Introduction to my series of posts on Future of Education based on Thomas Frey’s paper.

Not long after I decided to vent my frustration at the amateurs who are going to give e-learning a bad name, I came across Thomas Frey’s  blog on Future Education. Well, actually, I wouldn’t be able to come across it had I not been so frustrated about my lack of ability to come up with a solid and grounded infrastructure to flesh-out an ideal I had set out on a year before. Thomas Frey’s paper was the most conclusive article on the Future of Education I could find out there. Or maybe it was just the most aligned to my conceptions of what I wanted the future of education to look like for me.

Two years ago I set-up a small ESL learning center to serve as a sort of incubator center for me to continue observing the language and cognitive processes of young people at the threshold of young adulthood. What would happen if I could work outside the constraints of the education system? What if I could control as many variables as possible? Could I achieve a lot more with a lot less?

I mainly taught those 16 and have watched them grow until 21. I also taught other groups at various ages which gave me a window to observe how language and learning developed. Did I see a difference between those who were with me from 16 to 18 as opposed to those I only met when they finished high school? Did the students who took lessons with me find a significant difference in their language and cognitive performance once they met peers in college or overseas? Did they gain a sense of confidence and pride as a result of their 2-3 years of language learning with me?

I believed that learning should happen organically and that the learner must emerge confident, having mastered a thought process or depth of knowledge to be able to carry their learning in an incubated environment to affect their habits and outcomes in the real world. The result of my 2 year incubation? I’d say I’ve explored as many questions as I could come up with in terms of translating theories into practice and then pruning and nurturing the process as I went. I had taken my face-to-face teaching as far as I could take it. My students were largely successful. Even though I cannot substantiate my data because I had no neutral party note my “experiment”, morale, trust and confidence was high and language was produced in all cases except for those who dropped out prematurely due to the pressures of life.

I took my face to face teaching as far as I could go until I reached a point where I  realized I’m being thwarted from going further by the constraints of a traditional classroom instruction and the constraints my society, my paying market, is putting on me. I was frustrated at how short-sighted people were. Am I in the ESL business or am I in the “Education for your Future business?”

I began to see that both could be mutually exclusive. I flashed back to the introduction I used to give to every new class of English students I taught : “You don’t learn English because it’s English. You learn it because the process of mastering it becomes a skeleton key for you to unlock many doors into the future that you wish to create for yourself. Possessing this skeleton key, is your first leverage to creating your future.”

It became very clear to me when I flashed back to my first intention of teaching (before getting pulled into the politics in the industry) that I never intended to promote the idea of learning English but that I had intended to use my proficiency and my ability to understand how learning can happen to try and help others gain the sort of leverage the English language has given me.

Whether I was inside a schooling system or taught as a freelancer, the same problems confounded me. People were gravely misinformed about the most important issues of language acquisition and the metacognitive processes of learning.  The pull of life often made me feel like I have to do what other people expect of me in order to fulfill my role as an ESL educator. One day I just made a decision that I was only going to talk to people who would listen to me. I wanted to have my own conversations instead of trying to defend myself with people who knew completely nothing about learning or SLA.

What started out as a website to promote my ideals and philosophy 6 moths ago (using a bundled website builder that came with a basic hosting package) evolved into a media-rich website. I felt like Rip Van Wrinkle, waking up after 100 years asleep. I started learning about and understanding the new wave of Wealth creation, what social media is, what PLnetworks are and eventually seeding an entire Web and Education 2.0 orchard.

The more informed I became about Web and Education 2.0 the more I seemed to be moving  through the rings towards a centre of origin, of truth, of pure, concrete science. But the closer I moved in the more vacuous it became. Is this a physics lesson?

There’s a lot of push for change, a lot of conversations about the unionists who don’t wanna pull their weight. I was starting to feel like my real breakthrough was not going to come from the academic conferences and popularity contests among educators.  It doesn’t look like anyone’s really come up with a design architecture. I see a bit of confession in async conversations  here and there about what big companies like Cisco,Adobe and Microsoft are working on; creating softwares, platforms or infrastructures for the future of education. Nice, flashy tools for bottomless pockets but where’s the architecture?

When it comes to describing the Future of Education, it’s like we have the concrete, glass, bricks and the permit to build. We’ve got some tools, not necessarily perfected yet but like all tools, we can only improve on versions once we know what’s lacking in the Beta. So, we’re all on site. Everyone from the Developer to the QS to the foreman is there. Where’s the architect with the blue-prints?

I researched and I walked and I thought and I sought.  And now it feels like I am standing at an edge a vast vacuum. Oh well, guess I was right a couple of posts ago; that the rules haven’t been made up yet so it’s a race to the bottom. So I’m not going to worry about sounding stupid because I don’t have a PhD in Future Education (who does?) or I don’t have enough research and data to back what I say (who does?).

So I’m just going to start.


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