Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Vision For An Ideal Learning Curriculum - A Video Interview With George Siemens

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"My desire would be that someone in any country of the world could access the best of the brightest minds and observe the learning experience that goes on in the classrooms of Yale, Harvard, and Stanford... [and] that not only do we make our resources available for free, but that instead we make the entire educational experience, the part that helps us to become a better society, for free."

Photo credit: Robin Good

This is how, open education advocate George Siemens introduced to me his vision for an ideal educational ecosystem and learning curriculum when I suddenly asked him: "If you could rub the lamp and express a desire, what would that be, George?"

In this video, George explains which would be the key three learning areas acting as the foundations for such an ideal curriculum:

  1. Key subjects: Understand key subjects like history, religion, maths, sciences, architecture, engineering.
  2. Metacognition: Think critically and learn how to value the opinions of others without devaluing yours.
  3. Co-creation: Work with others to create something meaningful in a collaborative fashion.

Here George Siemens' full vision for an ideal learning curriculum (full video interview):


Future Of Education George Siemens Vision For An Educated Society

Duration: 7' 36''

Full English Text Transcription

George Siemens: My desire would be that high-quality education would be freely available. Not just content, not just open educational resources.

My desire would be that someone in any country of the world could access the best of the brightest minds and observe the learning experience that goes on in the classrooms of Yale, Harvard, and Stanford.

My goal would be that not only do we make our resources available for free, but that instead we make the entire educational experience, the part that helps us to become a better society, for free.

Obviously the making free of the entire educational experience calls in the question universities: What they are, what universities should be. I certainly do not have a counter-answer for that.

The issue of making the entire educational experience free is a point that was made recently in a panel that I attended at the Global Summit in Sidney, Australia, several years ago.

A gentleman called Robert Cailliau (co-founder of the Web with Tim Berners Lee) brought forward that our world has become so astonishingly complex that our ability to solve the problems of overpopulation, environmental concerns, financial issues, are not going to be solved on the premise that we solved problems in the last decade.

There will be no Einstein that is going to come out and give us a solution to problems this complex in nature.

The problems will be solved into a participatory, interactive, integrated approach, by having a reasonable quality of education, that it is not some warmed-up, semi-translated resources produced by a large university, but the educational experience, the experience of learning, the experience of becoming a better learner are all captured as parts of the process.

Robin Good: What are the key ingredients of this necessary education?

George Siemens: First thing I think: Historical. There must be awareness of history, an awareness of legacy of humanity to know where do we come from.

Robin Good: Can it be learned through movies and DVDs?

George Siemens: I think anything can be learned. Traveling would be first preference, reading is another option. It can be learned through multiple ways, as long as it is accurate.

Robin Good: But we know that even the old writing sometimes are not very accurate, they serve their own purpose.

George Siemens: The old writing sometimes are not very accurate, but I read Gibbon's - just as an example - "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". He is opinionated, he is a very particular viewpoint, but his writing is beautiful.

When I read Gibbon's writing, I dream of bigger dreams. When I read his writing my ideas grow as bigger ideas because of how beautiful his writing is.

It is not just the content that contributes, but it is the beauty of the idea and the expression of the idea that can cause people today to think bigger ideas for having encountered it.

I think having big ideas is one of the things were a lot of people find interest in Obama as the current president. He has caused them to think bigger ideas that they have not though or felt, that would not help to think.

Key subjects are:

  • Understand history from many perspectives. Like I said:

    • Chinese,
    • Arabs,
    • The thought and the development of Western history,
    • Aboriginal history and artifacts.
  • Be acquainted with the big ideas within religion. Religion is such an integral part for the vast majority of humanity. To understand what is it, its formation, its trajectory.
  • Have a basic fundamental understanding of maths and sciences.
  • See a statistical chart, and to be able to make sense of what it means. To be able to know when statistics lie is important.
  • Understand some basic concepts in architecture and engineering.
  • Read poetry, preferably in a different language.

History, religion, maths, science, architecture, engineering and poetry are some very basic, fundamental skills that people need.

Once we have the fundamental skills though, we then have to move up to one level, and that next level is the ability - sometimes it is called metacognition - to think about our thinking.

The metacognition ability might involve: "What is my thinking process? How am I reflecting on this?", "I should be thinking critically", "Where is this information accurate, but in which context is this information false?" Because something can be important in one setting, but disastrous in another.

Being able to recognize the nuanced nature of knowledge, how the nature of knowledge cannot be applied cover-to-cover, and how the nature of knowledge has to be applied specifically in different contexts. That is one important context that I would focus on as well.

Other aspects that I would look at in terms of general information, or the second tier if you will: Recognizing where our views differ from others and the reasons why they differ.

Not so that we can devalue our own, or devalue others, but that we can recognize: "This is what I believe", or "I know to be true", "this is what someone else knows to be true and here are different points of friction." and to still be able to dialogue in spite of that.

If you have those two foundations:

  • Key subjects: Have a basic understanding of key subjects like historical legacy, religion, maths, sciences, architecture, engineering and poetry,
  • Metacognition: The ability to think critically, to think over our thinking laid,

then I would move to the third level as key areas of information:

  • Co-creation: The ability to participate in conversations intelligently with others on important topics, the ability to create something together with another human being.

At the third level too, the ability to enjoy beautiful music. There is something about music or about a beautifully written book that can raise us out of our circumstance and give us new desires and new hopes.

I think that is all a part, because the first two areas are about ourselves. The key subjects and the metacognition layers are about me.

The third layer is about co-creation, is about participation with others, is about music, is about thinking bigger ideas, is a layer that takes us out of ourselves, and it causes us to connect to other people.

Perhaps it might be an ancient Roman writer, an ancient Chinese philosopher, a Greek philosopher, but the connection to these kinds of big ideas causes us to be less of what we are and helps us to rise above our current situation.

It is hard to answer the question: "What are the fundamental things that must be learned in our education?", because it requires a more updated answer.

Just as a quick throw-out, the fundamental things that must be learned in our education shall be:

  • Key subjects,
  • Metacognition,
  • Co-creation.

I would look at these three key tiers as being vital for an informed population or an educated society.

Original video interview recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia. Article editing by Elia Lombardi and Daniele Bazzano. First published on August 28th, 2009 as "A Vision For An Ideal Learning Curriculum - A Video Interview With George Siemens".

About George Siemens


George Siemens is the Associate Director in the Learning Technologies Centre at the University of Manitoba. George blogs at where he shares his vision on the educational landscape and the impact that media technologies have on the educational system. George Siemens is also the author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age and the book "Knowing Knowledge" where he developes a learning theory called connectivism which uses a network as the central metaphor for learning and focuses on knowledge as a way to making connections.

Robin Good -
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Friday, August 28 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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