Embracing Change In the 21st Century

It is evident that our current teaching model is based on a presumption of stability, and continuity, and progress in a controlled environment. In today’s internet environment, the production and delivery of information or content are constantly changing and evolving. This is in contrast with the twentieth-century education environment, which as Thomas and Brown rightfully articulated, is defined by information being transferred from teacher to student.

What is different today is that the internet infrastructure and information technology are powered mass participation. It is clear to me that the widespread adoption of technology in higher ed. is challenging the education and teaching status quo that has remained relatively unchanged for most of the twentieth century. Learning is no longer a static, one directional experience. In addition, colleges and universities are experiencing an increase or enrollment growth of non-traditional students – who are older, working, have a family or all three, just like myself. For more information, see NPR ED – How Learning Happens: “Shaken By Economic Change, ‘Non-Traditional’ Students Are Becoming The New Normal.” In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the fall of 2015, there were about 5.9 million students enrolled in any distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. This is only possible because of the internet and online information dissemination. With these changes, the way content or information is delivered is constantly changing.

Source: US News (“https://www.usnews.com”)

The internet and other forms of digital-enabled technology platforms are transforming or reshaping education content, real-time learning experiences, as well as giving context to the meaning of information based on our environment. While there is some resistance or arguments against the use of technology in the classroom, and in general, the usefulness of technology to the learning experience. To the resistance or those single-minded views of learning, I would say, the genie is out of the bottle. The Internet has changed the way we interact and utilize technology and information. Our teaching environment is constantly being influenced by technology, and the type of students enrolled in our institutions. As we learn from recently NPR new report, in the US, “almost half of all undergraduate students in higher education today can be categorized as non-traditional.”

Adult learners learn differently and schools have to adapt their practices to adequate and address the needs of students. In fact, old and antiquated teaching practices that seem to stifle creativity and people’s self-esteem must give way to new participatory and deliberative learning approaches, adapting and utilizing technology and digital information, as well as emphasizing mindful learning techniques.   

Digital technology and information infrastructure or system have already transformed the ways to teach and learn. The cultural era of a stable, gradual, and progressive learning in a defined and controlled environment is almost over. The impacts of technology and information on teaching will continue to increase and grow. What is challenging for educators is that technology changes are rapid and spontaneous, and adaptation is slow as educational institutions are yet to develop standardized practices.

Going forward, perhaps the big challenge is on how to effectively deliver and distribute digital content in a structured and centralized format, to help both teachers and students to adapt and operate in a culture and environment where people learn differently. Professors must learn to embrace change and stop arguing against the use of technologies (cell phone, tablet and computer) in class. To me, these are necessary distractions, in our new learning environment. New culture of learning has emerged. Of particular interest to me, is the emerging phenomenon of gamification, which is probably the most interesting aspect of contemporary learning as people learn through play and imagination.