Posted by: crudbasher | April 24, 2013

When the World Is Your Classroom

Have you ever heard of someone say they grew up in the “school of hard knocks”? This phrase means a person did not have much formal education but learned a great deal by their interactions with life itself. I wonder how much children aren’t learning by locking them in a classroom? I know personally I am very self taught in most of the things I do. High School was pretty much a waste of time. My plan is to homeschool my new son and I think there has never been a better time in history to do that.

So, I came across this great article from called The Future of Education Eliminates The Classroom, Because The World Is Your Class which talks about how technology will enable us to embed learning into the world around us. I have been blogging about this for a while, but I love how the author lays it out. Here’s come choice quotes.

This probably sounds familiar: You are with a group of friends arguing about some piece of trivia or historical fact. Someone says, “Wait, let me look this up on Wikipedia,” and proceeds to read the information out loud to the whole group, thus resolving the argument. Don’t dismiss this as a trivial occasion. It represents a learning moment, or more precisely, a microlearning moment, and it foreshadows a much larger transformation–to what I call socialstructed learning.

Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards. The microlearning moment may last a few minutes, hours, or days (if you are absorbed in reading something, tinkering with something, or listening to something from which you just can’t walk away).

Microlearning. Hmm that sounds familiar to me. If you were to disaggregate school curriculum, wouldn’t you end up with Microlearning? I think so. Not only that but if you want to develop a adaptive, customized learning system where each child learns what they want, at their own pace you would build it out of microlearning experiences. Bravo so far. Let’s continue.

…a project from USC and UCLA called HyperCities is doing: layering historical information on the actual city terrain. As you walk around with your cell phone, you can point to a site and see what it looked like a century ago, who lived there, what the environment was like. Not interested in architecture, passionate about botany and landscaping instead? The Smithsonian’s free iPhone and iPad app, Leafsnap, responds when you take a photo of a tree leaf by instantly searching a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds, it displays a likely species name along with high-resolution photographs of and information on the tree’s flowers, fruit, seeds, and bark. We are turning each pixel of our geography into a live textbook and a live encyclopedia.

Yes, embedding information into the world around us is why I have said that Augmented Reality is going to have a huge impact on learning. To extend the example above, once you look at the tree or flower, your phone can launch a simulation of many different aspects of plants. You can look at cellular processes like photosynthesis, or simulate generations of plants to watch genetic mutations. All of this can happen on a smartphone but it is sparked by a spontaneous interest in learning.

We are moving away from the model in which learning is organized around stable, usually hierarchical institutions (schools, colleges, universities) that, for better and worse, have served as the main gateways to education and social mobility. Replacing that model is a new system in which learning is best conceived of as a flow, where learning resources are not scarce but widely available, opportunities for learning are abundant, and learners increasingly have the ability to autonomously dip into and out of continuous learning flows.

I agree. I would also add that the flow of learning will start soon after birth, and will continue for life. Great article!



  1. I agree with you post, especially the last comment. Learning is lifelong.

    My daughter had an eclectic high school experience and I know it has helped her in so many ways. Each year we would evaluate where she was and what she wanted to do next. When you remove the boundaries of school walls and the clock, indeed the world opens to you.

    We traveled, we joined other families for park days and field trips. She took classes at a local university, and even did a year as an exchange student in Belgium with the Rotary Program. (Even though she had to attend school part time Rotary allowed her the freedom to set her hours and take time off frequently for travel.)

    Having the freedom to delve into a subject is pure delight. Going and seeing the land you are studying is priceless. And when and if they chose to go on to get a college degree, do not worry, they are delighted to have these students!

    But the most important thing that happens is the bond you end up forming with your child, the trust that ensues is remarkable. That is worth everything to me.

    • What an awesome story, thanks so much for sharing that! What you describe is the sort of experience I want for my son. I want him to have every opportunity to reach his full potential as he sees it. Thanks for commenting!!

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