The Control Shift: A Learning Revolution is Upon us

Can you feel it?  Hear it?  See it coming?  It’s a learning revolution and it’s coming to prominence more and more in the field of education, as is evident in this article.  Technology has impacted what we know about how we learn.  It is also dramatically changing the way we learn, who can learn what and when.

Are you old enough to say you remember from your school days the teacher’s copy of the class textbook?  That was the one that was pretty much the same as yours except for all the answers to the questions at the end of the book.  You know, the one that you sometimes snuck a peak at when the teacher was out of the room.

When you needed answers that weren’t in the back of the book, you went to an encyclopedia.  My family owned one set of encyclopedias – the New Book of Knowledge.  It was the Encyclopedia Britannica’s poor cousin.  That meant I often had to go to the library to get access to other encyclopedias in order to complete my project.  Those books were in the reference section and everyone knows that the books in the reference section because of the information and facts they contained were very precious.  That’s why they were adorned with the statement do not remove from library.  They were way too important for any mere mortal to possess them for a fortnight.

Well, that’s changing in a big way.  The internet is now the teacher’s copy of the textbook as well as all the books in the reference section of the library.  And still it is much, much more than even that.  Much more than anything we ever had growing up.

When I was a student, information was scarce and therefore centralized through a few important conduits, like the classroom teacher or the reference section of the library.   That made those conduits all knowing and all powerful.  And you don’t argue with a supreme being.  You accept the info you’re given as the “right and only answer.”  In the environment that we called school, we could not have learned without the teacher.

Now that very same information is available to anyone with a computer and a connection to the internet.  We’ve gone from a scarcity of information to (again, for those that have the access to technology) an over abundance of information.  And as such, that drastically changes the skill set required by learners.

Students have gone from being passive receptors of information into active researchers, curators and creators of information.  And this is markedly changing the role of schools and the role of the teacher in the life of a student.  Teachers are now co-learners with their students.  They are there to enable learning by facilitating instead of getting in the way of learning by teaching solely in traditional ways.  Traditional ways no longer work well enough to keep up with the pace and growth of knowledge in the modern era.

I’ve heard it said that innovation is the currency of progress.  Therefore, the practice of innovation is something that we highly value for our continued growth as a species.  I believe that innovation doesn’t typically just appear out of thin air.  It follows from and is built upon the exercise of imitation.  You need to know a subject very well before you can take it and evolve it into something new, different and better.  You need to imitate before you innovate.

Coaching shares extensive similarities with teaching.  Coaching borrows heavily from teaching.  Coach development is modelled – it is an imitation of – teaching development.  School students, don’t forget, just so happen to be our athletes/players. If schools are changing the learning environment for students we’re probably well advised to consider doing the same for our athletes/players.

The question though is do we need to wait for education to innovate as a result of this learning revolution before we pick up on it?  Do we need to wait for education’s innovative responses to the challenges of the 21st century learner and imitate them?  Or can we just start innovating our own modern day youth sport-specific learning environment?

Fortunately, there are already small pockets of innovation occurring in schools around the world that we in youth sport can borrow from if we are looking for some inspiration.

Kids were not born to be taught, they were born to learn.  We don’t need to worry about teaching them how to be creative, we need to figure out how not to extinguish their creativity as they get older.  Public education is currently wrestling with these realizations.  It won’t be long before youth sport has to deal with them too.

Why wait for that revolution to begin?  Get it started now.

Next post Sunday, May 4th.

If you liked this post, you might also like to read:

Learning About Learning – November 22, 2011

Who’s the Smart One now? – December 5, 2011

Confucius, George Bernard Shaw and Woody Allen are Sitting at a Bar… – December 19, 2011

Beyond the Right Answer – January 9, 2012

Grassroots Soccer and the 21st Century Learner – January 24, 2012

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