Stephen Downes: Take Charge of Our Own Learning

But more than that: we need, first, to take charge of our own learning, and next, help others take charge of their own learning. We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change out attitude toward learning and the educational system in general.

That is not to advocate throwing learners off the bus to fend for themselves. It is hard to be self-reliant, to take charge of one’s own learning, and people shouldn’t have to do it alone. It is instead to articulate a way we as a society approach education and learning, beginning with an attitude, though the development of supports and a system, through to the techniques and technologies that support that.

Nor is it to advocate some fundamental reform of the education system. I will leave the system and its reformers to themselves. I doubt that the system could be reformed, and even if it could, do not have the time nor energy to try. Indeed, it remains a source of wonder to me that when people talk about “change” and “reform”, they always mean, of other people. I’m not interested in that approach to education.

Rather, it’s about a complete redesign of the system, from the ground up, using new technologies and new ideas. That’s what I’ll be writing about in this column, hopefully once a week, in The Huffington Post‘s education blogs section. I’ll be looking at the people who are building this new system now, at the people who are advocating free, open and authentic learning. I’ll be describing the tech from the perspective of someone who builds it, and the philosophy from the point of view of someone who lives it.

Because, you know, change does not come from the system. It does not result from the replacement of one set of leaders with another. It’s not something you can create by reshaping old institutions that were designed in a different age for a different purpose. The only real revolution, as John Lennon once said, comes when you change the people. Ourselves. One attitude at a time.

A pretty good summary of how the DIY mindset can and will shape our thinking about education.