This is going to be Hard begins Will Richardson. To quote danah boyd, “For adults to hear the voices of youth, they must let go of their nostalgia and suspend their fears. This is not easy.” Will wants to present context and have us leave more confused than when we started today. In order to instigate change, we have to be confused, to disrupt what we already know. Because from confusion and discomfort comes inspiration – the will to begin to change classroom practice.

Will has two kids who are in public school, and he is “not a happy parent” because he thinks that the school is run inside of a system that is not reflective of the world that is developing today. Given that belief, they are trying to “co-school,” to fill in the gaps that they perceive.

“This is the most DISRUPTIVE MOMENT ever in education.”

The rules are breaking, and the systems are being pushed against; however, this is also an amazing time to learn. With this in mind, Will argues that we have to stop chasing better. Instead, we have to fundamentally rethink how and what we do in schools because the fundamental premise for why school came into existence no longer applies.

“We can NO LONGER WANT for our kids THE SAME EDUCATION that we ourselves had.”

We wouldn’t want the same medicine for our children as we had growing up, and yet the same education still exists. Currently, most of our teachers are behind the technological curve of our students, so Will has examples of learners who are ahead of it.

Sean Wolf – as a 14 year old – has written a Minecraft novel. He taught himself and has published on Amazon. He is also a Scratch expert who spends time mentoring other kids.

Super Awesome Sylvia – a younger girl, teaches how to do things with technology via YouTube. Additionally, she is an entrepreneur who started a KickStarter campaign to create the WaterColorBot kit.

Jack Andraka – a 16 year old, has created a test to detect pancreatic cancer. His discovery was almost thwarted by a teacher who wanted him to work on an essay in class.

“The Change we are in the middle of isn’t minor… and it isn’t optional” – Clay Shirky

Economy of Abundance

Students today have lived in a constant economy of abundance with regard to information and media. From media to medicine, Will says that nothing hasn’t been impacted. One of the challenges is that the world is no longer filtered or edited. It’s possible to publish anywhere and at anytime.

Wattpad is the latest trend in students creating their own fan-fiction. This creates a new dichotomy and challenge for the question: how to we help students read? Even devices like Oakley’s new goggles that measure your ski performance or the Brush Smart toothbrush that sends data to your dentist. This all raises new questions and challenges that we, as teachers, need to be able to address.

This raises a new question, Will asks, “in a learning context, what does abundance look like?” When we look at connections, we have to ask what are the potential questions vs what are the potential distractors or dangers. This actually creates a situation where there is unlimited potential to bring unlimited teachers into the classroom in this economy of abundance.

Abundance is already here (It’s just not evenly distributed.)

The potential already exists, but that is not the reality inside the classroom and inside the schools. This is developing a dissonance where there is a disconnect between how students learn at home versus at school. Will says that we signed up to teach in a traditional environment, and yet students are developing as modern learners who discover and uncover their interests, passions, and skills independently. The divisions of traditional vs modern learning:

  • delivering vs discovering curriculum
  • time and place vs anytime, anywhere, anyone
  • just in case vs just in time

Students don’t hate school. They just hate what is happening in the classroom because of their lack of engagement. The problem, Will says, is the system and not the people. Schools need to move away from institutions and towards selves. Think about publishing, travel agents, bank tellers, car dealers…

The Disruption Challenges the Role of the Teacher

There are teachers, content, and information sources everywhere. With all of the tools available, most of them are blocked in schools. We are no longer living in the world of 15 years ago, challenges Will. We should be confused because we now need to ask: What is an education?

It then raises sub questions of what does every student need to know? Further, asks Will, at what expense are we willing to cover the curriculum?

A view of Modern, Connected Learning from Kathy Cassidy

Students should have a sense of learning with people when they are sent out into the world. By removing the connections to potential co-learners, then a majority of their teachers could be removed from the equation. As a parent, Will says, that is “unacceptable.”

Computers are Material

Think about the creation of the first Apple computer. They had to iterate in order to create. Yet, Will says, students don’t come home talking about their iterations. In current schools, students miss a question and consider it a failure. You need to be able to use a computer to manipulate a message, tell a story, create something new. Students have to be able to develop as a maker. The question, Will says, is then “What will you create? What will you make?”

MIT wants to attract students that are “already solving problems and building, playing and creating, engaging in projects they love doing.” – source

Are current schools preparing students to be able to accept this challenge? What defines a world class education in a world with Kahn Academy, Bozeman Science, Wolfram Alpha or Dragon Box?

What’s the price of Education?

The cost of higher education has sky rocketed, but in an economy of abundance, much of learning is free. We can now get interesting education at a high level with MOOCs. It is a different world when there are free online universities and universities like Stanford are now offering “Missions” instead of “Majors.”

It is now possible to earn badges and credits for learning paths that develop outside of school. Will argues that students today will have an abundance of opportunities. This means that the challenge is to become learning ready and not just “college” ready. It won’t just be what you know but what you can DO with what you know.

The challenge is then to determine how to prepare students for a world that relies on independent workers. What is more urgent in education, asks Will. Content, knowledge, and information or Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Computing, Connecting….

By the end of this decade, there will be over 5 BILLION people connected and who will strive to change the world. These learners will not settle for the scarcity of our schools today when they have the potential for abundance. Will proclaims that it is about a RIGHT to learn and a FREEDOM to learn.

Where do we start?

We have to be learners first and teachers second. We have to be model learners and master learners so that we can guide our students to do the same thing. So what important and authentic work have we CREATED with computers and shared with the world? How are we CONNECTED to other learners who share our passions? It is not about technology, it’s about transformation. Will says it’s about rethinking culture in the classroom. Agency needs to be transferred to the students. The path from scarcity to abundance is where we need to begin – with technology serving the transformation not acting as it.