Knowledge is Loose, and what it means

Everyone senses it.  Things are different now.  I mean, we always had libraries, and you could go there and find things out, but one indeed had to go there and some very interesting books existed that were not allowed to leave the building.  Now – all that information is in your pocket.  And not just all that information, but world class speakers (as well as insufferably smart 10 year olds) are also online, showing and explaining to you what it all means.

Here is something on meiosis.  I just saw a presentation on this yesterday, so it was the first thing I thought of.  You will notice it is a youtube video, but it is also a Khan Academy lesson.

Here is something that can be applied more immediately, depending on your interests. (I’m picking the subjects off the tops of my head and haven’t previously viewed the video results).  How to make Maple Syrup.

But what does it mean?

I think that it means that students shouldn’t have to sit for predetermined lengths of time (what we call semesters) in order for them to obtain the gold standard, a degree, to start a career.  What it doesn’t mean, is that they are going to learn the soft skills that are still important, through the interactions that are currently available online. They still need to grow into adults.  They still need to leave home, learn to collaborate, learn to be organized and how to prioritize.  They still need to be exposed to “others”.  Young people need to meet face to face with people who have different ethnicities, belief systems, politics, socio-economic backgrounds and who come from different cultural backgrounds.  

It is my belief that in order for higher education institutions to remain relevant, that they foster these social/soft skill opportunities on campus, while finding ways for the students to discover their passions, enabling them to succeed, guiding them along the way when they falter, and allowing them to proceed at their own pace.

It’s funny, but what I actually picture is not the death of the socratic method.  What I picture is a bunch of inspired students, gathered around an expert and drilling them for the insights that they haven’t managed to glean from the internet or library.  A time where the students demand that missing piece, or having found that no answer is available – how to get that answer via experimental study and observation.

Time at college would become all the more, a time to find your “tribe”, a time to take advantage of the labs, other workspaces and professionals. A time to grow up and become a vital member of our global society.

The details need to be worked out.  I’m thinking competency exams, open testing centers, loads of advisors, “maker” spaces and a whiz bang technology infrastructure would be involved.  How to show degree progress for financial aid requirements is just one wrinkle.  I know we have enough smart people on our campus to figure it all out.  We also need  to be brave and do what is right.

I’ll leave you with this video:




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