Today, let’s learn
Meanwhile, the dynamics of learning and innovation are shifting, expanding and extending democratic power to more people. A key reason for this is that open, free curriculum and learning materials are becoming more widely available.
Start with Khan Academy. If, over three years, Sal Khan can create nearly the entire math curriculum and start covering French history and biology by himself while making it available to anyone for free, imagine the possibilities of the next decade.
Then, imagine what those people could do if they worked together. After all, the cost of experimentation and creation is going down. Couple this with the fact that occasionally crowd sourcing produces a more expert solution than a celebrated expert. Therein could lie a recipe for grassroots educational success.
Polymaths and bumblebees
We need to lighten up and stop vigorously defending the status quo.
Today’s interdependent world demands polymaths, bumblebees and boundary-crossers. We need people who can collaborate wildly and freely, remixing ideas and then turning them into real experiments. Our experts are not infallible and, in fact, have contributed to some of our nation’s greatest failures. In Oct. 2008, as the global financial system was starting to crumble, former Federal Reserve Chairman and go-to economy expert Alan Greenspan famously admitted that he was wrong about deregulation – one of the central tenets of his economic philosophy.
We need a new kind of expert — one whose expertise is hard-won through direct experience and whose point of view is both flexible and principled. We need people who have a deep sense of the world’s inner workings and interdependencies and who are comfortable in multiple settings and speak multiple national and disciplinary languages. These should be people who can absorb new material very quickly, and then improve it as they share it with others. We need to rely on people who are more than just an “expert” on any one topic, but across topics
We don’t need to do away with experts entirely. Instead, let’s update and refine what it means to be an expert in the 21st century.
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