All around us people are learning with the aid of new technologies: children are playing complex video games, workers are taking online courses to get an advanced degree, students are taking courses at commercial learning centers to prepare for tests, adults are consulting Wikipedia, etc. New technologies create learning opportunities that challenge traditional schools and colleges. These new learning niches enable people of all ages to pursue learning on their own terms. People around the world are taking their education out of school into homes, libraries, Internet cafes, and workplaces, where they can decide what they want to learn, when they want to learn, and how they want to learn.
The developments described above are changing how people think about education. This rethinking will take many years to fully penetrate our understanding of the world and the society around us. To be successful, leaders will need to grasp these changes in a deep way and bring the government's resources to bear on the problems raised by the changes that are happening. They will have to build their vision of a new education system around these new understandings. The rethinking that is necessary applies to many aspects of education and society. We are beginning to rethink the nature of learning, motivation, and what is important to learn. Further the nature of careers are changing and how people transition back and forth between learning and working. These changes demand a new kind of educational leadership and changing roles for government. New leaders will need to understand the affordances of the new technologies, and have a vision for education that will bring the new resources to everyone.
Allan Collins is Professor Emeritus of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, and a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the Cognitive Science Society, the American Educational Research Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as a founding editor of the journal Cognitive Science and as first chair of the Cognitive Science Society. He has studied teaching and learning for over 30 years, and written extensively on related topics. He is best known in psychology for his work on how people answer questions, in artificial intelligence for his work on reasoning and intelligent tutoring systems, and in education for his work on situated learning, inquiry teaching, design research, and cognitive apprenticeship. From 1991 to 1994 he was Co-Director of the US Department of Education's Center for Technology in Education.