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Learning is what happens now

By September 25, 2020 Dezember 1st, 2020 No Comments

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Getting Started & Connecting Week

Learning is what happens now

In order to dare to take a look into the future of education, it is helpful to first take a look into the history of learning. Because: The history of learning is older than the history of mankind, many millions of years even. In comparison, our human learning journey is still in its infancy. There are still many exciting things to experience and thus to learn on this journey! For sure we will get some broken knees with the first steps into new digital learning worlds. The one or the other wrong way to go thanks to pubertal mood swings regarding the idea of what good digital didactics is. In addition, different travel companions will probably confront us with a variety of challenges on various digital educational paths. But there are also endless possibilities waiting for us to learn how to think about and design potential digital learning futures. We have the chance to conceive education in a way that makes the fictional ideas of a time become not only virtual reality, in which we take better care of ourselves, each other and our planet.

The history of life and thus of learning on this planet began about 4 billion years ago. Most of this time – about two thirds – unicellular organisms populated the earth. This simplest form of life is brainless, but already capable of learning how to survive at all or even better (National Geographic) . More than that, it can not only train new behaviors, but even pass them on among its conspecifics. In the course of our evolutionary history from unicellular organisms to homo sapiens, learning was not always done with the same senses. Thus, original forms of learning often take place via the senses of smell, hearing and/or even touch. Only with primates turned seeing in the context of learning a priority. With social living beings, the special form of learning by imitation is added. For a long time, the observation of specially developed forms of learning was limited to the very species of living beings that we considered to be the most intelligent: us humans. A fallacy that is based primarily on the fact that humans have a large brain compared to their stature. Not very long ago, the thesis was even put forward that men are more intelligent than women because of their larger brains … (Nature).

In the meantime, however, not only this assumption has been disproved, but it is also known that intelligence and the associated ability to acquire knowledge does not even have to go hand in hand with the existence of a brain. Flatworms, for example, have acquired knowledge even when they regenerate their head (including the brain) after amputation (Collins 2019). In other words, they also store acquired knowledge in their body. It is only now beginning to be known how and in what form octopods learn and what different forms of intelligence they possess in a single tentacle. Some even assume that each of these eight arms has its own personality that applies the same learning experiences in different ways (Nice to read: The Sole of an Octopus my Sy Montgomery). Increasingly, not only are groundbreaking neurological insights into the functioning of human memory being gained, but also forms of artificial intelligence and thus aspects of machine learning are being brought to light.

All these new findings on the subject of intelligence and forms of learning have, however, so far found their way into our educational system, if at all, as content, as the “what” is learned. At the same time, exciting new options for the human (digital) learning journey lie dormant in them. They raise questions about “where”, “when” and “by whom” education will take place in the future. They open up space for new visionary games of thought in which (digital) education is not just a temporary phenomenon accompanying our careers, but an integral part of our entire biography.

However, there is one thing that is central to this: the courage to question our current educational ideals. Neither the search for answers to the above questions nor any visionary mind games will lead very far if they do not fathom and examine what is today considered the status quo of good (digitale) education. What is more, it is necessary to critically examine who has the power to decide on content, roles and functions, spaces and phases, but also on criteria for success and failure in the context of (digital) education.

In short: Education needs a new business model! We are looking for a founding team that develops a value and purpose promise that not only demands but also promotes learning ! What is needed is a new idea of what education should cost whom and what added value it should bring to whom and which role digitale technologies will play. At the latest with the Humboldt model, education no longer has only itself as a purpose, but should pursue a purpose that benefits society and, in the best possible way, even brings profit. This also requires a rethink in the design of strategic partnerships in the education system and in terms of  digital learning resources and dissemination channels. Yes, it is important to start thinking about forms of segments of and relationships with (digital) learners beyond economic (or even political) calculations. The same applies to (digital) learning companions.

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