How fast is education changing?

I sometimes teach an evening class at Parkland College. In my “Intro to SQL” class, I have been experimenting with open digital badges. One of my latest excursions led me to, a badging platform that incorporates online portfolios and attempts to form bonds between the educator, the student and the employer. Recently I had an excellent chat with Ben Roome, co-founder of Which led to me reading his own blog post on the intersection (or lack thereof) of higher education and employment:


Ben makes a strong point about how the pathway from “school” to a job is changing. Specifically, the growing trend where learners are taking learning into their own hands:

Millennials have grown up in a social-media-saturated environment where an individual’s contribution is measured in part by their ability to navigate the wilds of the internet and extract meaning without external guidance. This growing importance of self-directed learning can be seen as a natural response to the increasingly rapid pace of change all around us. But this trend also represents something of a cultural shift away from industrial age hierarchies and towards internet era meritocracies–collaborative communities of empowered individuals.


He uses the example of HackReactor, which sounds very impressive (12-week commitment, 98% of grads get a job). But this got me to thinking…. we here in Champaign-Urbana have grown up in a Big Ten University town. This “industrial age” research institution is still pulling in significant numbers of students, and the baby sister Parkland is not doing half-bad either. This tells me that there are still large numbers of students who believe the “old school” school is the way to go.


As I talk to more and more people, I see that “education reform” is happening all the time – it’s just faster in some places than in others. And it doesn’t always look the same, it really depends on what one needs. As cool as things like HackReactor and open digital badges seem, I realize they are not for everyone. The “industrial age” school works for some people. Not for everyone.


So the question I have to ask myself is two-fold: 1) who is not being served well by the current system, and 2) what can we do about it? And while I am ready and willing to support those who are not well served, it is not my place to judge or label anyone. I stand ready to help, just let me know how.


If you want to measure the speed of change in educational systems, ask some key questions. What is the purpose of education? What does education look like? What exactly is a “school”?


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