the faculty member moves from the center of the class communication pattern—as is common in the traditional transmission mode of learning—to the periphery. In turn, the anywhere/anytime access to communication tools makes it easy for students to go outside the organized course structure and content.
Designing units and lessons in the next few years will become more about designing an experience within a new learning environment. That is not to say that we do not do that now; simply put, the environment is changing and the tools that we have to work within that environment, or better yet, the tools that are students are using, have enabled us to maximize our use of it.
Another significant design impact of these tools is the ease by which students can customize their own learning experiences as the content boundaries of a course dissolve. Readily available mobile tools now support information access and flow in real time, enabling current events, global perspectives, and far-flung resources to be brought into immediate and fresh relief. Every statement by a faculty member is subject to challenge, addition, or confirmation from a student's Google search.
Here is the part where it gets interesting. That challenge has to be met with zeal by the instructor. As has happened in the past, challenging authority has its positives and negatives in learning environments. My take is that is should be built into the lesson design or the course syllabus.
Many teachers have been surprised by the shifts in learning dynamics and relationships created by these tools; at the same time, many teachers are now enthusiastically embracing these changes as they recognize the many benefits of learners becoming more engaged and active in their learning.
If learners feel that their input is valid and relevant and can contribute to the common goal of group learning, they are invested in that environment. After all, learning is a social experience (see Chris Sessum's blog) Let's not forget to include that in the creation of the 21st Century student.