Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Future Of Learning: A Video Interview With Curtis Bonk

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What does the future of learning look like? What is going to change in the future of our education systems? What role will new media technologies play in the way you and I will share knowledge and skills in the near future? If you want to see a glimpse of how you can impact the way in which you and your kids are going to learn in the future, check out this video interview.

Photo credit: Robin Good

My highly qualified interviewee is this time Curtis Bonk, Professor Emeritus of Indiana University, and one of the most celebrated "hot heads" out there looking at the future of education and learning (he has recently published a great new book called "The World is Open").

According to Prof. Bonk, the key issue educators and teachers will face in the near future is how to engage and connect students.

Traditional educational venues like schools and universities tend to institutionalize teaching, leaving little or no space to questions, creative initiative, or to sharing and collaboration approaches.

How do we overcome these obstacles? Do we need to revolutionize the whole education system altogether?

Professor Bonk thinks not.

Though this may sound quite a challenge, he says that there are many ways whereby you and I can increasingly foster the adoption of a new learning paradigm. And new media technologies can indeed play a critical role in this process.

Social networks, community-building platforms, online learning resources, mobile devices need to be re-purposed as the new tools that students and teachers worldwide will employ to connect with each other, share their skills and analyze data from multiple perspectives.

If [people] can learn from a boat, if Arctic explorers can learn from the ice at the North Pole and South Pole, if people can be learning from trains or on planes, we have taken learning and pushed it out beyond schools to so many non-traditional and informal learning venues. People can no longer ignore it, people can no longer say it is not worthwhile.

We have to start exploring where it works and how to get the information out to as many locations as possible. That should be the goal of all politicians, of all educators, to spread beyond schools.

Schools are important, but let's push well beyond, where human kind is gone, or wherever all the species are gone, we can learn.

In this video interview with Professor Bonk you can discover what may be really needed for a paradigm shift in education and what are the changes and the new approaches required for our kids to be blessed with a brand new way to discover and learn about the world they live in.


Future of Learning - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 1' 16"

Full English Text Transcription

Robin Good: Good morning Curt. How are you doing?

Curtis Bonk: It is a lovely day in Bloomington, Indiana.

Robin Good: Alright then... and The World is Open!

Curtis Bonk: It is not closed, it is open!

Robin Good: Fantastic. How is the weather there?

Curtis Bonk: Lovely, but I have not been outside yet to really experience it.

Robin Good: But, I mean, are you guys getting into the cold part of the year?

Curtis Bonk: It is been a bit chilly, it just got nice today.

Trees are changing, all yellow all around me. I have a forest view, and I look this way, a little creek and a forest. But I will look at you for now.

Robin Good: Fantastic. How do you spend most of your time inside that room full of papers? Are you mostly still grading people or are you exploring the new universes of learning? What are you really doing?

Curtis Bonk: I print and I put them in a stack, and then I run through them when I want to write a chapter. I just kind look at what I need, I grab something and... here we go!


New Teachers Must Be Social and Entertaining - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 2'

Robin Good: How much the interaction of your students is part of your new learning and discovery process?

Curtis Bonk: I teach online. I teach with video conferencing, and I teach blended. All those things.

Right now I have an online class, and my second class is actually being changed, so that I am creating videos for faculties to teach online: 27 videos, five to 10 minutes long, on different topics of online teaching and learning.

Robin Good: Fantastic. What are the new skills that are being learned by a teacher who wants to use video, for example, to help his students learn something?

Curtis Bonk: Of course social presence: Feedback, how do you engage students, pedagogical stuff. How do you grab something on a remote site and shake it up a little bit. Debates, role-play and all those things. That is not new, but the notion of social presence maybe is.

The fixation with our society, here in the US, is about having an instructor available. That is a big thing today.

I think eBooks is a big thing today in the US It is being the summer of eBooks, and how we do we use them to engage students and then just flip through content.

It is also being the summer of open teaching and open learning.

Obama wants community colleges to have free open-source classes.

  • How is that going to happen?
  • Who is going to pay for it?
  • Who is going to assess the skills learned?
  • What is the digital library of contents going to look like?

Since my book came out, that you just held up, those are the two trends: Opener number one (eBooks) and opener number four (open teaching and learning) have probably being the most prominent. And then number 10: Facebook, social networking.


How Facebook Can Serve Future Educators - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 1' 47"

Robin Good: How is that Facebook becoming relevant to the world of learning?

Curtis Bonk: What we see today is that Facebook is spinning out to little games and applications.

How can we create educational games that engage kids for one month or two months, not just Farmville, which has millions of users, but how do we create educational games within that?

How do we build social ice-breakers for a class, so students get to know each other? Or a community, that is not just a repository of documents? All these papers could be posted into a community, right? But how do we get to engage with other students in the class and beyond the class?

I think Facebook is a way to bring people in from the outside into your class for a view, as well as to get students within the class to network with one another: share homework, share their ideas, but homework in particular. What you are learning, where do you want to go and who do you want to learn with.

We can extend a peer group today with social networking beyond our four-wall classrooms.

I do not have to look here or there, or in front of me, but really the world community comes in using Facebook or Ning, which I like. N-I-N-G of course.

Have you used Ning? I am sure you have.

Robin Good: Yeah, I am not actually a great fan of Ning, but it is indeed a nice infrastructure to build communities, and if there are strong vectors of interest around the community it can work really well I think. I am all for that.


Society Can No Longer Ignore Online Learning - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 5' 7"

Robin Good: You just mentioned classrooms and the possibility of going beyond the four walls. But why is then all these technology and new opportunities still converging around putting people inside that box for so many hours? That bugs me a little bit. How do you see that situation changing?

Curtis Bonk: We have got to think about new universities, new secondary schools. We have got to move beyond the notion of four walls. There is a book here, is called Learning at the Back Door.

Do you see this little Russian kid looking into the school over here? He is not allowed into the school, those four walled rooms. This other individual has resources wrapped around him, he can learn whenever he wants. Today this kid does not have to think about learning from Oxford or Stanford. He can. Whenever he wants to, or she wants to. He does not have to go into the classroom.

Today the student can go to a podcast and listen to or something like this, when he or she needs to.

Robin Good: But then in the reality of the day today I am in fact quite forced even at a legal-penal level to bring my kid to a four-wall classroom.

I am not allowed, not supported, nor rewarded it if I try to invest the little time left after all those hours and the memorization exercises assigned by the Soviet school to him, to explore this other worlds, to access the professors he wants to be into, the affinity groups of other kids that do not have to belong to his same district to be part of his classroom, but enjoy his same passions.

The dream I see is the same one, but the reality of it, for what I see, is still very far and distant, and the culture around me seems also to reject me when I try to pronounce those new thoughts. What is your experience?

Curtis Bonk: Here we are. We are at this playing field trying today, where we are all engaging, you and I have gone to these schools. There are few people who are on the fringe areas who are deciding to learn from these online contents when they need them to be re-tooled, who are adults typically.

But young people today in the US, like Adora Svitak, the world's youngest teacher, 11 year-old, learns online and teaches online since she was six year-old, these are the early pioneers, like we called them. Sooner those will no longer be the pioneers.

Your kids will be jumping into your Soviet state, I think you called it, will be seeing this success story of these kids on the fringes, these fringe people will become the norms who learned from:

This is shaking people up, in the US anyhow, in Korea which I visited recently, in Singapore.

Now, today we have got so many options available to us. If universities, colleges, schools, corporate training centers do not take advantage, we are going to have a revolution of the people. Who demanded, you and I, not just us.

World is open. How do we take advantage of that?

We just see the inclination of this, with people learning on ships and boats. Those guys going around the world at age 17, they were learning all the time they were taking their sail boat around the world. If they can learn from a boat, if Arctic explorers can learn from the ice at the North Pole and South Pole, if people can be learning from trains or on planes, we have taken learning and pushed it out beyond schools to so many non-traditional and informal learning venues. People can no longer ignore it, people can no longer say it is not worthwhile.

We have to start exploring where it works and how to get the information out to as many locations as possible. That should be the goal of all politicians, of all educators, to spread beyond schools.

Schools are important, but let's push well beyond, where humankind has gone, or wherever all the species are gone, we can learn. That is my notion.


Technology Is a Way To Broaden Learning Perspectives - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 5' 8"

Robin Good: I am receiving this idea that those kids and those pioneers among us pushing the envelope will be the models of this emerging revolution, but the resistance from the existing educational system is very strong.

Also what I noticed is that these so-called digital natives are not as schooled as they are painted to be. They are cool because they have those tools as natural tools in front of them, but most of the time they are clueless on the best use of these tools on themselves, out of the very easy superficial social tools that they start to learn right away.

Digital natives do not seem to get what are the possibilities in front of them because they do not really have models inside their educational institutions that help them think critically about the opportunities available to them. The education system also makes them think in ways quite opposite in the way of forming them as humans that can have value inside society, that are kind of opposite to the once being offered by those very technologies. I am having some conflicts with all that.

Curtis Bonk: Let's think about the Flat Classrooms Project.

The Flat Classrooms Project is the only one discussed in my book, Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat book, Don Tapscott's WIKINOMICS book and Growing Up Digital.

What they do in the flat classrooms, in Digiteen Project, they take a book like mine, or whatever book they might have, my blended book or whatever they have got, and they analyze the book. And in this case, these kids in secondary schools, work with other kids around the world to understand the technologies that make learning open. This semester they are using my book actually, The World is Open book. It is making them aware of what are the technologies for learning. Last year they looked at Growing Up Digital, the book from Don Tapscott, and they analyzed it across the world.

You are right, kids today have pretty savvy skills for their mobile devices, they can use them for chats and all this. But they are not for learning.

How do we transform the mobile devices or these synchronous conferencing tools?

In the Flat Classrooms Project they use Ning to form groups with other kids around the world, wikis to summarize the book across cultures, video conferencing like this to discuss what they have learned and do peer interaction. They use other kinds of tools like Twitter, microblogging and blogs. How can that one-off project become the norm?

How can those synchronous as well as asynchronous collaborative technologies push all through all schools? This is the power of technology I have been talking about since 1987. I think that video conference like this can let kids stand in each others shoes. They can see perspectives. That to me can change the whole teaching and learning arena. We have to pushing the global head, international head for perspective taking.

I understand people in Italy better, which I do not admittedly, or people in Pakistan or some other places around the world. To me this is the most powerful way to use technology. It is to do cross-cultural collaboration like the ePals projects and others, there is something called the IEARN Project. That will get kids in K-12 schools thinking about collaboration, teaming, these digital skills that you are talking about to critically analyze data. Not just accept what they see, but to analyze it with their peer groups. When they see a group in Italy critiquing a document that they thought was great, they will see that they really were not thinking about the credibility of the sources, the quality of the resources.

When I have done any international collaboration with my students, with my teachers, they see that once we go to Finland, Peru or Korea, those students are analyzing the data in a different way, and they are opened up to the fact that they are really not going as in-depth as they need to go. I really think that international collaboration pushes us up to ego-centric points of view to multiple perspectives. That is one way of using technology that can help with this digital teen issue.


No More PowerPoint, Do Carnival Pedagogy Instead - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 5' 52"

Robin Good: Then with the explosion of all these learning opportunities, there must be indeed some work like the one you are preparing to train a little better these supposed teachers to become real communicators, because they have been going up and down the hall in my classroom, and my son and my grandson classrooms forever, telling their memorized stories, but only very few of them are kind of interesting or engaging. We have learned how to do great games while they walk down the other way, and we have those 48 seconds or so in which to prepare another trick for them when they come back.

Again, the issue is also to create a new generation of, maybe I do not like to call them teachers, that word gets in my way a little bit, but guides, facilitators, like this concept of samba schools that - who was it - Seymour Papert, I think, brought up.

Samba schools in Brazil, where there is a lot of affinity, everybody is passionate about something, there is a unique goal and then there are elders and novices mixing up each other, and sharing their skills. That is the type of learning I am looking for, and I would like it to come to where I am.

As you are saying the you learning world, in which everything comes down to my mobile, your indication of preparing a set of lessons that are short and I can look up on my iPod or so, seems to be quite the direction. But the content producers, the teachers seem to be lacking.

We got a great deal of PowerPoint makers, but I have a place where you can send them here in Italy.

Curtis Bonk: I have two comments right away on that. First of all: I will send you all the PowerPoint people you want. PPPs: Power Point People. Power to the PowerPoint people. It is enough Ps.

OK, two things. My friend Inae Kang, in Korea is developing carnival pedagogy. The same notion of Seymour Papert's Play, liveliness, engagement. She is looking at a brand new concept: carnival pedagogy.

How do we create a pedagogy teaching platform, which is:

  • Engaging,
  • fun,
  • interactive,
  • collaborative,
  • more depth to the experience,
  • more social connectedness among the people?

She is the first one I have ever heard talking about this notion, and I am trying to support her to be a keynote at a conference. I nominated her many times and people say: "What is this?" "Forget it, this is a bit too extreme" And I feel bad, because this is the kind of extremism that we need to be pushing this edge, we need get people thinking about things like carnival pedagogy or something else, right?

How do we get kids engaged in new forms of learning? That maybe might transfer into using digital technologies for learning purposes as well as social purposes.

How do we mix the learning and social together? "Soc-learning" or we need a new word for this, because we cannot ignore the social anymore.

Social is too important, right? Is the social plain where all thought is displayed and we internalize that. But how do we make these social events an engaging learning event? And I think you are right, short blurbs of knowledge mixed in when they need it from their mobile devices attached to their bodies somewhere. Their teacher is in their pocket, right?

My friend Paul Kim has these little pocket school projects. Teachers in my pocket. Kids in Latin America, in Rwanda, in India have literacy training.

Our teachers who think they are almighty gods, they are the PowerPoint providers, we do not need them. They are in our pockets.

If we can have our teacher in our pocket, what good is a teacher?

When we have:

we have all the stuff. All these contents dumped into the web.

When we have Stanford, Oxford, and you name the universities in Japan and Vietnam putting their stuff on the web, in India, the Indian Institutes of Technology, all this stuff. The openers number four and five in the book, The World is Open, all these portals.

Teachers then have to think: "But how do we use these contents that are available from MIT or the Open University of Malaysia or the UK?" That way they are wrapping around effective teachers...

We do not need to replicate these statistics lectures five hundreds times over every semester. How can we utilize these contents and have teachers then get students to listen before they come to class so when they get to class is an interactive, engaging, problem-based, problem-finding activity?


New Teachers Should Become Content Curators - Curtis Bonk

Duration: 5'

Robin Good: It would seem to me that in this painting you just sketched out there is a tremendous opportunity for those who actually act as curators of all this material, because so far so good that you, MIT and everybody else are coming out with these thousands of new files and links. But God knows what it takes to go through them, make sense of your titles and indexes, and put some threads to it, so that I can really navigate through information and learn something. There is a whole universe of work to do to organize this beyond and across the different content repositories that are emerging every hour. Is not there a job for the next 1000 centuries?

Curtis Bonk: Oh God. You know Piaget was a curator. When Piaget was 10 year-old he was a curator of a museum.

How can teachers be curators? I think they are concierges of a hotel. The hotel is this information hotel. How do we turn information into knowledge? And then how do we get students develop mentally pushed? I think we ignore human development.

We have so much potentials as human beings to go well beyond were we are today, if the organization, as you said, if the teachers figure out ways to help get us into the contents, push us through, not just in organize the content in some way, so we are not overwhelmed. There is so much there we can just be unfrustrated.

How is the teacher role changing from deliver of this content? I am the teacher. Here is the teacher in this box. How do we now have the box and utilize the box stuff and push kids to new levels of development they have never achieved before?

Robin Good: It would seems that the traditional teacher would not be the appropriate skill-owner to do this type of job, but the person who has skilled themselves to research, analyze, evaluate information and to juxtapose and remix it in new ways.

There is an opportunity for a new breed of professional or non-professional independent guides - let's not call them teachers - that can help people make sense of information, outside of the interest of Google, which is the only one that officially is out there to organize this information. We need somebody else beyond Google to do this.

Whether it helps Google or not I do not care, but we need to organize information for ourselves and that is the opportunity for a new army of independent great teachers to come out.

Curtis Bonk: Two comments there: Google EDU exists today. When we have been doing research on Google, actually Youtube EDU exists. We have being doing research on YouTube.

There are professors in California teaching the whole class in YouTube, but they found the problem of that is there is no librarian, there is no-one indexing the stuff, and that is the same problem we have with Google.

We do not have people thinking about Google from an educational point of view. One thing we can be doing is, as educators, how do we re-purpose this stuff, remix, as you say. That is one thing. YouTube, curators, librarians.

A second thing I want to comment: In my book I have 15 predictions. One prediction is: eMentors and eCoaches.

I think we are going to see the rise of super eCoaches, super eMentors. Those people have three skills:

  1. The first skill is a domain expertise, whatever it is, media, social work, teaching, business, architecture, anthropology, they have a domain expertise.
  2. Number two: They understand the Internet for learning.
  3. Number three: They have counseling skills, human development skills.

It is the mix of those three, when you understand human beings, when you understand a domain expertise and you understand technology for learning, you will be golden in the 21st century.

This is the learning century, and eMentors, super eMentors will arise to be, I think, as important or more important than teachers. Teacher role will change to concierge or super eMentors for some facilitator guide nudge. What do you think?

Robin Good: This was Curt Bonk, live from Indiana and I am Robin Good from Rome in Italy. There is not a better moment to stop this, so... bye-bye!

Original video interview recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia. Article editing by Elia Lombardi and Daniele Bazzano. First published on November 19th, 2009 as "Future Of Learning: A Video Interview With Curtis Bonk".

About Curtis Bonk


Curtis Bonk is professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University and president and founder of both SurveyShare and CourseShare. Drawing on his background as a corporate controller, CPA, educational psychologist, and instructional technologist. Bonk offers insights into the intersection of business, education, psychology, and technology. An expert on emerging technologies for learning, Bonk reflects on his speaking experiences around the world in his blog, TravelinEdMan. He has co-authored several technology books, including The World is Open, Empowering Online Learning, The Handbook of Blended Learning, and Electronic Collaborators.

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posted by on Thursday, November 19 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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