Guiding our kids into their fast-changing futures.

Modern Learning: Not “What” but “How”

This week, we start with a slew of reminders that in this connected world of people and information, HOW we learn is as if not more important than WHAT we learn. To that end, author Hal Gregerson uses video to make the case that with such an uncertain, fast-changing future, we need our kids to “ask the right questions” and dig deeper, and that schools, by and large, aren’t helping them do that…rather it seems too often it is about ‘simply having a right answer.

Meanwhile, Forbes points to research that suggests that those who are “learning-agile,” meaning those most comfortable with uncertainty and sudden change, those who “know what to do when they don’t know what to do” are the most successful in their careers.

And in this video from Edutopia, author and thinker John Seely Brown offers the provocative idea that learning is rooted in change, especially now.

We think reframing learning is Job 1 for parents to truly understand the ways in which we need schools and policies to shift. If you’d like to explore those thoughts, read on.

No question, schools are caught in a difficult place between the traditional expectations of policy makers and parents, and the realities of decidedly changed world. Most of us adults didn’t get to be “learning agile” in school where the focus was on having the “right answer.” Still is. Frighteningly few of the questions my kids are asked on tests involve any of the uncertainty or nuance of the type that would help them grapple with the complexities of the real world today, one that requires them to be able to learn their way to success, not rely on the increasingly outdated or irrelevant knowledge that most school assessments cover.

That’s not to say we don’t need some of the WHAT, the basic foundations of knowledge that serve as a starting point for our own learning. But here’s the point: when knowledge and information and people are accessible through a few clicks on a device we carry in our pockets, our emphasis has to shift to the HOW. In a networked world, how do we connect with others to learn? How do we share our learning so we can learn more? How do we build our own curriculum, our own texts, and our own classrooms? How do we create new knowledge? How do we assess our own work? How do we learn continuously about the topics that are most important and relevant to us? How do we develop ourselves as masters of any subject without waiting for others to guide us?

This now has to be the work of educating modern learners.

Bottom line: an uncertain world demands a certain type of education, one that is rooted in developing our kids as powerful learners, not masters of content or skills that are continually changing. As parents, we need to speak up and demand a very different education for our kids from the one we ourselves received. I know that’s uncomfortable. I know it feels risky. But the bigger risk right now is that our kids get thrown into young adulthood without the ability to ask those big questions, deal with constant change, and learn on demand.

Some starting points for parents might be to ask your school board to articulate how their vision for teaching and learning has changed in light of these new realities. Or, start parent meet-ups to discuss some of the topics in this newsletter on an ongoing basis. Or, ask teachers for some feedback or assessment on how your children are developing as learners. Or whatever else starts a larger conversation around change.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.



  1. What you’re talking about is what Montessori education has been doing for children from birth through high school for over 100 years!


  1. [...] Modern Learning: Not “What” but “How”- new article from Raising Modern Learners about what is important to remember when preparing students for their futures. [...]

  2. [...] Last week we discussed modern learning as being more about how to learn than what to learn, especially now that the “what” (content) is everywhere. This week, the PBS Mindshift blog asked a similar question: If Robots Will Run the World, What Should Students Learn? In a word, the “intangibles.” [...]

  3. [...] For the full blog post, click here. [...]

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