An analogy to consider: institutional education=railroads, on-line learning=automobiles

To what extent is Ken Robinson's message about self-determination of learning objectives relative to institutional education like the relationship of railroads to automobiles?  

Institutional education, like railroads, was based on the idea that everyone needed to go to the same place at the same time efficiently.  We even colloquially call getting the diploma, "getting your ticket punched." Can institutional education be made more flexible, or is the infrastructure (school buildings with classrooms=railroad tracks) unsuitable for the new requirements/desires of students?

When you follow a passion, isn't that like getting in your car and going where you want to go, when you want to go there? With automobiles, learners get to take a competency-based, driver's test before being allowed on the road.  Is that where we are headed with education?  

See, for example, European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)

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OK, I really like the metaphor. Did you think this up yourself? It resonates with me like the factory/farmer and fast food/Micheline Guides metaphors did for me in the book.

It also REALLY fits with the new tag line I put on Students 2.0: "Drive Your Own Education."

I think this analogy comes from long exposure to a literature of alternative education ideas going back to John Holt.

Here is an example:

The Unschooling Unmanual
Edited by Jan Hunt & Jason Hunt

Reviewed by Arun Pradhan

[Earl Stevens] asks “What is Unschooling?” In answering this question Stevens describes a life where children learn by “doing real things” and activities can be tailored to meet the needs and interests of each individual child.

I particularly enjoyed Stevens’ analogy around searching for evidence of what unschooled children are learning. “It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.”

It is appropriate that the final chapter of the Unmanual has been handed over to the late John Holt. Holt is often cited as a key founder of the unschooling movement and Hunt generously acknowledges his influence in her articles and even more forthrightly by dedicating the Unmanual itself to Holt in its opening pages.

In an excerpt from his book Learning All the Time, Holt relates how his experience as a teacher and observations of children led him to understand that “learning is not the product of teaching”. Holt’s short contribution to the book is eminently quotable and rich in useful observations. One of many points of interest is that “we can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions - if they have any - and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.”


Another perspective is illustrated in the attached image: Success is 99% failure. You need to maintain your confidence to recognise the 1% that makes a difference.
If I wanted to do a session on "unschooling," who would you recommend to interview, and which books in that area do you feel are most worth looking at? Is this something you'd have any interest in organizing?

Unless you let me know otherwise, I'm going to give you credit on the train/auto metaphor...
Thanks Steve. There's nothing like having a pithy bumpersticker-sized message and you've got a good one with "Drive Your Own Education."

I'm inclined to suggest you interview someone on who will talk in a controversial way, like Jeff Jarvis:

What Would Google Do?

or Anya Kamenetz:

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

Not that I necessarily agree with all their views, but their perspectives are interesting.
I got the phrase from Jenny Luca. And it SO fits with your train/auto idea.

Good ideas.
The original founder of VHSG, Sarah Bruce, homeschools her children using the unschooling model. Ironically, she has worked in the virtual charter movement and now works at K-12 professionally. I don't know if she would have time to present anything, but she may know some other unschool model users or perhaps an author to suggest. Let me know if you want me to ask her.


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