As learning moves into the 21st century , if we wish to create life long learners, we have to create learning structures that speak to learning styles and needs of what Marc Prensky calls the “digital natives” (Prensky, 2006). James Paul Gee speaks of them as the “the gaming generation.” (Gee, 2006). Teaching and learning need to become one, in an anarchy of creativity. The interesting question is will there still be a formal learning system that sits on top of the informal learning system we all use in our lives? Human beings need to develop the habits of independent thought and life long learning that will help them to become productive questioning citizens of the new flat world that we now inhabit.
Just as the printing press ushered in the new societies of the renaissance so too has the Internet now ushered in a new renaissance of learning and exploration that is changing everything human beings are learning and doing. We are now longer in a world of scarcity of information. We are in a virtual world of overabundance which we need to learn how to navigate.
Our schools are not designed to successfully engage our young people in the world of independent and constant learning and interpretation. Our schools are designed to deliver common content to a captive audience. This paradigm simply does not interest our "digital natives" any longer.
Distance education has always tried to emulate classroom education since the early 19th century. As the Internet has developed it has made the whole idea of controlled curricular education, whether distance or face to face, obsolete. Students entering our Universities this fall are learning content that will be obsolete by the start of their junior year. We are in a new world. To explore that new world we must be committed to encouraging our students to use their digital tools in the evolving fffcccccvirtual world of the Internet.