Open Education vs Closed Education

The real world isn’t a closed system. It isn’t a finite, zero-sum game. It’s dynamic, creative, innovative, infinite, and cooperative.

If you want to earn a living, you have to create value. But there is no correct answer to the question, “How do I create value?”

It requires experimentation, trial, error, gain, loss, feedback, and adjustment. And it’s a moving target. A constant dance.

If the point of education is preparation for success in the world, it should also be open. But most mass, modern approaches to education are closed.

There are correct answers to everything. They come down from a single authority. Things are rigid, with lagging feedback loops, only changing when authorities dictate.

Closed education is not good preparation for an open world. It ends up resembling a training ground for closed societies – no one gets in or out, ownership and entrepreneurship are nonexistent, the authorities hold all the answers and control individuals like lumps of dough.

Few educators want this, but the inertia of the system seems too much to overcome for reformers. In a way, they are correct. Reform from within is limited.

Thankfully, external forces come into play.

As the world shifts and evolves, more people are seeing and feeling the pains of closed education. They are seeking to open it up.

The lines are blurring. Homeschool, unschool, microschool, co-ops, pods, alt-schools, tutors, teachers, coaches, guides, part-time, full-time, private, public, remote, in-person, synchronous, asynchronous – more terms keep getting added and each term becomes less clear-cut. They are no longer rigid categories you must choose between, but a grab-bag of tools you can pick up and use as needed, swapping freely. This is a good thing.

Ironically, when the world closed in 2020, it revealed the problems with closed education more than ever. Parents saw and felt the contradictions. It opened their minds to the need to open their kids education.

Traditional school enrollment has been plummeting. Funding that follows students instead of schools has exploded. Teachers have begun to become education entrepreneurs. Parents now realize they have no choice but to take charge of their kids education – simply deferring to the system is not sufficient.

The age of open education is upon us.

You may be pessimistic about this year or the next. I don’t fault you. But I can’t look at the opening of education and the rapid growth of this movement and not see a brighter future. We’re in the thick of the struggle now, as we wrestle with what all these changes mean.

How can we embrace technology and the openness it offers while not becoming addicted to screens and isolated from the real world?

How can we harness the benefits of asynchronous and location-independent learning while still forming bonds and connections?

How can we take charge of our kids education while not feeling under-equipped and overwhelmed?

These are the questions we’re dealing with, and they are good questions. The right questions.

All of them are being answered in a million ways a million times a day across the world. We are trying, testing, experimenting, sharing, cooperating, and figuring out how to solve them. This is how an open world works, and how an open education should be created.

The answer is not to run from change and technology or pine for past eras. Nor is it to let change and technology and inertia be in the drivers’ seat while you’re merely along for the ride.

The answer it to take the reins and stay open. Explore and learn and share. Go your own way but don’t go it alone.

The world is ready and waiting for kids to engage with it, rather than be kept hidden away from it.

Let’s open education together.