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Uncertainty Is the New Condition of Learning

By Fernando Valenzuela Migoya - Global Edtech Impact Alliance SA de CV


By Fernando Valenzuela Migoya | President - Thu, 07/28/2022 - 15:00

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Learning strategies now require an environment of coexistence of opposite worlds: individual motivation and radical collaboration.

We are facing an era where the terms perennial and ephemeral exchange places in incomprehensible ways. As an example: previously, every job had an anchored location where that position opened. Today, remote work does not require a fixed location and the models that measure employment data by city are becoming irrelevant.

I performed an intriguing exercise recently: I selected from my LinkedIn contacts, all those who had a role for which there is no degree required or career path to follow. I found thousands! I am convinced that when these people change roles, their substitutes will have to define their own role under different terms.

This is another clear sign that we have to break some existing boundaries in education.

The big problem is that we have designed ourselves under rigid, standard, and hierarchical schemes for learning.

Middle management, trainers and teachers always require someone to guide them or an institution to dictate the learning paths and objectives. It is difficult for them to make decisions, to take risks and to experiment because not doing so generates fewer problems.

Learning ability is a fundamental requirement for success in each stage of life. Every individual, starting from an early age, will have to develop tools and motivations to learn how to learn.

While we must rethink the perennial and the ephemeral, we must also rethink the design of learning. Learning no longer occurs in a particular time or space, nor does it advance in a homogeneous way between individuals or by age or ability.

Terms like special needs education focus on concepts that are far from inclusive. Any space that is not designed with a 50 percent men and 50 percent women split, or with at least a 10 percent allocation to people with a disability or that does not generate multigenerational conversations is becoming irrelevant.

This is an urgent call: As the world begins to adjust to the post-pandemic period, there is a drive to take back control. The only way to gain agility is to lose control. This impulse to forcefully control will reduce the agility that we had to accept during the worst of the pandemic.

In sports and other highly demanding professions there is a concept known as “invisible training.” It encompasses everything that takes place between training sessions: all the activities that nobody watches but are cemented in the athlete’s processes of self-regulation, discipline, and commitment. Some of these elements have to do with rest, concentration, nutrition, mental health, ability to disconnect and the creation of an environment conducive to high performance.

What happened in education is that most of these invisible tasks were out of control. It is here that we need to focus our control impulses, while letting go of the rigidity of learning that was in force before COVID-19.

In my conversations with teachers and corporate trainers, I always convey the notion of them being CEOs of their own learning. In this definition, C stands for curiosity, E for empathy, empowerment and enthusiasm and O for optimism.

Each of these concepts allows them to build agile environments, to develop broader ecosystems, to align with deeper inclusion and to experiment permanently.

We must recognize that we live in an era of abundance of knowledge and scarcity of known paths for solutions to a different set of challenges. An updated design for learning will drive existing models toward an accelerated and permanent transformation by introducing greater flexibility.

There was a time in the agricultural era when our focus was to learn “know how.” Then, as we began to enter a more industrialized era, we had to shift our focus and prioritize “know what” to do with the new machines and processes that we had to follow. As we approach this upcoming era of uncertainty, our success depends on an increasing complexity: “know who” added by “know why” and a new type of “know how,” which is how to augment our human competencies with digital capabilities. These forces call for a complete and radical transformation of our learning.

I was recently tasked to produce a report on the Future of Higher Education for the recent UNESCO Summit in Barcelona, where I tried to bring many of these concepts to life.

For that report, I had amazing discussions with some of the brightest and most disruptive minds who have created a lasting impact on education, such as Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University; Taddy Blechard from South Africa; Ben Nelson from Minerva University; Rosan Bosch from Denmar; and Gifford Booth from The TAI Group.

I learned about the importance of the physical space to ignite the full human potential, as opposed to a traditional classroom setting. Also, how to design for “phygital” learning experiences that took advantage of the best of face-to-face encounters and how to expand, augment and extend them with technology.

Most importantly, I learned how to develop every single individual to achieve the best version of themselves, with a combination of active learning with experiential learning. Finally, I was able to fully grasp the power of communication as a force to enable multigenerational collaboration and the layers that will constitute a coherent learning environment from the physical space to the metaverse.

Stay tuned as all these lessons will soon become a reality in a new kind of educational institution that is being created, which will permanently disrupt the existing education system and drive further discussions for learning in times of uncertainty.

Photo by:   Fernando Valenzuela Migoya

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