12 Powerful New Ideas For 21st Century Learning

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21st-century-learning-powerful

How we learn is changing in response to a changing environment, from fluid digital environments to constant access to information, incredible peer networks to learning simulations, 21st century learning is teeming with possible learning pathways.

So it seemed appropriate to take a look at a handful of these new approaches–not so much formal learning approaches such as project-based learning or mobile learning, but rather some of the platforms and tools themselves. The immediate benefit is to take inventory in what’s available now. But picture, we can kind of trace a line through these emerging approaches to get an idea of where learning is headed, and what we might expect in the next 3-5 years as the blistering pace of changes continue–and how the “crowd” will be a part of it all.

1. Google Search

Summary

A search engine to help you find the information you’re looking for.

What Makes It Special

When a (research literate) learner is connected to Google, the scale of any learning process changes entirely–what they can find, who they can connect with, and what they can do. Even seemingly minor revisions to Google Search are literally education-altering. Take Google’s autocomplete function, for example–you barely even need to know exactly what you’re searching for anymore. If you just have even the vaguest clues or data, you can find almost anything at anytime. There have been arguments made that this is making us dumber, but if it’s really true that connecting us to a universe of information really makes us stupid, we may need to look for other leaks beyond that data of universe itself.

2. YouTube Channels (like smartereveryday–36 million views and counting!)

Summary

User-generated video content on any topic imaginable.

What Makes It Special

It puts content back into the hands of grassroots-level users, caretakers, and experts. Content is constant, crowdsourced, and user-generated. This decentralizes “expertise” in an incredibly democratic and user-centered way. And by returning learning back to the “average person in love with a certain content topic,” the content itself is framed and treated proper.

3. EdX

edX

Summary

Open Source learning from the biggest names in formal learning.

What Makes It Special

An MOOC approach with the resources and cultural credibility of age-old academic institutions. This doesn’t necessarily make the learning any better than what you might get via content elsewhere–even a standalone MOOC elsewhere–but laypersons who don’t know any better will seek out the name-recognition behind it, and that makes it powerful. Add to that the ability for anyone to study anything at anytime, and you have something that’s truly revolutionary, even if it’s easy to take for granted.

4. Democracy 2

Summary

A democratic government (and citizenship?) simulator.

What Makes It Special

A learning simulation that can visually demonstrate critical content that would not otherwise be accessible or interesting to learners.

5. Bartering For Knowledge

Summary

“Trade School is an alternative learning space that runs on barter. Anyone can teach a class, and students can sign up for classes by agreeing to bring barter items that the teacher requests. Trade School has hosted classes on everything from squatting the condos (in exchange for a kombucha mother and research help) to making butter (in exchange for herbs and music tips).”

What Makes It Special

Knowledge as social currency, learning as truly communal.

6. iTunesU

itunesu app

Summary

Apple-sponsored distribution channel for content and media.

What Makes It Special

With such an incredible user base, Apple essentially allows for the distribution of podcasts, videos, apps, and other digital media structured by whatever category the user has in mind. This user-generated content–like YouTube but with the ability to create “courses” too–is an excellent metaphor for the hive-mind culture we’re pushing towards here in 2013.

7. Learnist

learnist-ipad-apps

Summary

A digital platform that allows users to curate content based on their own vision or expertise.

What Makes It Special

See a pattern here? User-generated content, only the content here is the “vision”–the ability to see the demand or function of a specific kind of content, and then search out the best examples of that content and then stitch it together for others to reference, like directions for what others should know.

university-of-reddit-learner

8. Reddit

Summary

An online community whose users make it their collective ethos to question, challenge, and understand. 

What Makes It Special

Not only is “learning” on reddit self-directed, informal, and communal, but it also is underscored by a shift in tone you’ll see on reddit that you won’t see on most blogs or social media sites–a basic attitude that places innovation, accuracy, and discovery at the center of how a person should think and community with others

9. Quora

Summary

 “Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge. Quora is your best source of knowledge. Ask any question, get real answers from people with first hand experience, and blog about what you know.”

What Makes It Special

Helps repair the issue of credibility to crowdsourced information (think Wikipedia), and places questioning at the center of learning (an age-old and natural learning framework).

self-directed learning stages

10. Self-Directed Learning/Entrepreneurial Learning

Summary

Always-on and self-directed learning from constantly evolving and dynamic sources.

What Makes It Special

Places the learner dead-center in the learning process, allowing them to seek out sources, evaluate their own performance, and iterate products and performance through countless available tools and resources.

11. The Role of Play in Learning

Summary

An increasing awareness that deep learning happens through self-direction, experimentation, and practice.

What Makes It Special

Among scores of other benefits, it offers an olive branch to the millions of high school and college “dropouts” who thought they hated learning because they weren’t successful in school. Learning doesn’t have to be prescribed.

12. Code Academy

Summary

A website where learners can learn to code in up to 6 unique computer languages for free.

What Makes It Special

Learning computer code may not be as essential as the ability to read and write prose, but the further the average disconnected digital users get from the code behind the software they use, the less control they ultimately have over the information itself.