On the Horizon, an international journal that explores emerging issues as technology changes the nature of education and learning, has released a concept paper titled, Museums and the Future of Education. Co-authored by Scott Kratz, vice president for education at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth Merritt, founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums, the paper explores the vibrant role that museums could play should education experience a profound shift from traditional teacher- and school-centered models to more informal, personalized, “passion-based” models.
There are several signals that indicate this shift is a very real possibility. The unprecedented interest in open-source education resources such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare and the Khan Academy signify the public’s growing willingness to explore learning outside of a formal classroom. The emergence of cheap (or free) and easy-to-use publication and dissemination tools such as Apple’s iBooks Author means that everyone, not only textbook companies, now has the power to create high quality educational resources. Even the growing trend of “unconferences,” where participants gather for spontaneous informal learning sessions, often with topics agreed upon by the group, indicates a desire for professionals and life-long learners to create informal learning networks for their professional development.
What I found most intriguing about the ideas in this concept paper was how closely they paralleled the future educational landscape that McREL described in 2011 when we wrote, The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020. In some of the scenarios described in the book, education was no longer depicted as an institution of age-grouping, grades, and school buildings, but had morphed into systems that relied on inexpensive online resources, informal networks of learners and teachers, and local educational institutions (primarily museums) to provide differentiated instruction for learners of all ages.
What would this shift mean for today’s educators, and how close are we, really, to such a reality? Schools such as the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia and those in Adams County, Colorado already offer alternatives to a traditional model of school. A more informal model of schooling would mean new opportunities, but also new threats for those currently in America’s education system. Consider your current role in your school, district, or organization and complete a SWOT analysis to help you think about the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that an informal learning
environment would have.
Access a free copy of the concept paper and watch a recording of Elizabeth Merritt’s May 24th webinar presentation on Steve Hargadon’s website.
Written by Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, co-author of Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd edition (ASCD, 2012).