What is an education for?
Every philosopher, every theorist, every educator of every kind endeavors to answer this question if they are to have any sense of their purpose or goals in their practice. It is a perenially difficult question, which Dewey and other educational philosophers pursued their entire intellectual career.
For the purposes of this reflection, I am drawn to Alfred North Whitehead’s definition from The Aims of Education,
“Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilisation [sic] of knowledge.”Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education, p.4
This definition speaks to the purpose of formal and informal institutions of learning to cultivate an art that uses, explores, concepts, learnings, explorations…and I think it speaks most to my experience of this program.
“The joy which [learners] themselves experience is the joy of intellectual constructiveness—of creativeness…” -Dewey
What is a Master’s in Learning, Design & Technology for?
As a member of the second cohort of a new program housed in a university center, not a department, in a field that is only just starting to fully develop… I knew that there would be flexibility and creativity necessarily built into every part of the program. I knew that the design process of our courses would be mirrored in the pedagogy and development of our projects. That was what I wanted, and what I got!
Not all courses were perfectly designed. Not all professors created true learning communities or actualized their stated learning goals, but every experience was valuable as a practitioner, learning her craft and as a student learning new content and expertise. And that is what I was here for, to have guidance from, and access to, a community that would expose me to and explore with me, new and more robust contexts for learning, design & technology.
As I learned more about design theory through our studio, and more about theories of learning and schooling, through our core courses, it became apparent that what I was most interested in was the new applications of educational technology. When I started the program I thought I would focus most on course design and learning theory, what I ended up taking the most electives in, and exploring were emergent technologies. I had the incredible opportunity to marry my interests in pedagogy with the applied learning of designing learning opportunities that explored the current forefront of technological platforms. Some of the most transformative works I was exposed to in the program were from these courses The Nature of Technology, by Brian Arthur, Artificial Intelligence in Education by Holmes et. al., Education and Technology by Selgin, and countless articles that led me to fundamentally explore my notions of the capacity of technology to facilitate deep learning. Add to that the projects and research that they then led to and the transformation had begun.
“We need an education that can teaches people to learn throughout their lives, bolstering their talents to do what machines cannot. Which raises a question: what are human beings singularly good at doing?” -Aoun
What is a community for…after the formal relationship ends?
By far the most important part of the experience of this program was the community of learners. Every professor was an expert in their field and designed courses that led to a true expansion of my understanding of the nature of learning.
The small classes led to high touch engagement with all the professors, and a strong community among the students. While more could have been done to truly access the knowledge within the classes, more discussion facilitation, there is no denying that the projects and studio gave us access to the incredible creativity and capability of our cohort-mates.
Which brings me to the question of what is next? Everything I learned in this program is applicable to my work in K12 education, applicable to my lifelong pursuit of creating and cultivating institutions that support human flourishing. And now I forever have a community of intellectual and emotional support as I continue that journey.
The last thing I have to say, is thank you. Thank you to all my classmates and professors. I am a better, stronger, more capable academic interlocutor because of your tutelage. I know more about what I don’t know, and have cultivated new interests because of yours. Thank you for sharing this experience with me. I am so grateful.