Over the past 20 years, the various roles I have worked in have afforded me the privilege of working with scores of schools internationally. I have also completed my Ph.D. One of the lines of research my thesis focussed on was the use of technology in our schools. The online MMO game Minecraft was used as a key technology tool for my research.
The world is currently facing a seeming crisis and institutionalized education is being as dramatically disrupted. Schools are closing but learning must go on.
In that last sentence, there is a mindset that holds an interesting problem and a great opportunity. The learning has and always will go on despite schools.
Every school is being challenged in its delivery methods. I hope that once the transition settles and administrators have a moment to breathe, schools might see the amazing opportunity being presented to them to really become centers of learning rather than the disconnected place they find themselves in today. To become that, schools need to consider the why which then reshapes the how.
This is the first of a series of posts I am going to publish over the next few weeks that draw from my experiences and my research. The posts are designed to provoke thinking about what is learning and how might we change our practices to reflect our new understandings. I will also be providing some of mine and my company’s thinking about how to do this along with some real practicle examples from schools we work as they generously share their struggles and breakthroughs during this time.
For now, let’s take the time to stay in the question of the why.
Change is a wonderful thing. Life is a state of continual change, evolution. The counter is stasis which leads to death. Many schools have been in a state of stasis for some time. Disconnected to where life has moved resulting in the tension and stress we see in those at the coal face of our formal education system, the teachers and students.
Allow yourself a moment to breathe and enjoy the struggle to rethink the drivers behind ‘learning’. Enjoy the state of continual change. In that, you are choosing to actively participate in life, a process of continual change.
So here is my first provocation.
Learning is all about connectivity. Knowledge is not a tangible thing. It is not something I or you have to give to someone else. Knowledge sits in the relationships, it resides in networks. Knowledge is in a state of continual change, it is never still. The pace of the change (or the increase in new knowledge) directly correlates with an increase in connectivity. Moving schools from ‘offline’ learning environments to an ‘online’ space provides you with a huge opportunity to embrace connected learning and the participatory culture that comes with it. Technology provides us with opportunities to connect in new ways and with a greater range of diverse others than can never be found in the way we run traditional schools and classrooms.
Is there a difference in how we do in school learning to out of school learning? Sadly much research answers that question with an overwhelming yes. So in this time perhaps think about it this way: kids can can connect, already are connecting and learning well beyond what we are currently allowing in for inyour classroom.
On behalf much of the world who has already shifted their practices to ones that understand and embrace connected learning my plea to schools administrators, teachers and students is as follows…at this unique time please don’t merely repeat what you are currently doing and just do it online via zoom or skype or worksheet apps or rinse and repeat maths games. Use this moment to contribute something magnificent, daring, innovative, connected and deliberate towards our collective life. Use this moment to sweep in fresh change. Schools, let’s create the change we need, let’s join the living.
Finally, a fun challenge. In your super busy weeks ahead, as you figure out teaching and learning in this new environment, take a moment to ask your students how they currently learn through online connectivity and share it with us here at EnRusk so that we can all learn together.