Rethinking “Educated”

As usual, Will Richardson has me thinkly deeply.  This time about education and what it means to be educated.  In a recent post, Will wrote, “I think the big question for the next decade is this: In 2020, will schools be seen as just one of many important ways that our kids can become educated? And as a follow up, will there be other ways of “credentialing” what it means to be “educated”?” I can’t stop thinking about this idea of credentialing as it relates to education, because it seems to me that the reason most people “get” an education is to become credentialed.  Credentialing, of course, comes  in many forms:  diplomas, degrees, licensure, certification, and job training to name a few.  Very few people become educated, just for the sake of being educated.  And while I am still trying to decide of that is okay or not – I may have to read Daniel Pink’s new book to explore that more – I know that as a learning leader, I want no longer want to learn solely for credentialing sake.

With this in mind, I withdrew from the Masters in Educational Technology program that I began last fall.  The program, full of assignments asking me to create PowerPoint presentation, download tools, write static papers, seemed more about late 20th century tools than 21st century practice.  The courses did use Blackboard as an online content manager and did employ a discussion board, but when one of my professors told us that he waited to the end of week to print our our discussions and read them, I realized it was used for nothing more than an online word processor whose potential as a connective technology was lost amongst the need to “have assignments” .  The final straw came when my last professor, who happens to work within the same SAU that I do, asked why I hadn’t begun any of me prereading accompanying assignments for the upcoming class, and before I could muster a response, he answered for me: “You’re just in it for the paper at the end anyway.”  (sigh) He was right.  I kept telling myself that this Masters work wasn’t heavy lifting and to just do it because it would formalize all of the work I was doing informally, when in reality it was adding little to my growth as a learning leader and only serving to validate how important my “informal” learning is to me.  The simple fact of the matter is that I gain more from the connections I have with my personal learning network than I did with my formal coursework.

As I continue to grow as a learning leader, I realize how important the word “value” is me.  I am constantly looking for people, blogs, programs, resources and connections that not only provide value to me as a learning leader, but also allow me to reciprocate that value as well.  In doing so, I have felt a great empowerment to “unfriend”, stop following, dismiss and even drop out of those things in which don’t live up to that value standard. All of this leaves me wondering:  Am I fool hearty?  Idealistic?  or, Is the value of informal learning growing such that more may make choices similar to the one I have made?

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8 Responses to Rethinking “Educated”

  1. Hi Tony,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with your mindset. I love to learn new things and have always pursued topics of interest to me, but in order to move up the pay scale I enroll in classes that are often rift with busywork. Sometimes, I am exposed to new educators or new resources that add to my cache of knowledge, but often the content is not that illuminating. I went back to school for my undergrad degree when I was in my forties in order to be able to find a more interesting job and make more money and both of those things happened for me. I don’t think getting a college degree necessarily “educated” me as I have always been educating myself, but the degree gave me entry into a world with more choices and with those better choices came more money and then came more experiences and with those experiences came more confidence and different people with different ideas and, and, and…
    Thanks again for your thoughts.
    MJ

    • tbaldasaro says:

      MJ,
      And isn’t that the shame of it all. In order to be paid more you (and I and most teachers) are forced to attend formal coursework that doesn’t always meet our needs. There needs to be a way to demonstrate “credentialed” without having to earn the paper that shows you finished a program.

      In full disclosure, I already have an M.Ed. and a CAGS – so I don’t know if I would have been so brave (or fool hearty?) if I didn’t already. But, it still begs the question: What does it mean to be educated and why do we insist on it being formalized?

  2. I’ve done more work and more learning in the last few years than the work and learning that 95% of folks with EdDs or PhDs, I wouldn’t change any of what I have now for the degree. And here’s the thing: nothing is stopping you from building a portfolio of work and thinking and ideas that will do a heck of a lot more to show your expertise than some letters after your name.

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Will,

      I have learned from you, Sheryl, Dean, John and the thousands of thinkers I connect with every day on Twitter, that the level of one’s education is not indicative to one’s level of learning. I have learned that perhaps the most “learned” people are those that follow passions, make connections, and share their passions with others. Further, my experience in PLP reminds me everyday that many times the thinkers that provide the most value to my PLN are those that don’t have many initials after their name. I am humbled each time I write a blog post and or tweet, only to receive feedback from someone with a different perspective or attitude. As a result, my PLN and informal learning is so much more valuable to me than much of the coursework I have taken in the past. And, yes, I recognize that my digital footprint/portfolio is a more meaningful symbol of my education than any piece of paper could be.

  3. Tony,

    Your point is HUGE! It speaks to what many of us are struggling with. We know where formal or should I say traditional education has gotten us. I had toyed with the ID of a PhD program, but I don’t think I could find one that could equal the value of my PLN.

    I see so many connection to your thinking and high school. Will asks questions that many folks would dismiss because they cannot see it as a possibility. The truth is what many? most? schools offer lacks relevance for learners. How long is this going to continue to be OK?

    • tbaldasaro says:

      Pat,

      I was in a PhD program for a while. As I reflect upon that experience I now recognize a difference between academia and authentic learning. What I gather from my PLN is more valuable than the philosophy that we studied in the PhD program.

  4. Tony,
    In the last few years I have learned so much simply because I had choice and could tap into those experiences that had value for me. What worries me is that so many teachers and students can’t see through the “jumping through hoops” experiences. I worry most about our students. Instead of complying and mindlessly following the agenda schools put forth for them, I wish students would have the courage to resist and demonstrate that learning happens in so many ways. And hats off to the teachers who let that happen.

  5. Deb Boisvert says:

    Tony,
    I think that many people “become educated, just for the sake of being educated.” As I get older I am less tolerant of courses/programs/workshop that do not educate me and more drawn to experiences that do. I maxed out of the courses needed for the salary schedule in our district many years ago. The town is currently considering a contract that would create a step – Masters plus 45. I have been thinking this weekend of what experiences I would like to have that might result in these credits. They would need to augment my learning not take time from my PLN.

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