Unlimited - The new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it.
Best-selling author Gordon Dryden, whose book The Learning Revolution, sold a world-record 10 million copies in China has written and published a new book. Like the Learning Revolution, this one is also co-authored with American doctor of education Jeannette Vos. What's remarkable is that Dryden is 77 but still keeps sprinting. We asked him why.
Dryden: Why not? My old friend Dr Seuss, wrote his last great book at 85. And Alistair Cooke was still broadcasting world-wide for the BBC in his nineties.
KB: Your book's title - Unlimited - Unlimited what?
Dryden: It actually has several connotations. But the main one is simply unlimited opportunity. The incredible growth and scope of the world wide web provides opportunities, for everyone. I firmly believe we’re entering the most interesting era in history. Some call it a new renaissance. Peter Drucker called it The Next Society. Silicon Valley calls it Web 2.0. I think it is really the convergence of seven separate but closely inter-related revolutions.
KB: What are they?
Dryden: The first is It's Personal. For the first time in history, we now know how to store all the world’s knowledge, in almost any form, and make it available instantly to almost everyone on earth. Now we have the opportunity to personalise that information: to select what we want, when we want it, where we want it, and in any form we want it. But, more importantly, the same digital technologies enable everyone to sell their own individual talents to millions of people around the world. And for people of my age - in fact, any age - that has great potential - almost unlimited.
KB: So that’s one key. What are the others?
Dryden: It’s global. Let’s take just one example - mobile phones. Eight years ago, half the people on earth had never placed a phone call. Only 12 percent owned a mobile phone. By early this year 3.3 billion had mobile phones - 550 million of those in China alone, and more in Africa than the United States. By the middle of next year, more than 4 billion of the 6.6 billion global citizens will have cellphones - and a soaring number of those will be “multi-media computers in your pocket”: mobile phones, cameras, video screens and Internet access for everyone personally. In China alone, more than 300 million people are using them every day to learn English.
Third revolution is: It’s instant. You can tap into whatever information you want, and get it at the touch of a keyboard or a touch-screen. For example, at www.atomiclearning.com you can get instant access to 35,000 video tutorials on 100 computer software applications. And if you’re a school you can sign up for that service for everyone at between $1 and $2 student per year, with 24/7 access.
The Fourth one is that it's often free - or almost free. And there are really two parts of that revolution. The first is the marketing method I have mentioned: give away tons of information free to attract a specific interested global audience - and then sell the extras. Google does, that and the company is worth well over $100 billion. But, in my view, the most important scope is in “open source” technology - and very simply that means technology co-created free by passionate experts around the world and shared free with millions of others.
We’ve got dozens of examples in the new book, but perhaps the best known one is Linux: the free computer operating system. Although the concept came from Finland, China is the first major country to adapt it as a major matter of state policy. Since 2003, China has slashed the price of laptop computers by 90 percent - simply by selling the computers without an operating system - and buyers then being able to download one free from the Web. Or take Skype: everyone with a computer can now make free international phone calls at any time - for any length of time; and not just phone calls: free video conference calls.
And it's interactive which has a great deal to do with the future of online learning. Every grandparent - or people in any generation - knows that the best way to learn anything is to do it. Now students as young as five or six can actually learn by being multi-media journalists. Here New Zealand is especially lucky. We have dozens of primary schools now where six-year-olds, from their first day in year one, learn to shoot and edit videotape: to use the world as their classroom and to capture it and present it with new technology.
KB: But don't we know all this stuff?
Dryden: Maybe - but put it all together as I have and I guess it's a kind of manifesto for lifelong learning revolution, reflecting a complete change in how the world learns.
Thing is: It's easily shared. Again, I see this potential most in education and lifelong learning. It is now possible to share the work of the world’s best teachers with everyone around the planet, especially in poor countries. Take India, for example, where 47 percent of villages don’t even have a school. Now just imagine New Zealand’s best teachers and smartest students sharing their interactive lesson plans with students in villages around the world. That's not pie-in-the-sky. It’s already happening.
And then there's the last revolution: It's co-creative. Not only can we now share our individual talents with the world, for free or for income; we can now combine our various talents in global teams. The examples abound in the book. Wikipedia is just one. It’s by far the world’s biggest encyclopaedia and it's co-created by tens of thousands of passionate experts in dozens of countries. I personally think this emerging ability to co-create a new type of global society is by far the most important of all the keys, but obviously that links in with all the rest.
KB: You've always been passionate about self-fulfilment. What have you learned at 77?
Dryden: Well - partly by luck and partly by application - I’ve had a personal career that has linked in so neatly with the new emerging technologies: as an avid reader from a very young age, as a journalist in print, radio and television, and then in associated careers in advertising, public relations, editing, international marketing, publishing, public speaking - and then naturally being exposed to multimedia technology in each of those fields. I think the key lesson that I have learned is simply this: that every one of us has a potential talent to succeed in something - but in our own way. And the key is to keep on adding new skills to develop our own passions, whether those are playing golf or bowls, looking after others, making pottery or sharing your sporting abilities with young people.
KB: Any advice for other 77-year-olds who have yet to tackle all the new technologies?
Dryden: Get your grandchildren to teach you. This is the first revolution in history when most young people know much more about its new tools than most of us oldies. In turn though they need our wisdom and experience as much as we can benefit from their high-tech know-how.
Unlimited - the new learning revolution and seven keys to unlock it.
by Gordon Dryden and Jeanette Vos, rrp $49.99. Discounts depending on quantity of orders from: www.thelearningweb.net.