As we turn a page into a new school year, it’s worth considering just how remarkable this time is for nurturing formal and informal learning in children, youth and, well, anyone. Think of it: in community centres, clubs, studios, workshops, the internet, living rooms, parks and classrooms, learning opportunities have never been more plentiful.
Whether someone wants to improve their cartooning or explore atomic physics, or both, a brief internet search or flip through a catalog will turn up resources and maybe a perfectly competent mentor. Chances are quite high that you’ll even find a community of like-minded people honing their skills or sharing their knowledge on the subjects you’re seeking to explore. And you might even find a gaming platform dedicated to helping learners “level up” skills and interests.
“There’s an app for that,” is an apt mantra for these times, with YouTube, Khan Academy, Google and a thousand thousand other virtual enterprises announcing their technology as just what you’re looking for to open the gates of knowledge.
ABOVE: Flyer showing showing some of the badges you can earn through
DIY.org. If you are 11 years old and want to be an astronomer, a bike repair expert
or hone your cooking skills, this is a good place to start.
That’s all well and good, especially for the bottom line, but this kind of “anywhere, any way” learning deserves the additional support of educators, administrators and parents. To wit, it’s been in the garage and basement long enough, it deserves better treatment.
As a career educator I see this as a time when we ought to be more prepared than ever to help children and youth tap into this brave new world. To me this means helping ensure learning environments, virtual and real, are safe, helping determine the learning is of an adequate nature to be thoughtfully validated and being in plain site on the sidelines, coaching and cheering.
For far too long notions of learning have been circumscribed in conventional education by the 3Rs and validated predominantly by rote testing and standardized curricula. Learning and competency, however, are much broader than these narrow notions. It’s time for educators to seize on this as an opportunity and adopt what neuroscience has confirmed: human learning is as unique as each of us, no matter our age or background.
Parents and perceptive educators know this to be true, too, and our learning systems, i.e., formal education, ought to reflect this truth.
In British Columbia the Ministry of Education recently announced curriculum reform measures to support a new ‘BC Ed Plan’ and personalized learning throughout BC schools. It’s also the case that education authorities and pioneering schools across North America are now supporting broader notions of education through ‘flipped learning’ ‘differentiated instruction’ and ‘brain-friendly schooling’.
I consider all of this good news, though I don’t perceive education reform in this direction will be a slam-dunk anywhere, because conventional schooling systems from Kindergarten through post-secondary were not designed to support the kinds of innovation now being urged.
Along with the reforms the Ministry also needs to support educators and administrators in adapting to a new learning landscape. And parents, too, will need to be thoroughly informed and enrolled as partners, otherwise they will incubate fear and resentment.
Yes, BC has been down this road before with the ‘Year 2ooo‘, a much-vaunted curriculum overhaul that foundered in the early 1990s because of poor planning and roll-out. I know, I was a newly-minted educator for the launch and demise of the Y2K plan. “Ahead of its time” was one of the main laments about it.
Today, however, the license for education reform is starkly apparent to anyone paying close attention to science and social trends. And I’m again excited in anticipating an era of rigid coursework giving way to supporting and validating children’s learning, anywhere, any way.