When I wrote Shifting Education, I had already outlined this post in my head. It was going to be a diatribe on how learning needs to shift away from the front of the room, the teacher, and into the hands and the minds of the learner. But I’ve written time & again & again about that. Worthy of mentioning as well is Subbaraman Iyer’s post that looks at the Educational Approach vs the Learning Approach.

My shifting learning post has shifted away from this theme.

George Siemens wrote: “Could you post a video/drawing/audio recording/dance routine/cave drawing/clay pot that represents your vision of the future of education?”

… and it occurred to me that what I should be looking at when talking about ‘Shifting Learning’ is the direction we are shifting to in the future, more-so than now. I tried to do as George asked and represent this in something other than words. I spent a couple hours playing with a slide show of images and now I’m just going to salvage the title page to share with you as a frame for what I’ll write about. This isn’t a crystal ball look into the future, instead it is my perception of some key trends that will have a powerful impact on how learning will be shared in the future.

Trends that will influence the Future of Education

Let’s take a ‘T.R.I.P. into the Future’ looking at some changes that are shifting learning in a way not possible just a few years ago. Here are 4 trends that education is moving towards: Greater Transparency, greater Responsibility, greater Individualization and greater Permanence.

Assumption: Ubiquitous Connectivity. It’s coming. I can’t wait!


When I created my Science Alive wiki and decided to share what I was doing on an open wiki, I was keenly aware that I was opening my classroom to the world. That changed my practice. If I were to do it again it would be 100 times better because I openly looked at the feedback and shared my lessons learned on my blog.

Teaching ‘openly’ empowers educational leaders to be educational co-learners. It isn’t about sharing lessons, its about sharing the process and the progress we are making in providing meaningful learning opportunities. Transparency is changing teaching practice into a perpetual learning practice.

Transparency also increases a learner’s ability to seek what they are looking for and to find learning opportunities they really want. We will see more individualized learning opportunities for students as they ‘shop around’ and follow personal interests, (more on individualization later).

There will also be more transparency of both quality and expectations. Weak teachers won’t be able to hide. In my opinion this transparency of practice only need be feared if your practice gives reason to fear. Best practice is still just practice and this is not about being perfect, but openly demonstrating that you are striving to improve.


I’ve looked at Facebook (twice) and awareness of cyberbullying too. I’ve told people to stop blaming mismanagement on the tool. I’ve event told people to get off their butts. But responsibility isn’t just about caution and warnings… it’s also about extending yourself and thoughtfully taking chances.

Hargreaves speaks of Responsibility before Accountability. This is a good shift. A move that takes us away from standardization and moves us to greater individualization of a student’s learning experience. We will also see more expectations on students to be active participants in their learning rather than passive targets of learning.


From the ‘Access’ section in my post: Opportunities, Access & Obstacles:

• Our lives are open, public and on display.

…you can… produce, publish, print and share what ever you want with the world.

• Online networks help to define us.

My Blog, My Flickr, My Space, My Facebook, My Friends, My Profile, My Second Life, My del.icio.us, MyBlogLog, My Ning Network, My Twitter, My-Whole-Life-Connected-and-On-Display-For-Anyone-And-Everyone-To-See…

• Growing access to customizable tools and networks.

…With regards to digital tools, it is noteworthy that the focus seems to be on mobile and connected devices, in an environment that favors personalization/customization AND networking/connectedness at the same time.”

• Personalized learning that responds to a learner’s needs.

[For example]…The instructor knows when a student is stumped and activates extra teaching modules on the specific subject.”

• Life extended beyond the physical world.

We will find ourselves engaging in, and fully integrating with, a digital universe — a metaverse — “This ubiquitous cloud of information is like electricity to children of the 20th century: essentially universal, expected and conspicuous only in its absence.”

We are going to be looking at a lot more individualization of school work and expectations, assignments, and even programs in the future. And what I’ve mentioned so far hasn’t even considered how augmented identities could help us personalize learning.


This is a catch-all for the other 3 trends. With respect to Transparency we will be seeing not just the progress of an assignment or a class or a school year, but the progress of one’s life of learning. This blog encapsulates 4 years of my thinking about education, technology and learning. Add to this my comments, my flickr account, my tweets, my linkedIn profile, my many other profiles, and you get My-Whole-Life-Connected-and-On-Display-For-Anyone-And-Everyone-To-See…

For me that’s 4 years worth of information, for a kid today that could be close to 20 years worth of information when they are entering the work force. This puts a huge Responsibility on students at a young age to think about their digital footprint… something we need to actively teach about, and offer guidance, advice and consequences for mismanaging… That’s our responsibility as educators, parents and community members.

An interesting thing that I think we’ll start to see is Individualized Learning Spaces being created to store a student’s learning journeys outside of individual classes, schools and districts. A school should not own a child’s learning ‘products’, (things they create and produce for school). Companies like Youtube and Wikispaces and Edublogs shouldn’t own them either. I don’t know how far away we are from this, but I do think we’ll see individualized repositories for people’s learning that scrapes all the public learning profiles and stores them in one place (a personal digital dossier). This would be further individualized by the learner, then end user, in how they prioritize and present the information provided.

Final Thoughts

As these trends amplify over the next few years, we can embrace them or fear them, but they aren’t going away. They all move us towards a more participatory future where what we do is documented and ultimately stored in a very public way. Learning is shifting away from the confines of the classroom and into the realm of the public domain. The shift is happening now and if we aren’t shifting the learning experience for students then what kind of education are we giving them?


This is Part II of a 3 part series.

Part I: Shifting Education

Part III: Shifting Attitudes

13 comments on “Shifting Learning

  1. At the intersection point of those translucent circles I would add the word “collaboration”. I would be using the term in a very loose sense. I simply mean how the presence of an audience creates a shift in the way you are transparent, responsible, etc. Mere ubiquitous connectivity would not render that 2.0 attitude.
    I know. I should be patient. Attitude is all about your next post.
    Look forward to it.
    .-= Claudia Ceraso´s last blog ..Some things I am certain of (for now, this is beta, OK?) =-.

  2. Great thinking Dave!

    Now take everything you wrote here and apply it to the leadership and systems that we need in order to create this future within ALL of our classrooms! It’s exactly the same, in my opinion…

    One thing that niggles at me, though, is the recurring theme of learning “shifting away from the confines of the classroom”. I agree, in terms of EXTENDING learning beyond the classroom to include families and community and all the reaches of technology. But I worry that sometimes, people interpret that shift as “we won’t need schools anymore” – which I don’t agree with.

    I want to see schools shift the way you talk about here, always with adults working with students as co-learners, modeling and coaching what it is to be all that we aspire to for our children – kind, responsible citizens, compassionate, curious, continuous learners, determined, focused, creative, etc…

    Of course we’re not all that all the time, but that’s part of the modeling too – how to be human, to fail, to make mistakes. And then pick ourselves up, take responsibility, make amends and move forward towards our ideals again.

    Never ever do I see no longer needing or wanting teachers and parents and extended communities in our children’s lives – both face to face and via technology. We can’t lose sight of what it means to be a village that raises our children together!!

    My two bits… 🙂
    .-= Heidi Hass Gable´s last blog ..Where do memories reside? =-.

  3. Dave,

    Great post, got me thinking.

    When you describe transparency you seem (I think) to be referring solely to the educators being transparent, and the learners being the beneficiary of this transparency. When talking about responsibility you extend your definition to include the learners, and their responsibility in the learning process. I wonder how the ideas of transparency could be extended to the learners as well, and how this learner transparency will interact with your concept of permanence? I also wonder what level (age) we should push (yes, I know many are currently dragging us) such permanent logging of learning upon our students?

    Thanks for the post!

  4. Thank you to all 3 of you for your comments!

    In looking at these trends I have cast a rather large net and each of you have found significant holes in that net that need examining and ‘closing up’.


    I contemplated examining either collaboration, participation or connectivism in this post and didn’t. I should have. I do think ubiquitous connectivity is both inevitable and required, but you are absolutely correct in your statement that this is not enough… I like your idea of putting collaboration in the intersection of these trends, rather than adding it as an additional trend, yet we are not just talking about collaboration like we do in classrooms today, we are also talking about connectivism – constructing learning in a networked way.


    Sorry to have niggled you! 🙂

    Perhaps you and I could work on a Leadership Model to prepare schools for these future trends- Oh wait, we’ve been doing that already! (I think we need to formulate those ideas we’ve bounced around in a meaningful way and share them sometime soon.)

    It was not my intention to suggest that we don’t need schools, though I would suggest that we don’t need the current model. Claudia said something in one of her posts that struck a real chord with me:

    “Mind the use of the word “enhance” when linked to learning. Mind the gap. Old things are just old things.”

    I think our system is old and we should look at change rather than enhancement.

    What you said here is worth repeating for emphasis:

    “I want to see schools shift the way you talk about here, always with adults working with students as co-learners, modeling and coaching what it is to be all that we aspire to for our children – kind, responsible citizens, compassionate, curious, continuous learners, determined, focused, creative, etc…”


    You are correct in noting my lack of consistency in looking at how these trends affect both educators and learners. In this post I linked (twice) to a post I wrote call the School 2.0 Participant’s Manifesto. I really don’t think we make the expectations of our learner’s explicit enough in schools and when we have struggling students then teachers and parents try to ‘fix’ things for students/learners rather than place the accountability for change where it truly belongs… (equally with the learner as participants in their own education). With greater transparency of expectations, outcomes and student performance, I think these conversations can have greater influence on the learner to take greater responsibility for themselves.

    Here are some notes on transparency that I made in my (unused) slide show, which did not make it into this post:

    In the future, what we do ‘for school’, for ‘organized learning’, will be more transparent for educators and learners.

    Geography won’t matter as much when we can find a course that interests you anywhere online.

    We will need to be more responsible for designing our own learning.

    When you share your content, your ideas, your lessons, your projects, your assessment & your reflections online, you get transparency of: Programs, Expectations and Quality.

    Also, with respect to your final point, I’m not sure how early we should ‘push’ permanent logging of learning on students? However I suspect that as we do more digital learning, permanent records of a child’s learning will be there from the very beginning whether we choose to centrally collect them or not, so to me, the earlier the better.

    Thanks to all three of you for contributing to my learning!

  5. “We will also see more expectations on students to be active participants in their learning rather than passive targets of learning.”

    This sentence caught my eye especially. As the USA moves toward Common Core Standards, I see very little push into the digital realm. One ELA standard does specifically mention “creating collaborative documents,” yet the focus is still on the very 19th century model of I teach/you learn. My students want to learn. They do. I see it every day and rejoice. However, it is very frustrating to be held accountable for another’s learning when the standards themselves emphasize teaching. The new version talks about problem solving and self-directed inquiry, but makes no allowances for actually turning the learning over to the individual and then holding that individual accountable. It is my guess that there will be newer/bigger/better tests that measure the same old things. I may not be making any sense. Bottom line? I know that I can take my kids through enough drills to pass any test. I just want to be in a place where the kids MAKE the test.

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