I just finished reading Curtis J. Bonk’s new book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that Wiley, the publisher, emailed me after I reviewed Dan Willingham’s book in a previous post and asked if they could send me Bonk’s book for possible review (with no strings attached).
I said yes and the next week received a copy of this book at no charge.
With that said, this book has resonated with me and I found Bonk’s approach interesting.
In many ways, Bonk is as much a fan boy of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat as I am. Just as Friedman had ten flatterners, Bonk has ten openers:
Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)
- Web Searching in the World of e-Books
- E-Learning and Blended Learning
- Availability of Open Source and Free Software
- Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
- Learning Object Repositories and Portals
- Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
- Electronic Collaboration
- Alternate Reality Learning
- Real-Time Mobility and Portability
- Networks of Personalized Learning
WE-ALL-LEARN provides a framework for his book and the premise that anyone can now learn anything from anyone at anytime. Bonk spun out chapters on each opener, illustrating each concept with stories, a bit of research and statistics, and implications for education in the future. Working in the field, I recognized some of the people he named, but I also learned new pioneers. Bonk continually reinforces that these openers ought to be changing education as we know it, as our world is quite different from our parent’s world.
In Bonk’s view, these openers need to viewed through three overarching trends. First, the pipes are getting bigger allowing access to tools and infrastructure. Second, more and more pages of content is becoming available as free and open content. Third, a participatory learning culture is evolving around social media.
One of the things I found fascinating was my own reaction to the book. I buy the basic theme that openness ultimately improves education, and I consider myself someone who is part of a participatory learning culture. I was pleased that Bonk provided a companion website with hyperlinked references and other resources. But my first inclination was to begin following Curt Bonk’s Twitter account…and I could not find one for him! Other than his blog, I did not see Bonk participating to the same degree that he discusses in his book. I have never met him and may be way off target, but I was somewhat surprised that I could not immediately connect with him the way I did with some of the people he mentioned in his book like Stephen Downes, Vicki Davis, Clay Shirky or Dave Weinberger.
So I was thrilled with the content and miffed a bit by the author! Weird reaction!
I also found that increasingly with books like this one, I read it with a laptop nearby, so that I can quickly go look at something new and immediately start the learning process for myself. I had never seen Dancing Matt before, so really enjoyed viewing his Youtube video while reading that section of the book. This bouncing between the web and the written word is a new but interesting process…and it suggests that in many ways, this should have been an e-book as opposed to a print book.
His final opener has to do with personalized learning…something we reflect on often in faculty development. Bonk stated that we should be striving to move from where we see personalized learning as the ideal to a culture where personalized learning is the accepted norm. With the pipes, pages, and participatory culture, anyone can establish their own learning path on any topic, whether it be improved teaching, learning a new language, or finally programming the VCR (…just kidding). The implications for faculty development are huge!
Bonk has fifteen predictions at the end. I will leave it to you to check them out, but I liked that he is questioning the status quo. With the availability of all the world’s knowledge in our pockets/cellphones, the typical four-year college process no longer makes sense to Bonk. He suggests that formalized education will expand rather than contract. But informal learning with global partners will play an equal role to the formalized higher education model. Learning will be authentic from passionate teachers…but those “teachers” may no longer be credentialed. Bonk also served up a dozen issues that will have to be solved for openness to succeed.
I work with faculty daily on best ways to incorporate the internet into their teaching practices. In the past three years since I came to VCU, the access to learning on the web has exploded. Bonk’s book is pushing me to reconceptualize how I should facilitate faculty development in an open world. I recommend the book to you and would be interesting in your thoughts on the evolution/revolution of faculty development in these exciting times!