In the Higher Education blog post Five Ways that 21st and 20th Century Learning Will Differ Steve Mintz, the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning and a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, points to the 5 ways teaching and learning in the early 21st century differ from its 20th century.
There is a fundamental presupposition that Mintz did not mention and is essential in realizing the predictions that he has offered. A 21st-century education requires the use of 21st-century tools and infrastructure. The reason he didn’t mention this was that he didn’t need to—21st-century tools and infrastructure are foundational to most institutions in Texas.
Having taught and spent time as an administrator in the Texas Higher Education system I need to point out that the University of Texas (UT) system adopted the Google Apps for Education in various locations as early as 2009 and fully by 2011. Abilene Christian University (ACU), the institution that I worked at, is outside the UT system and it adopted Google Apps for Education in 2007 as did many other colleges and universities across the US. It was this cloud based infrastructure that made it possible for ACU to implement its mobile learning strategy in 2008. By 2010 all ACU students and 95% of faculty and staff had and used an iPhone in the learning environment and by 2011 when the iPad came out that fall nearly 60% of the institutions students adopted the tablet as well. Mobile learning at ACU and all that comes with this initiative was built on a foundation of 21st century cloud based technology.
ACU faculty, students, staff and administrators have a 7 year head start on using 21st-century tools. UT students have 3-4 year head start on BCIT students. Eastern Canadian institutions like Lakehead University adopted Google Apps for education in 2008 which means their students, faculty and staff have a 6 year head start on BCIT. We are seeing a move in K-12 in this province to the cloud through Microsoft’s 365 platform so in the next few years we will have new students coming to BCIT who have this experience. This time frame on the head start assumes BCIT will be moving to a 21st-century cloud based infrastructure soon, but this is unlikely given the privacy paranoia that is preventing our move forward. Building our “own cloud” really doesn’t help because as good as simulations are nothing compares to working with and in the authentic environment.
The bottom line is that in the global marketplace in which we live not using 21st-century tools puts BCIT students, faculty and staff at a huge disadvantage.