Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Virtual Education: A Question of Vision

One of the great experiences that I had in education was the opportunity to teach Russian history to teens.It was even more interesting to me because I was not teaching from an American or Canadian world view but from the viewpoint of the Russian people. One of more useful resources to get a feel for the history of these proud people was a book by Sergei Alekseyev titled: "Russian History in Tales"(Progress Publishers, 1975) . A primary lesson that I learned from this resource was there was a very good reason why people such as Catherine the Great and Peter the Great were in fact called "great". These were Russian leaders who had an understanding of where their people were at and even more important a credible vision as to where their people should be in the unfolding future of the world.
One problem that we have in education is the lack of a defining vision for what education should do for society.
Two points of view are: (1) Education should reflect society and seek to support its direction, and (2) Education should be an instigator of change in society for the better. If you consider the first view point then your efforts as educators may be reduced to "navel staring" and you could becomes slaves to other forces that have a different agenda in society. If you consider the second point of view then it becomes clear that a defining vision of where we would like society to go is absolutely fundamental for moving forward.

With the arrival of virtual education, we now have access to a mosaic of visions that are defined by a multitude of cultures. Never before have we had so much access to global points of view on where the planet should proceed in the future. The real trick is in judging which visions are viable for global citizens and which are equally sustainable.
Where are the men and women of great vision in our societies? Going back to Russian history, not all visions were visions that were good for humanity. We think of people such as Stalin and Lenin  as examples of people who had vision but theirs was not a vision that was a benefit to humanity or for their own people as hindsight has demonstrated.
In virtual education, who will be the "great" visionaries of online education? Will they be the ones who hold the first point of view that education should reflect society or the second view that education should be a stimulant to bring about change in society? In order to see this worked out, we need to give up our addiction at being consumers of knowledge which serves only one point of view and become producers of new knowledge that is to the benefit of all people in moving a society forward.

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