The last two weeks have been enormous for me. After a world tour, visiting three continents and seven countries on summer vacation, I was dropped back into the world of education with a thud. Not only did I now have to move house, I had to move my office. I also had to adjust to a new and enthusiastic Head Of Department (HOD) that has a lot of great ideas for the future of our school. On top of all of this, I started my Certificate Of Educational Technology And Information Literacy (COETAIL) at Yokohama International School. After having many motivating conversations about the state of technology in education and long terms plans and directions with my new HOD, we were made to read the article “World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others” by Will Richardson which was published in Edutopia.org in our first COETAIL class. I found the article extremely motivating and reassuring because it outlined the exact feeling that I was trying to convey to my new HOD. So many great point of views and ideas come up in this article, but the main thought line I liked the most was that of collaboration and searching out the ‘teachers’ that are most relevant to your interests.

This idea resonated with me because that was what I have been doing for myself recently. For over a year now, I have been really finding an interest in nutrition and have been educating myself on the topic. I read some books, but time and time again, when I would Google questions I that had arose from reading the books, I found more current and relevant information online in blog posts, Twitter feeds and message boards. In the World Without Walls article, Richardson wrote:

 

“For educators and the schools in which they teach, the challenges of this moment are significant. Our ability to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, from whomever we want is rendering the linear, age-grouped, teacher-guided curriculum less and less relevant.

Experts are at our fingertips, through our keyboards or cell phones, if we know how to find and connect to them. Content and information are everywhere, not just in textbooks.”


And this was exactly what I was doing myself, finding my own content that I had an interest in. 20 years ago, to learn the very specific area of nutrition I had an interest in I would of had to have read text after text along with scientific studies by the bucket load. Now, highly educated experts sift through this information, collate it, curate it and present the findings for the world to see, readily available and free. A great example of this type of curator is Kurt Harris, a M.D. who produces the blog www.archevore.com by finding relevant, scientific studies to his nutritional and lifestyle area of interests and posts about them with his own reflection and adaption to the real world. As Will Richardson said:

 

“We must find our own teachers, and they must find us.”


This is exactly what has happened for me through the use of blogs and Twitter, where these experts have found their voice and know people are listening to them. Another great example of this is iTunes U. The best explanation of iTunes U is on this short video:


This system makes experts available to anyone in the world with internet access, no matter what their socioeconomic background or geographical location.

I think this should be how students should be learning in our classes. Not necissarily through Kahn Academy style videos of a chalk and talk lesson, but through seeking out the experts and sources we see as most relevant to us. As teachers, we must model to them how we go about making our own connection, how we find the content that interests us and empower them to do the same. Students would quickly realize how little the teacher sitting before them really knows and how much expert information is available to them, right at their fingertips. But to accomplish this we need a dramatic change in the culture of education and the current schooling model. I believe that schools and teachers are not ready for this, not now, but hopefully teachers and institutions can see the impact it can have on their students and learning in general. A world where student at school learn about what interests them, what they want to learn, from a range of experts is one so exciting and empowering it has me dreaming of possibilities everyday. Once again, to quote Will Richardson:

 

“We as educators need to reconsider our roles in students’ lives, to think of ourselves as connectors first and content experts second.”