‘Here-and-Now’ Emergent Learning as Important as any Future-Driven Curricula

Educational conversations are often dominated by opinions about what shape education should take based on future speculations. Social media, trade show flyers and school bulletin boards are filled with fiery prognostications about the future and how schooling should be canted to leverage this presaged event.

While this forecasting may be compelling, we know, or we should by now, the future isn’t so reliable, making this kind of prognosticating a mugs game. Nobody – not Warren Buffet nor the sharpest midway card reader – can lay claim to being clairvoyant and accurately foretelling the future or future trends, be it next week, next year, or 25 years down the road.

It stands to reason, then, that learners (of all ages), parents and sensitive educational authorities should question any assertions that future prosperity is linked with any certainty to training based in, for example, STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) subjects, as is currently fashionable.

Interestingly, no one knows this better than the biggest kid on the tech block – Google, which recently learned through it’s in-house ‘Project Oxygen‘ that, over time, its most successful managers were neither its engineers nor straight-A recruits that they were prioritizing but employees with so-called ‘soft skills’ steeped in relational and communication-based competencies. These people were actually working against the company flow to help shape and inspire Google to become the dominant force it has become.

 

In Project Oxygen Google discovered ‘soft-skills’ contributed the most important management skills, and it has pivoted its practices to reflect this.

 

Google’s finding implores us to recognize the importance of slowing down and carefully observing or researching what learning is actually emerging, and why. This calls us to attend to ‘here-and-now’ emergent learning which not only primes potent learning but also confirms the legitimacy of all learners as-and-how-they-are-now and what they are learning now. This, in turn, builds self-confidence, priming yet additional learning.

It takes determination and energy to hold back the evangelical (and often vested-interest) futurists. But many educational jurisdictions across North America are doing  this in their support of personalized learning initiatives that seek to ‘meet learners where they are at’, here and now. This practice is keyed to individual and varying sensibilities and competencies reflecting myriad environmental, cultural and heritable characteristics. Accordingly, it is  highly nuanced and undermined by simplistic categorizations that have characterized curriculum-driven, future-based schooling for generations.

Optimizing learning in the here and now recognizes and stokes present-tense learning strengths and interests in school and beyond. It means supporting and validating what kids do on weekends, through interest groups, on extended vacation periods, etc. These are often the times kids enthusiastically participate in learning activities like 4H, sports, and good old-fashioned tinkering, from which arose the digital revolution of the 1990s.

Here-and-now learning knows the value of spontaneity and personal passion

It is also characterized by providing candid, timely feedback on the results students are creating, so they can adjust their praxis and continuously engage in learning experiences (and not just mimic learning in preparation for next week’s test). Successful businesses, Google among them, know this well: the keys to enfranchising and productive work environments are places where present-tense, situational dynamics are optimized en route to meeting future goals. Of course, parents and grandparents know this, and the best coaches do, too.

I can attest to the worth of validating present-tense learning, something I’ve been supporting as an educator for 30 years. And I can confirm my support of learning in-the-moment has been recognized by my learners as valuable and valued for the duration of my career.

If mainstream education is truly committed to supporting the highest potential of today’s learners, it will increase support for learning and schooling rooted in the present to gain parity with future-driven curricula. Research supports this, and if  you have any doubt about this, you can Google it!

 

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