“’It’s not going to work. This is a case that is not going to work, because the owner doesn’t want to allow what you normally do with your kids . . . . The hardest part for me is that the father or mother chooses the dog instead of the son. That’s hard for me. I love dogs. I’m the dog whisperer. You follow what I’m saying? But I would never choose a dog over my son’“ (Cesar Millan quoted by Gladwell p. 148 ).

Anyone who has watched the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, in action may have the misunderstanding that it’s all about the dog, his perspective, and his needs. Yet, Millan would tell you it’s not dog over human or human over dog; it’s about the interaction and relationship between the two.

When I read the above passage in Malcolm Gladwell’s recent compilation of his New Yorker articles in What the Dog Saw, it reminded me of the reaction some educators have to learner-centered learning. They think it means giving all the preference to the learners, without boundaries.

Those of us training experienced instructors who are new to, and nervous about, online delivery would do well to remember that learner-centered isn’t a shift of power but a shift of perspective.



I saw a connection this week as the World is Open class focused on the learners of the 21st century who live in an era where learning is open, accessible, and shared.

Post-Modern Era Shifts and Web 2.0
As we’ve entered the Post-Modern Era and made shifts from an Industrial Age to a Technological Age, we’ve seen huge shifts in how people process information for learning and how we understand how that happens. For the purpose of this post, that means less value in linear, logical oriented teaching and more learner-centered, experiential learning. Less trust in experts and more need for “guides on the side.” The highly interactive Web 2.0 provides the potential for learners to learn on their own and from one another more easily and effectively than ever before which brings me to qualitative research.

Qualitative Research
Not qualitative research really, but a post got me thinking from a student in my qualitative research about what sounds like an awesome publically-funded learner-centered school she teaches at which takes in kids who haven’t succeeded in the traditional school systems (as well as other posts from students whose research centers around at-risk kids). This made me wonder why these programs always seem to be offered to the at-risk kids, and you don’t see them in the traditional system.

I suspect it’s because the traditional system doesn’t want these kids, and the other kids are well controlled in the traditional system so why offer them anything different? That makes me think of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers in which he makes the case that had the opportunities available to people like Bill Gates been widely available to many kids, we wouldn’t have one Bill Gates success story but an exponential number of similar ones.

Working Learners
All that brings me to the working learners whom we read about in an article by Louis Soares in which he calls for accommodations to be made by the government worker training systems, colleges, and credentialing systems to adjust for learners who work in order to produce an economically strong workforce.

By the lens through which I see things, the current systems aren’t moving well out of the Modern Era fast enough, and a big part of that is our credentialing system. When a learner wants to learn, s/he usually finds a way (often outside the existing systems). As we have seen an explosion in open learning online, I believe learners will continue to seek out what they need to learn and the ways we credential people is going to have to match that rather than setting up a system and then developing the learner-system to fit those requirements as we’ve done in the past.

I believe great opportunity exists for businesses to form who lead learners through all the resources available to them to become skilled for careers without ever setting foot in a traditional credentialing institution. Millions of homeschoolers have already been doing this widely for decades. I’m going to be keeping that need in mind as I work through this semester.