others change the definition of where and when people can leaern, opportunities for a much larger swath of the world’s population, regardless of location and influence, rise considerably. This ushers in a whole new meritocracy that won’t be welcomed by everyone.

On the job, too

And it changes the workplace, too. Seth Godin wrote recently about skeuomorphs, “…a design element from an old thing, added to a new one.” Why should training at our work follow the paradigms of college education with structured, in-person classes and proscribed and tested material? The same type of changes that are happening in education need to happen to workplace training. Rather than choosing people for training based on role, what if everyone in the company could learn about its products and how they’re sold and serviced based on their own motivation? What if anyone showing the ‘gumption’ can become as knowledgeable as any other, regardless of what they’re assigned to now? Suddenly, we control our own value and destiny. Soon, who would want to work for a company that doesn’t offer and value this?

Are we ready for these changes? I hope so.

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