Do you go to the football field to learn music? Or to the art gallery to learn fencing? Or to a library to learn oratory? You don’t. However, irrespective of whether you are studying history, economics, physics, languages or architecture, you go to that one singular invention – the classroom.
In the age of networks, this notion of a classroom perhaps needs a serious rethink.
What should a modern day learning environment look like? Should it extend the notion of the classroom (and the class) in the belief that this notion is capable of handling the new digital and social learning environment? Or should it be disrupted by something entirely new?
Extensions of the notion of classroom have been notable. The Flipped Classroom has caught the imagination of the world as a way to use digital technology to invert/optimize the use of learning events/activities inside and outside class. There have been many developments in the physical design of learning spaces that promise enhancements in in-class collaboration and learning by doing. Peer instruction has been found to be another way of extending the notion.
Christensen thinks disruption is the best way to go. Many other folks believe that online education using MOOCs and technology such as adaptive learning is that panacea – a panacea that can personalize learning and address individualized issues of knowledge and motivation.
I believe that class needs to be disrupted. And I believe networks are the key to disrupting the classroom. What if you could learn from someone who could teach the way you learn? What if you learned with people and things that directly reinforced what you were learning? What if you did not just learn to do, but also learned to be – to be a practitioner in networks of practice?
One of the interesting observations seems to be that in the traditional educational system there is invariance to scale or scale-free behaviour. Scale free behaviour is exhibited by some very interesting networks like the Internet in which a few of the participants make the majority of interactions, and a long tail of participants exist with little or no engagement or levels of activity. Perhaps a disruption will truly arrive if we invert these scale free networks or even if we flatten out the interactions (raise the long tail). Perhaps we need to recast the classroom as the network itself?