I invited Andrew to give us his vision of the learning experience of the future.
When Archangel Michael asked about the future of education in a recent article on GAOG, I tried to imagine what that might look like because it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.
When I think about our educational system, I think of schools, unidimensional experiences and battery hens. (1)
If I imagine what a nascent galactic society would do, then I think there is room for improvement, not only because we have the technology to improve resourcing, but also because our understanding of learning and psychology has improved.
Our problem is that education provision on a mass scale is driven by economics, not by learning. But we can change that. Instead of just throwing money at the problem and producing more of the same, I advocate a wholesale change in the whole student learning experience through secondary school.
I am sure that the experience for the student in a galactic society will be more self-determining, that they can decide what to learn and when, drawing on their families or other mentors for guidance in this regard, with appropriate resources at hand.
As a starseed, I’ve wanted more independence in learning. I used to feel wrong, because we’re trained to think of life as ‘get born, go to school, get a job, retire and die’ – no wonder kids get bored!
I suspect we are growing out of these linear tracks. In any case, I want to find ways to break that up and provide students with ways to learn that are non-linear, interesting and self-determining. A solution is something along the lines of an independent learning centre in place of unidimensional schools.
A learning centre is the opposite of a school. In a school, students are the commodity, churned out in time and age-based cycles following curriculums that other people decide. Learning materials, experiences, assessments and achievements are determined by everyone other than the student and given to them to follow.
What’s more, we settle for students learning about something (in case they’ll need it in the future), instead of incorporating relevant learning into activities that require knowledge or skill to achieve.
On top of this, learning in schools can be impersonal because the whole class has to be taken care of. You get the picture. This is a system suited to training functionaries that are then used by society’s industries. It does not honour individual passion, exploration, sovereignty, or free and active thinking.
I’m thinking that, in the learning centres, students will be partnered with personal learning coaches to help them think about their learning, encourage and provide different ways to learn and develop the resources that a student might need for their learning pathway.
In other words, students lead their own learning, and then go about it with top-notch resources and support that are as tailored as possible to the student’s needs.
A fundamental aspect is that it will remove the students from the linear progression through a curriculum – students will be able to weave their own path through to their high school certificate.
We are fortunate that there are a few international curriculums that students can choose to work towards; for example the International Baccalaureate, or the UK’s O or A levels.
Home-school students essentially do this and prove that it works. The whole point here is that the student chooses the curriculum and their path through it for achieving the various end points, and then sit the examinations required for accreditation of achievement.
The style of learning in these centres will be much more explorative. I’m envisioning linking with local industry and businesses, governments, councils and organisations to provide work-integrated learning opportunities. This type of learning is real-world, experiential, and integrative of a number of different behaviours, skills and competencies, instead of studying different ‘subjects’ in isolation.
Another type of learning framework I’d like to introduce is project-based learning. In this mode, the learning centres will set up, for example, a fairly substantial project that a team of students can work on together over some time.
The project would include behaviours, skills and competencies that students can learn as they go through the project; for example, collaboration, mathematics and/or writing skills, or geography, or ecology, etc., all wrapped into one.
Learning in the learning centre is done almost as a by-product of doing and achieving real world things. Of course, not all learning needs to be that way – it is also important for students to roam a bit as well.
What might all this look like?
Imagine you’re an independent student and your local learning centre has openings for students to work on a project for the city council. The aim is to come up with a way to improve the recycling footprint of the area.
The project is 3-months long and at the end of the 3 months, the team of students would submit a proposal to the council for them to vote on to implement. In terms of learning, the learning centre’s learning coaches will help the team of students come together, look at what makes good teamwork, help the team decide on which roles each student might take, and decide how to break the problem down into manageable parts.
This type of problem may incorporate assessment of the local area (geography), looking at waste service management (civics), how waste is produced (commerce), how it is recycled (chemistry), how waste gets to centres (infrastructure), how the community is informed (communications), and so on.
There may be some social research (statistics) carried out by asking residents certain things, using questionnaires, and then the students learning how to analyse the results (critical thinking) and make inferences (higher order thinking).
Finally, the students would write up the project professionally and make recommendations and present it to council (communications). All of the learning resources would be gathered and supplied by the learning centre.
Also the learning coaches can encourage and help students find their own learning material in publicly-available resources.
As a backdrop, the learning centre(s) would be supported by a robust online learning library, using advanced artificial intelligence and expert instructional design for self-directed learning (and curriculum credits).
This type of learning is different because it is non-linear and integrates different fields of learning over the long term – exactly how we all live our lives.
Students won’t ‘learn about statistics’ just because it’s on a curriculum but will learn statistics because they need to use it. Similarly, with all of the other fields that need to be learned about in some form to complete the project.
Students would come away with skills, behaviours and knowledge, as well as the ability to put things together and work with others. They would also become known to the community as leaders or capable, independent thinkers.
The learning centres that underpin this type of learning will make use of learning coaches, learning spaces and learning technologies all for the students to make use of while they’re engaging in their experiential or self-guided learning.
Project-based learning is just one aspect I can see that would be fun and new, or students would be able to learn alone if they wish, with learning coaches guiding them through.
I imagine what the world would look like if we all learned in this way and no longer had battery-hen ‘schools’. We wouldn’t all be trained to think the same for a start, and we would start to see some real diversity in the graduates, with people learning according to their interests. Everyone would have a different background and that would be so interesting to discover, instead of ‘where you went to school’ being a marker of your importance. Employers might have to assess individuals and their skills, instead of using their school as a proxy for someone’s worth. This, to me, would be a valuable cross-benefit.
To me, thinking of a world that works for everyone, and what a galactic society would feel like, respecting the sovereignty of individual learners and empowering them through their learning journey are simply pre-requisites for our next phase of civilization. This is the type of education system I’d like to see, and that I’d like to work with others to help develop.
(Learning and Teaching Consultant)
(1) Hens kept in small cages.