Every couple of years I get the honour of working with the ANZ Advisory Board for the New Media Consortium in developing the ANZ Horizon Report. This board provides vision and stimulus to the Horizon Project, and its work informs the annual Horizon Report. Each year, the Board, a small multi-disciplinary group of thinkers from both within and outside higher education, engages in dialog and discussions about potential collaborative, learning, or creative applications of emerging technologies — most of which may not be obvious.
So while ploughing through the multitude of ideas, technologies and applications I thought I would share one small insight. Why is collaboration more often called cheating in our education systems?
We were discussing online communications and collaboration technologies. I consider Collaboration as a skill and the related technologies as merely enabling. For instance replace simple collaboration with its more focussed cousin Action Learning/Research and we have a much richer learning environment. Then we would look for the best tools to enable this. The practice and research into this form of learning has been around for many years yet is still not made it to mainstream education. Why?
I suggest we are still conditioned by a singular competitive educational landscape where SAT scores and Tertiary Education Rankings etc. dominate and kill the teaching of quality collaboration as a desired skill. We have to unlearn this. When we see the sharing of information as not cheating but collaborating we will have started. When we see Action Learning as the norm we will have turned the corner. If we utilised more action learning/research we would be discovering/developing more new knowledge than rehashing old knowledge and this is a scary notion for many educators since new knowledge is typically boundless.
But don’t panic. I also suspect it will take a generation or two to develop the core skills of quality collaboration in our education system along with the application of Action Learning to everyday problems. Yet the corporate world is demanding these skills now. They are not interested in the narrow-minded competitive games that education plays around rankings based on regurgitated knowledge. They need people who can work together to solve unforeseen problems in critical areas such as health and the environment. They need that new knowledge to counter new problems. The sort of problems the text book hasn’t been written for.