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Society 3.0 Section 4, Ch.8 Excerpt: Higher Education and Implications

Following is an excerpt from excerpt from "Society 3.0", by Tracey Wilen-Daugenti

Learning Environments: Individualized Methods for Gathering Information

This section ties together our focus on work, society, and technology in a discussion within the context of higher education requirements. We define the importance of learning environments and how personal learning ecosystems define many of the information-gathering processes that take place today. We present the job skill characteristics that will be vital in the future, as well as their implications for important stakeholders in individuals, businesses, and the government. We also offer higher education models, and ask several critical questions:

  • Who are the students of today and tomorrow?
  • What are their anticipated educational expectations?
  • What new educational models and approaches will be required to meet future societal needs?
  • What is the role of higher education institutions, business, and government in the context of education and work?

Individualized Methods for Gathering Information

Technology is constantly in motion, and by the time this book reaches the market many of the technologies discussed in this book will be outdated. In .edu (Wilen-Daugenti, 2009), several technological trends—namely mobile, Web 2.0, and social technologies, video and gaming—were reviewed and discussed in the context of their impact on higher education and how they were being used to create personalized learning environments. Today, these technologies have advanced further, and learners are beginning to embrace additional modalities of learning, namely, mobility, collaboration, and immersion, which have opened up a sea of possibilities and expectations.

At the same time, the proliferation of innovative technologies can often overwhelm individuals in their quest for information. Information overload and multitasking frequently lead to confusion and heightened stress, both in society and in higher education. However, it is important to note that while modern technology promotes the use of a complex array of learning options, individuals are also uniquely positioned to select what works best for them and to create personal learning ecosystems based on their preferred method of gathering, processing, and acting upon information.This chapter will focus on learning environments and their evolution in real-life circumstances. By use of a personal example, I will illustrate how individuals construct personal learning ecosystems based on their level of expertise and comfort level, and in turn, how these learning modes transfer to society, work, and higher education.

Learning Environments

Learning environments result from the blurring of lines between traditional, face-to-face learning in classrooms and the ever-expansive nature of technology-enriched resources, such as the mobile, collaborative, and immersive experiences that we have at our disposal today.In learning environments, learners choose how they access information, which resources they use, and where they obtain the knowledge they need to be academically successful. Individuals in such environments have unrestricted access to all information resources, both in the physical and virtual world; in effect, physical barriers to learning and research no longer exist. A flexible learning environment allows learners to customize their experience to their unique needs and preferences.One example of a learning environment is the use of the Internet. People use the Internet for daily life decisions. In fact, they have become increasingly dependent on the Internet, as evidenced by Pew researchers (Boase, Horrigan, Wellman, & Rainie, 2006), who noted that the Internet was used by:

  • 54% of adults in helping someone cope with an illness;
  • 50% of adults in career training;
  • 45% of adults making financial decisions;
  • 43% of adults looking for a home;
  • 42% of adults in deciding on a school or college for themselves or children;
  • 24% of adults in buying a car; and
  • 14% of adults for switching jobs.

In these instances, individuals effectively use the Internet to create a personal ecosystem of knowledge acquisition that otherwise would have to be absorbed through more traditional and physical means, such as a classroom, book, newspapers, brochures, and so forth.

Try recollecting a recent major life event, such as a wedding, college selection, buying a house or car, or addressing a health issue, where credible information needed to be collected in a compressed period of time. Then think through how you went about gathering information and learning about the subject. Then observe how others might also approach informing themselves about the same subject.

Singular Approaches to a Common Goal: A Personal Encounter with Information Choice.

This example demonstrates multiple approaches that can be adopted for a single quest based on individual knowledge preferences, technical aptitude, or personal choice.

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. It was unexpected and took her and the family by surprise. She had limited knowledge and access to Internet, electronic materials, and lived too far from her local library. She was somewhat home bound and has limited use of technology—a phone. Her learning environment or access to information was limited to a medical manual that was dated, her doctor, local family, and whomever she could reach via phone or talk to at church. She reached out to family for answers. We in turn felt obligated to quickly educate ourselves on the topic of breast cancer so that we could support her and talk with her to her physicians.

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