“Often unpredictable, absolutely unrelenting, and, more often than not, terribly unforgiving.”

08 Jul

Three guesses as to what that title refers to… anybody? Some might say the weather after the recent storms and heat wave, but this quote comes from an article about The Five Moments of Learning and refers to change.  Most people have probably used the phrase “the only thing constant is change,” but how many of us deal well with change?  Be honest.  I know I’m not always good with it.  Yet in this age of instant access and the explosion of social media, change seems to be happening faster and faster.  How, as teachers, can we help students be prepared to manage this constant state of flux?

Alvin Toffler

The authors of the Five Moments article offer another quote that I think begins to shed light on this question.  It comes from futurist Alvin Toffler in the book Rethinking the Future.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

First off, let me just say I love this quote.  I feel that it gets at the heart of lifelong learning.  What really struck me about it, though, is that what this means is that teachers not only have to help students learn, they also have to help them unlearn.  This idea of unlearning can also be thought of as breaking down stereotypes or beliefs.  Such has been the challenge of Dr. Watwood this semester as many of us came in on the first night of class with a not-so-favorable impression of online learning.  When he changed the syntax of that phrase from “online learning” to “learning online” I think many of us started to understand a meaningful change in semantics, too.  The fact that so many of us were approaching eLearning from a skeptical stance — and yet had chosen technology as our track in this program — shows a desire on the part of at least this group of educators to embrace the change we see in our field.  Yay us!

Team Merlot has grappled with these ideas of change and the new 21st century literacy in our work on the online project this past week.  We’ve been trying to understand the “online teacher” and how s/he is different from what we think of as a traditional teacher — one who teaches in front of a class, face-to-face.  In some respects, much has not changed.  Teachers still need to do things such as plan out their instruction, guide students through the content, and provide some level of assessment.  One thing that has changed is the plethora of tools now at the teacher’s disposal to source content, as evidenced by the lengthy list of resources we had to review for class this week.

In my research for the online project, I came across a number of items that discussed how students can become unengaged in their education because teachers are not embracing the wealth of current resources available.  In the case of Dan Brown, he became so disillusioned with the education he was receiving at the University of Nebraska (apologies, Dr. Watwood) that he dropped out of school.  In his Open Letter to Educators, he says that education should not be about memorizing and regurgitating facts, but should be about “stoking creativity and new ideas [and] empowering students to change the world for the better.”  He dropped out of school, not because he wasn’t motivated, but because he says, paraphrasing Mark Twain, “my schooling was interfering with my education.” (See my previous blog post about that quote from Mark Twain.)

Dan describes for educators what he sees as the outcome if they do not embrace change.

You don’t need to change anything.  You simply need to understand that the world is changing, and if you don’t change with it, the world will decide that it doesn’t need you anymore.

That sounds “terribly unforgiving” to me.


Posted by on July 8, 2012 in ADLT 640


6 responses to ““Often unpredictable, absolutely unrelenting, and, more often than not, terribly unforgiving.”

  1. Wally Wallace

    July 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Great blog, Joanne. Loved the Dan Brown story and video. Lots of thoughts to stir the mind and hearts. Thanks!

  2. bwatwood

    July 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Interesting video … one student’s experience. Are there alternative stories? I tweeted to find out 🙂

    • J Even

      July 9, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Saw your tweet… please keep me posted! Will be very interested to hear the feedback.

  3. sara

    July 11, 2012 at 2:15 am

    This was a great blog Joanne. I really enjoyed reading it. This quote really stood out to me

    “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

    While it is succinct, when you begin to ponder it, it is quite deep in nature. In the 20th century, those that were hailed were master’s of their area. Their knowledge was what made them wise. Well knowledge is now so readily available, it makes just being a wise sage not enough.

    I can think in my work of those that don’t adapt well to change. It does hinder their progress. This will just become more and more important as new advances come into play.

  4. Lindsey

    July 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    In my day-to-day routine, I can say that I would rather not be interrupted by change; however, I always seem to desire and seek change within myself. The more I push myself to learn new things, the better I become at accepting change.
    Toffler’s quote stood out to me as well because it is in many ways true, and I would even venture out to consider the illiterate of the 21st century to be those who do not attempt to know (or refuse) new forms of technology. I’m pretty sure its not going anywhere- if one cannot change to learn the change, they will be left behind.


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