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Monday, January 16, 2012

Changing times

The world is changing. Faster than I can keep up with. I feel like an old, old woman... "Back in my day..." ;-D

If you look out your window you will see something very different than my 92 year old father-in-law saw as a child. He saw horse drawn carts, dirt or cobble roads, farm animals. You see cars, look up and see airplanes and helicopters, and, most likely, very few of us see farm animals right outside our windows.

I predict that one of the places we're going to see the biggest changes is in how we educate ourselves. Walk into a class room today and what you see won't be all that different than what my FIL saw when he went to school, more than 80 years ago. There will be the teacher's desk up at the front. The children's desks will be facing it. There will be a black (or white board) behind the teacher, maybe a couple of bookcases, and if the kids are lucky, or in a wealthier district, maybe a computer or two. The computer is the only thing my father in law wouldn't have recognized as a child, but what it represents is the biggest change in human evolution since control of fire.

Here's an example:
A link to a Harvard Justice class was just posted to one of my groups. Now, via the internet, you can sit in on this college lecture. You can access videos of the lectures, as well as follow, and even participate in, discussions about the topics in the lectures. It's not the same of being in the same room, but whether it's better or worse really depends on what you make of it. Here's an opportunity to experience what some of the most elite students in the U.S. get to experience, free, in your own home. You can watch at home or at a public library: alone, or with friends and family. You can discuss it with them, or on-line with other interested people from around the world.

It's not about a degree. The institutions of "higher learning" still have a strangle hold on those little pieces of paper. But, as the cost of college soars and the economy declines, the relative value of many degrees is decreasing. It's not about a degree. It's about an education.

A high quality education is available for any autodidact. It always has been, for anyone with enough time and a library card. The difference between my youth and now is in the ease of access, and the ability to communicate with so many and so varied people and institutions. I'm just amazed. Floored. Impressed. Dumbfounded. Staggered. The opportunities overwhelm me.

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