Under pressure: How meta-educated are we?

Building meta-skills for adult learners (EPALE Turkey 2022 conference)

When TED Talks first broadcasted Sir Ken Robinson’s educational video ‘’Do schools kill creativity?’’ back in 2006, probably nobody would have expected it to skyrocket to the fantastic 72 million views on the TED channel only, marking it the most-watched TED talk of all time. Sir Robinson, an inspiring educational expert and a creativity guru, quickly went viral with his witty and profound elaboration on how schools are, unfortunately, failing to nurture creativity in children. Amid many shrewd observations he made, Sir Robinson passionately affirmed that we are educating children for the future despite nobody knowing what the future will look like, arguing along the way that education can hardly address the unpredictability of what is yet to happen. Regardless of the absurdity that ‘’education is meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp,’’ it seems like educational systems across the globe have been growing stronger and more sustainable than ever. Indeed, how educational systems will cope with what the future brings in terms of employability of students, will be a decisive moment that might showcase the systems’ fragility and disruptiveness, on the one hand, or a promise of its further technological acceleration, on the other. Adult learners, being the biggest community of learners in the world, are reported to be mainly missing out on the high-tech wizardry and will certainly bear the heavier burden of what’s coming in these uncertain times.

Some of the key issues in the Digital Transition of adult education were successfully addressed at the EPALE International conference held recently in Turkey (21-22 March 2022). There were several takeaways from the conference within the scope of the future of adult education, one of which was how to implement the Metaverse concept into the general teaching practice in adult education. The prefix meta itself is derived from Greek to denote a quality of something that is ‘’more comprehensive’’ or ‘’transcending’’ or, more commonly, epistemologically, means ‘’self-referential’’, as, for example in metadata (data about data). However, although it originated in 1992 as a hybrid concept of ‘’meta’’ and ‘’universe’’, Metaverse has become globally popular in 2021 with Mike Zuckerberg’s company name change from Facebook to Meta Platforms.Given that we all experienced the abrupt shift to e-environments in education and business with the COVID-19 pandemic, Meta has become a buzzword used to encompass a broad network of various 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection purposes.

Ashighlighted by brilliant speakers and panelists at the EPALE conference, the robust world of Metaverse is what adult educators need to adopt in their regular teaching practices so that adult learners do not feel left behind. With the quantum leap brought by Industry 4.0 that has revolutionized the way companies manufacture and sell their products, the gap between education and the world as we know it will get bigger and trickier to bridge as time goes by. To secure upskilling and employability of adults we, adult educators, need to systematically build on learners’ capacity to respond to a permanent change in society and economy, so it must be performed as a collective transformation. In that context, we might be speaking of the necessity for learners’ to acquire meta-skills within meta-education, all geared toward fostering more diverse and practical educational programs that would engage adult learners in using the Digital Transition for their benefit. One of the concerns of such a concept might be how to increase and cultivate the learners’ Social Presence in an e-environment (emotional and social interaction, and connectedness) in that way that learners do not feel as if stuck in a dystopian space. To prevent what I would call ‘’educational claustrophobia’’ – a state of learners perceiving the educational process as worthless or confined, inadequate to enable their full personal and social development – both learners’ and educators’ mindsets must be directed towards mastering Metaverse and nurturing Social Presence for building successful online learning communities. Therefore, Metaverse as a teaching approach could be referred to as a dimension with huge transformative potential, understood, in Derridean terms, as a ‘’participation’’, not ‘’belonging’’ to a general educational framework, introduced to allow efficient educational paths and relevance in students’ lives in modern or future society at large.

Finally, from the Metaversal perspective, modern adult education could be observed as an instructional bricolage, a ‘do-it-yourself’ project within a larger scope of diverse e-resources, a design by means of which new educational profiles and identities are created, taking from a dominant culture what is handy and accessible, to provide it with fresh, purposeful meaning. Given that adult learners are considered to be “in a state of transition” coming from various educational and cultural backgrounds and job experiences, not following a traditional pattern to education and work might be a ‘’been there done that’’ moment for the majority of them. However, as their expectations of education are greater than those of a traditional student, higher pressure is put on adult educators to deliver meaningful instruction within the Metaverse concept and meet students’ rising expectations. And the pressure is a good thing, as ”diamonds are made under pressure”.