Changing ways of learning

Wikinomics author Don Tapscott has an intriguing argument, reported in the Times this morning,  that

“Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is … Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don’t need to know all the dates. It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google”

Perhaps rote learning is a thing of the past and that application of knowledge is more beneficial.

I sort of wonder if this is really the balance between the “old education” and “new education” in that learning from the top down, i.e. via a teacher / class room situation, is becoming redundant as new knowledge stores come online. However I don’t think (and I doubt Tapscott believes) that the classroom is becoming redundant. What we need to do is to educate users how to actually use the use knowledge stores effectively for valid data and information retrieval, such as checking a source in at least two places, using a variety of sources, and still understanding the underlying concepts (such as the maths needed for chemistry and physics or appreciation of the text in literature or history).  It is not enough to search  but we need to be critical about what we are being fed.

Times are a changin’ and I think they look exciting. Reactionary voices calling for increased rote learning and failing educational standards are, in part I believe, missing this point and not engaging with these changes. What is important is that we do not let the classroom down whilst these changes are occuring.