Does learning only occur behind the walls of a school building? Is mathematics only learned inside the four walls of a math classroom? Is there more knowledge stored within the walls of our schools than the rest of the planet combined? I believe the answer is and should always be NO. If that’s the case, then why are we only awarding credit for the learnings that occur inside our school buildings and content specific classrooms? How do we design a learning environment that will allow students to truly learn anywhere, at anytime, anyhow, and at any pace?
I believe that once we have clear definitions of what students are to know and be able to do, this will become much easier. The Common Core standards are a huge step in this direction. There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done with these, but we are moving in the right direction. Are competencies the answer in clearing this up? I’m not sure and not completely sold on competencies yet. However, I am very open to hearing others’ arguments for or against them.
Once we are clear about what students are to know and be able to do, teachers can become facilitators of learning. They can give up some control, and allow students (I like to call them learners) to struggle through their learning a little and find their personal path to understanding and demonstration of knowledge. The facilitator and learner then collaborate to find the best plan for the learner to both learn and demonstrate understanding. The learning in many cases could happen anywhere in the community or, dare I say, world! That’s an exciting thought for me. Why can’t a learner go to the art center to learn about art, or even history? Why can’t a learner go to a museum and learn about history, science, or math? Why can’t a learner go to Mexico and learn how to speak Spanish or learn about their culture and geography? I haven’t even mentioned language arts yet because I feel it can be incorporated at all times with any project. We have to read just about everywhere we go. We have to either write down or verbally communicate our ideas and learnings each and every time. Do these not fall into the standards for language arts?
If we have a clear understanding of what students need to know and be able to do, we can realize that we are no longer the keepers of knowledge, we can let go of some control, and we can collaborate with learners, other facilitators, the parents, and the community; it could become easier than we think to tear the walls down of our educational system. Let’s begin the demolition.