Work is changing. Life is changing. Play is changing. Learning is changing. Technology enables these changes, but it’s the ethic of Everything 2.0 that is driving it. An ethic that says crowds are smart, that a government by and for the people invites our participation, that the individual work of each of us benefits the commons as a side effect, that a connected world allows and demands that we collaborate globally as individuals and institutions. A participative world is emerging alongside the siloed and hierarchical one of the last century and we are all it’s citizens.
We have choices, now, about how to live in this world. Do we like the security of being part of a massive organization; do we want to control the resources to put against big challenges at scale? Do we relish the freedom of loose affiliations, coming together with others to build new things and then disbanding to seek new opportunities? Do we like to work alone, as free agents building, doing, consulting or helping? Do we find fulfillment working within and across multiple models of work from the traditional to the not-yet-invented? How do we participate, intentionally or unknowingly, in the economies, structures, networks, and relationships of a connected 2.0 global community?
How we thrive is uniquely personal to each of us. The technology and ethic of 2.0 is a platform that untethers us from the constraints of time and space that forced us to work in the same places at the same times, live near our work, learn in lockstep with others our age in institutional environments, and play less and less as living in, or preparing for, the rat race required more and more of our time and resources. We can choose, now, to work in our offices or our homes or our neighborhood coffee shops. We can work with our office mates or colleagues from other towns, cities, or countries using skype, e-mail, and other digital tools. We readily make serendipitous connections with ideas and people via our 2.0 online participation. We mash up our professions and our hobbies and create new careers as individuals and in small groups thanks to e-bay, UPS, apps stores, amazon, YouTube, and other infrastructure that levels the playing field between humans and institutions. We begin to blur the boundaries between working, living, learning, and playing as we gain agency, mastery, and freedom to own our lives to a degree that is highly improbable without either access to this emergent infrastructure or to independent wealth.
This emerging world can give us more freedom and satisfaction than ever before, but it requires a shift in mindset and approach that involves thinking in terms of systems and communities and that demands we not only contribute in new ways, but learn in new ways. Learning becomes layered on top of the traditional work ethic as a necessary skill/attribute for success in the new economies of the emerging world 2.0.
Currently, schooling does little to prepare us for this world and is disrespectful of an ethic that says we can all learn better and faster if allowed to do so in the ways and at the pace that suits our unique capabilities, preferences, and needs. Schooling disrespects our time by forcing us to learn in lockstep with others our age regardless of how easily or with how much difficulty we master a topic. Schooling diminishes our agency by requiring us to learn what we’re told when we’re told in a superficial manner in order to pass high stakes tests, regardless of how deeply we want to pursue a particular topic. Schooling erases our creativity by teaching us to pass multiple-choice tests with only one right answer and no interesting trade-offs or alternatives. Worst of all, for many people, schooling does all this badly, failing even to give students the skills to pass the tests that put them on the path for college and other traditional opportunities in life.
We can no longer wait for institutions to decide what we learn and when, to make patriatrchal decisions about what we should know and do, when so clearly their choices work so poorly for so many. We need the tools that allow us to understand for ourselves how we are progressing against the traditional high-stakes standards so we can hold schools accountable when they fail us in this simple regard. We need the tools that allow us to gain the knowledge and skills we need to succeed on our own if the schools are unable to. We need the tools that untether us from the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator, lockstep, tedious learning that is a terrible fit for any but the mythical average student and make it possible for us to gain our goals independently when institutions fail us, to hold institutions accountable, and to have ownership of how our time is best spent in the service of our goals and our quality of life.
This future is here, now, for many of us, but very unevenly distributed. Although most families now have access to the Internet, the real access to opportunity is limited to those with the time and skills to participate in networked communities and contribute to them. But even for those with the greatest access, the tools and resources needed to take ownership of our learning are hard to imagine, much less gather and use effectively.
What if we could imagine, and eventually bring into the world, the tools that make this kind of personalized ownership of learning much easier? Tools that remove some of the barriers to understanding how best to reach our learning goals, and how to do so in ways that let us spend our time wisely? Could such tools help those who don’t have the resources to school outside the existing institutions to hold those institutions accountable for their own kids’ learning outcomes? Could they help those with the resources to experiment to blaze the trails that might lead to new approaches?
Can we imagine what such tools might look like? Can you?