by Jay Cross on December 21, 2008


One of the The Buzzwords of 2008 in The New York Times.

A style of hands-on self-education that benefits the student without concern for curriculums or the interests of schools, corporations or governments. In other words, an autodidactic approach that spurns commercialism, mass-market approaches and top-down goal-setting. Coined by Jim Groom, an “instructional technologist” at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

Of course, I agree with the sentiment. This is the revolution in progress that will transform our culture’s notion of learning. I do have two concerns with Groom’s definition:

  • Autodidact suggests that the student is learning in isolation. Learning is social. We need be clear that the learner is in charge but the primary resource for learning is other people.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but the punk label conjures up images of rebels sporting studded collars and Doc Martens hob-nail boots. I expect self-directed learning to become the norm in corporations and governments. We need a term that includes the folks in suits and blue collars. Maybe informal learning or natural learning will do.

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