I downloaded the TED app recently to my iPhone– I regret I waited so long.   The first tab within the app is devoted to TED themes, and I am struck that one of the most popular theme is “The Rise of Collaboration (54 talks)” and it says that this also understood as “the wealth of networks.”

Struck, delighted, but as I reflect, unsurprised.  We are living in an era of extraordinary intellectual networking, and so many of us are finding ourselves connecting, communicating, collaborating, networking, and growing by the virtue of our online networks.

This is a major theme of my recent writing here on the blog and of my recent keynote address, Innovative Schools, Innovative Students.   It is prominent in the new book by Steven B. Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation and in the new book by John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning.   Many are writing about it online: one terrific post about the power of being a networked educators is by Lyn Hilt: Becoming the Lead Learner. 

In the TED talk above, Will Richardson provides a brilliant and compelling articulation of the significance of a newly networked era and its significance for learning.    Even more compelling than the TED talk is Will’s slideshow, Learning in a Networked World: For our students and for ourselves: Check it out.  It is exquisite both in form and content: I am intending a blog post about it soon.

Some favorite quotes from the TED talk:

I think this is the coolest moment to be a learner.

It is very different from when we were growing up… Our kids can learn whatever they want whenever they want… They are not waiting for a curriculum to be delivered to them, they are going out to learn what they want to learn.

We don’t need schools for test-prep– online learning can prepare kids for tests.

This high stakes test-prep system is killing our kids;  it is taking all the imagination, creativity and initiative out of them.

A hard truth: schools are no longer relevant as places to get information and knowledge, and we need to re-envision schools for a new purpose.  They must become places of deep inquiry and solving real world problems, with students and teachers learning how to collaborate with global peers. We need to help them find their passions and support those passions. None of that is the stuff of test prep.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to to deal with a world that no longer exists.”  Eric Hoffer.

What are we doing as educators to facilitate our students in becoming safely and productively networked learners, sharers, creators and collaborators?    If we aren’t working hard to answer this question, we are depriving our students of the chance to fully experience and benefit from what is now “the coolest moment to be a learner.”