Because we are increasingly producing and sharing media, we have to relearn what that word can mean. The simple sense of media is the middle layer in any communication, whether it is as ancient as the alphabet or as recent as mobile phones. On top of this straightforward and relatively neutral definition is another notion inherited from the patterns of media consumption over the last several decades, that media refers to a collection of businesses, from newspapers and magazines to radio and television, that have particular ways of producing material and particular ways of making money. And as long as we use media to refer just to those businesses, and to that material, the word will be an anachronism, a bad fit for what’s happening today.
The term education is an anachronism. Please do not misunderstand me, our public systems of education have been hugely successful. They helped create the cognitive surplus that is radically reshaping how we interact, learn and work with each other. However, today our public eduction system is redundant, backwards and calcified. It has become the ancien régime to the revolutionary learning systems and communities that have developed online (e.g. web search, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc). The traditional education has become too slow, too static and, frankly, too inequitable to meet the needs of our ever evolving society. It is built on top of an archaic understanding of our social construct that does not reflect current social behaviors (where and how people learn), learning platforms (the ongoing silicon revolution), and cultural shifts (the integration of the network and social graph). The result is extraordinarily high costs with extremely low returns.
We need to redefine education within the context of the cognitive surplus that exists today. How are people learning today? What systems do they use? How do they work together. If we don’t focus on those questions and instead attempt to patch the ancien régime we’ll continue to fail. It’s that simple. Waiting for Superman won’t work, but we might be surprised by those things surrounding our every day lives that will.