I was recently interviewed by MBAin, an organization which has built up a community around helping out MBA grads with career choices, all the while understanding the true value of their newly gotten education. The MBAin editorial staff wanted to know my thoughts on the topic of education in the modern-day classroom. As Hyperthinker readers know, learning is a topic often addressed on the Hyperthinker blog. This is in part due to our passions surrounding the subject, but also because of our concerns with the institutional mindset still found in many places of learning.
Next week the Hyperthinker blog will take a look at modern-day education, how it’s changing and examine what’s still missing from the picture. So, join the Hyperthinker discussion, and let’s rethink thinking. In the meanwhile, check out the interview with MBAin and let us know what you think. Which fundamental skill sets do you think schools should be teaching nowadays?

“Nowadays, there are many avenues for learning out there that education experts encourage us to explore. As part of our series of talks with Education experts and advocates, we recently sat down with Philip Weiss to discuss a topic that is getting more and more traction these days, education. We spoke to Phillip Weiss, Founder and Chief Hyperthinker at ZN (a leading digital communications consultancy) and TEDx speaker to get his thoughts on a subject covered in his latest book, “Hyperthinking”. Learning.

We live in a world of constant change, so why is it that one of society’s most fundamental building blocks remains virtually the same?

Hyper-learning is really the dimension that touches on learning and creativity. It’s the first and most important part of hyper-learning, the ability to self-learn. What’s interesting is that when most people reflect on their own life-learnings, we often discover that the most profound learning experiences are those which we have accomplished on our own. I think taking control of our learning already makes it much more intense and changes attitudes when we realize someone is not telling us what to think, but in fact we are deciding ourselves what exactly it is we wish to learn. So I think the first point which is really critical, is to take ownership of our learning and to start shaping it in the direction that is best for ourselves.

Can anybody do this?

Everybody does it to a certain degree. What makes it such a big deal are the level of intensity, the structure, the comprehensiveness and the energy that people put into the process. Most of the time, the traditional view of learning is that we have a place where we learn, and that place is school. Later, some go on to university and into different professional environments, but nowadays the learning has to continue, but many of us have created an idea that learning belongs to certain places and that certain people are supposed to be teachers. This belief can be a harmful conception. We must accept learning as our own responsibility. In today’s environment of rapid change, with new technology, we cannot count on other people, structures or environments to provide us with all the information we really need to be successful and able to adapt to our own evolving worlds.

In this case, what do schools bring as added value?

Well, I think if you look at the school as an institution we can say that, to a certain degree it was created to educate a workforce that was required to have a common knowledge in reading, writing, and mathematics. This was in fact so that students could go on to be able to operate in a number of working environments, mainly as factory workers. It was also a way to allow parents to work, especially once mothers joined the workforce. School as we know it appeared in a historical context that might no longer be relevant to today’s modern age. This system was designed for the industrial age where you have people sitting in a room, basically following orders from a teacher with fairly limited interaction or group discussion, research or creativity. We have come to wonder whether schools teach the most fundamental skill which is the ability to learn by yourself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t! It often creates a whole system, which creates a dependency on a teacher to tell us what to learn. We later depend on teachers again to qualify our learning. If we take learning in a straightforward manner, we might believe that it can only happen with the aid of authority figures, success and failure should be self-evident.

How can schools change?

I think schools need to change so that they start teaching skills that are much more relevant and find more innovative ways to teach today’s required skills. Of course we need to learn how to read, write and master other core skills, but we also need to learn to be creative. The second part of the hyper-learning dimension, currently not taught in a systematic way throughout most schools. A lot of people think children are naturally creative, which is true to a certain extent, but unfortunately traditional schooling systems hammer out creativity as soon as children become older. Actually what we would need to be doing is the exact opposite. We should offer creativity tools to learners of all ages, and continue developing the process, to further our creativity skills and avoid falling into the paradigm of believing that we’re either creative, or not. It’s crucial for schools to rethink the teaching, to experiment with new models, to introduce new concepts and become a laboratory for learning, bringing new ideas to the classroom and the world.

Does this transformation apply to business schools as well?

Absolutely! I think business schools are also doing very interesting things in terms of improving their materials, processes and infrastructure. They often bring forward interesting and innovative thinking. However, there had been little experimentation with new, radical changes up until the MOOCs came along, which is what we see business schools are exploring right now. I think the business school model needs to be rethought, keeping in mind the vast opportunities we now have before us in terms of learning tools. Learning is about experimentation, openness, and rethinking how we as students can best learn and adapt to the 21st century.

Watch Phil talking about hyper-learning at TEDxULB in Brussels earlier this year. How do you adapt your learning? Let us know your answers in the comments box below.”