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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, There's a "Mission to Learn" After All
Friday, August 28, 2009
Sometimes life brings you to a mirror. You look in that mirror and ponder what if. There are times you think, ok, I really like this mirror. It all turned out pretty well. There are many other times, you could just as soon chuck it. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the ugliest of them all?

If the mirror is not about physical appearance, but instead about thought or ideas, you begin to think about all those years that led you to a particular perspective, opinion, or point of view. Anyone who comes to the same conclusions as you or seems to have similar points of view is immediately suspect. That is a given. How can he or she have the same idea or thoughts? Well, anyone can. We all distill our information from the endless sea of possibilities out there. With 6.7+ billion people, someone is bound to have found a similar life purpose or mission.

And so it is with Mission To Learn. What a wonderful concept about the human species! Learning is not just about K-12 situations or learning for credit of some kind. It should not wait until one gets to a college or university setting nor should it end with that. Learning is lifelong and all environments we enter are learning venues; including grocery or department stores, summer cabins, bookstores, cafes, sports arenas, and airplanes. It is time that we stepped back, looked in the mirrors around us, and realized that.

Too often learning is compartmentalized. You teach or learn in K-12 settings and only are concerned with that. Or you are college professors, university administrators, or instructional designers. If so, higher education becomes your audience or life mission. And then there are those who are totally focused on corporate training and employees who need perpetual reskilling. Ditto military training. Same is true of training and education in governmental and non-profit settings as well as healthcare ones. You may not think about it but there are also learning mission statements of libraries and museums. And so on. Each particular place has its overriding focus. We each exist in our own silos or bowl only in our own lanes with minimal interest (or time) in what is happening in the alleys right next to us. Once you mention adult education in a discussion with many in the K-12 world, the conversation often grinds to a halt. Ditto the reverse.

However, the one overriding principle is that all of us humans learn; young or old, rich or poor, male or female, etc. And with the world now open for learning, we all have many more avenues for learning and people to learn with. Today technology brings us all together to learn--with Twitter or Facebook posts, Ning groups, or projects in Google Docs. Learning is really becoming lifelong.

The labels we have as being in primary school or corporate training typically relate to our training or where our funding comes from. Even our departmental housing. But, with the emergence of Web technology and the tools for collaboration and communication, we are all teachers of the world today as well as learners within it. Our colleagues, students, friends, teachers, mentors, tutors, etc., are global ones. They are all helping you on your mission to learn.

Now we have a movement with exactly that name. Yes, "Mission to Learn" exists. According to the "About" section of the Mission to Learn website, Mission to Learn is a destination for lifelong learners in a hyper-connected, information-overloaded world. Our view is that learning is not just about courses, or schools, or teachers. In fact, we’re not all that concerned here with formal learning or professional development. Learning happens everywhere, all the time, and the Web has exploded the possibilities for all of us to reach our full potential through learning."

And so Mission to Learn seems to be stating what I have noted in my The World Is Open book. The Web has really changed things. We are more connected as a species and much more learning focused than in the past. Informal forms of learning are pervasive, continual, and increasing in importance. They are life itself. I explored the website and it is as if I am looking in a mirror. A pleasant sort of mirror at that.

Mission to Learn is the brainchild of Jeff Cobb. Jeff interviewed me this week (see "Open Education, Open World, Podcast with Curt Bonk"). You can now read his blog post of August 26, 2009 on that interview and my book and listen to the audio or go directly to the MP3 from that session.

I had fun. Jeff is a great podcast show host. And he is looking to expand his mission, or I should say, his "Mission to Learn." You might become a member or subscriber. Like all such missions, it is free. You can get his Learning Monitor newsletter.

People like Jeff accurately argue that the Web is transforming education in front of our eyes. The natural instincts to learn are more and more apparent each day as we have dozens of downloadable documents to read, Web portals to browse, blog postings to discuss, wikis to collaborate on, and shared online videos to watch. We do not have to be in sixth grade to watch content from NASA TV, Discovery Channel Video, or National Geographic Video. And we do not need to be an adult to benefit from MIT World, SciVee, or hundreds of colleges and universities with channels in YouTube or YouTube Edu. Now we can select any of these learning options as well as hundreds of thousands of other ones at any time. You are free to learn.

Keep looking in the mirror. Someday you might come to see something fresh and new. There just might be a mission to learn in you that you did not recognize before. You can thank people like Jeff Cobb for that. I think the world is filled with such people. Thanks Jeff. Thanks for giving all of us a mission to learn.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 9:09 PM  
  • At 8:29 PM, Blogger Jessie V said…

    brilliant - can't wait to explore your podcast (and site).

  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks Jessie V. Let me know what you think.

  • At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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