Friday, October 28, 2016

The 'What Ifs' of Learning and Education

Recently, my 13-year old represented her school in a public speaking contest. The title of her speech was to begin with 'what if'; two simple words that caused her to stay up a few nights. In trying to identify the right topic for her speech, she explored many what ifs. After much deliberation, she chose a topic that was meaningful for her and where students her age could make a difference. 

Her speech triggered some what ifs in my own head. I started to think about the possible what ifs in the world of learning and education.

  • What if all learning is customized and individuals can select how and at what pace they want to learn?
  • What if all learning is personalized and individuals can select what and when they want to learn?
  • What if learning and education is focused on real-world application where individuals learn to create meaningful artifacts and develop learning networks rather than acquire knowledge?
  • What if learning and education is fueled by teachers who can quickly access learning data, track progress and design flexible learning paths?
  • What if learning and education is surrounded by mentors and coaches who are available at the touch of a button and provide specific feedback at the moment of need?
  • What if learning and education is supported by tools and technologies but all these tools and technologies are invisible and deeply embedded? 
  • What if the purpose of learning and education is to demonstrate credentials not degrees?
  • What if learning and education is democratic where anyone can be a learner and anyone can be a teacher?
  • What if learning and education is not about mastering a skill or knowledge area but more about a continuous journey? 

If you are looking to explore some more what if questions around the trends and shifts in technology, do check out this site

If you are more pensive and are looking to explore questions that can make the biggest difference in your life, this is what you should read.


  1. This reminds me of the Human-Centered Design approach that starts with "How might we...", e.g. How might we customise learning for our employees?

    I like it because it shifts the conversation from why something won't work to how it can.

    1. Thank you for your comment Ryan! I liked how you were able to draw connections between 'what if' and 'how might we'. I agree that this is an attemp to shift the conversation from answers to more meaningful questions. :)

  2. I'll throw in my own, if I may:

    - What if division into school and adult learning fell in favour of continuous, life-long participation in learning networks?

    - What if those networks weren't simply a platform entirely separate from so-called real life, but if one could use any encounter in order to learn something new?

    1. Thanks for sharing your 'what ifs' Nikos.
      You make great points about the need for learning being integrated into real-life.
      For me, the most meaningful learning events are where I learn through conversations, participation and collaboration with others and not necessarily via sitting in a training room.