The eSchool New's Jan 4, 2008 online edition ran a story titled "Top 10 ed-tech stories still resonate in 2008 (Part II)." According to this piece the #3 story of the year bears the title "Web fuels 'democratization of knowledge' (Yeah, baby!)...
The piece states: "Educators might look back on 2007 as a tipping point for a movement that has been building for years, thanks to the power of the internet: the democratization of learning..."
It cites free courses available through MIT's Open CourseWare Project and iTunes U as examples of some of the many institutions that allow outsiders to get the content of teaching of their courses. Also cited as prime examples of this shift is "...the online community known as Curriki offers a place online where educators from anywhere in the world can post curricula and lesson plans for review and use by fellow classroom teachers." and "Another new resource, the OER (Open Educational Resources) Commons, makes more than 8,000 classroom materials available to teachers and learners worldwide, at no cost--from primary-source documents to complete course guides on a variety of topics." The article provides links to other sources on this revolutionary trend in Education, as well.
Another article of note illuminating this theme is
"Internet Access Is Only Prerequisite For More and More College Classes"
From Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/30/AR2007123002796.html
Berkeley's on YouTube. American University's hoping to get on iTunes. George Mason professors have created an online research tool, a virtual filing cabinet for scholars. And with a few clicks on Yale's Web site, anyone can watch one of the school's most popular philosophy professors sitting cross-legged on his desk, talking about death.
Studying on YouTube won't get you a college degree, but many universities are using technology to offer online classes and open up archives. Sure, some schools have been charging for distance-learning classes for a long time, but this is different: These classes are free. At a time when many top schools are expensive and difficult to get into, some say it's a return to the broader mission of higher education: to offer knowledge to everyone..."
Access to school can no longer be equated with access to learning! We have moved beyond even the revolutionary state of having a plethora of learning content freely available online. We have now entered into a realm in which the teaching of that content is in a state of open and opening access, as well. With the proliferation of Internet capable devices like the One Laptop Per Child Project's XO device, we begin to complete a holistic picture in which learning is there for the asking...for the very first time in the history of our species! The final piece that remains is the creation of CONTEXT. We have seen for some time that while individuals may be exposed to an instructional program, they do not necessarily engage with it (the alarmingly high percentage of time off task witnessed in American schools is a good example).
As we move into this new era, we will witness some remarkable changes in the state of education. For one, in the developing world (among other places) a new species of learner, the Auto Didact will emerge as the dominant type of learner and consequently, of individual who achieves success because of it. For another the existing concept of the Lifelong Learner will have to be expanded to conceive learning as a key part of the business of living...from cradle to grave. And in relation to that, Learning will have to become THE most important element of the curriculum.
Finally, with the overwhelming majority of the logistical needs for learning in place, instructional programs will have to become hyper-flixible as the only acceptable reason we will be left with for their failure to first, engage, and second, effectively educate, will have to be seen as their own inadequate design - considering that lack of resources will have been ruled out!
A brave and SMART NEW WORLD is coming and the path for it must be cleared with a high degree of honesty.