Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Challenge for our Future
By Barbara Bray    March 12, 2009 -- 09:19 AM

Today teaching and learning is changing before our eyes. This is the crucial time to design what learning will look like. I challenge you to come up with ideas for our children and grandchildren.

Take a look at most schools today They usually are placed centrally in a community. They start at 8 and close at 3. Very little happens before or after school now because of funding issues. It is a closed campus so community members are not allowed on campus. Students move from grade level to grade level. Teachers manage the classroom. Principals manage the teachers. Teachers tend to be isolated in their classroom with students behind closed doors. Maybe 20% of classrooms collaborate with other classrooms in the school or beyond.

This is the model I participated in, my parents, their parents. Itís time to look at different models or schools as we know them will close one by one.

So whatís happening?

Home Schools, Virtual Schools, Online Courses, Drop-outs, Charter Schools, Unschools

But letís be real, these schools still follow the same model. Teacher-centric. Now some teachers are reaching out: collaborating - creating projects that are student-centric, but not the whole model. There are accountability issues that prevent a complete student-centric environment. What about the standards? What about being able to pass the tests?

This is the old model. Taking one test for everyone that measures ability. Does this really work for each student, each teacher? We are trying to bring in new ideas into antiquated system. The system is broken and itís time to look at complete restructuring.

Hereís my idea:  Community Learning Centers

Take a look at your local school. It probably is central to the community and built as a manufacturing model with separate closed classrooms set on specific grade levels. What if we...
  • took one of these centrally located schools and gutted it - started over. Took down the walls.
  • involved the entire community to design a community learning center.
  • started with a vision based on the needs of the community
    • identified resources in the community and needs of the community
    • individual learning plans for everyone in the community
    • skills, strengths, and learning styles of each member no matter what age
  • designed a wireless learning center with videoconferencing, laptops, and materials for check-out with glass walls, cubicles, meeting rooms... ?
  • developed projects based on needs
    • job training
    • senior center
    • child care
    • community garden
    • food bank
    • technology training
    • creek restoration
    • mural design
    • art shows
    • testing water quality
    • poetry book
    • photography show
    • science fair
    • restaurant
    • historical documentaries
    • PSAs
    • recycling center
    • internships
    • others???
  • matched all projects to standards 
  • matched individual learning plans to specific projects based on standards to meet learning goals
  • set up advisory panels where teachers, librarians, teacher ed students, and counselors work as advisors on projects or members of a project to meet their learning goals.
  • set up a RFP process
  • have learners submit a proposal to be part of one or more projects that will help them meet their learning goals.
In this model, learners can be of any age, can work from home or virtually anywhere. Community centers can collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world. The higher ed can also change so any projects can involve interns (higher ed students). University faculty can be advisors on projects.

What do you think? Do you have an idea that would help create the future of learning?

Categories: "Community Centers" "Unschool" "Schools" "Teaching" "Learning" "Change" "Future"

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Comments: Add New Comments
By Dennis      March 12, 2009 -- 11:57 PM
I think you made a good point regarding how standards can get in the way of student-centric learning Barbara. "one size fits all" leaves too many gaps and disenchanted learners. I am looking right now at possibly leaving the current system and considering another option. A combination of online and in-class type of school sounds appealing to me both for the student's benefit and learning community's.

Reply to Dennis

By Dennis (fr Hawaii)      March 14, 2009 -- 08:53 AM
Well, not so much the Standards that is.getting in the way but the manner in which they are being addressed to clarify the above comment. Project-based learning connects learners with relevance and meaningful dialogue. I can't think of a better way to learn than dealing with real life situations and issues.

Reply to Dennis (fr Hawaii)

By Ken Peterson      March 14, 2009 -- 05:21 PM
"Build it and they will come"

Reply to Ken Peterson

By small Barbara Bray      March 14, 2009 -- 08:57 PM
Dennis - I built My eCoach so teachers and students could design, publish, implement, and then showcase projects online. Iíve seen it where at-risk students not only get engaged in the learning process, they become so motivated that they donít want to quit when the bell rings. Just imagine a school where learners of all ages write a proposal to be on a project - I mean, they really want to be on a project, work on it together. Itís not just for a grade or to learn how to take a test. A project where they can make a difference.

Ken - My eCoach was built with loads of tools and bells and whistles and now there are so many new tools like wikis and social networking tools out there that people are using. There are a few teachers (maybe 20%) that take risks and are collaborating with others around the world but with everything already on teachersí plates, to make a project that they may not be able to implement because of standardized tests is frustrating. There are some teachers in My eCoach that have created projects with the hope that someday they can use them with their students.

Challenge to Administrators!

Will you let your teachers take some risks? Create collaborative project-based learning activities that are multiple grade-levels, that involve the community, that allow flexible scheduling? Maybe thatís too far-fetched for now, but letís dream a little.

What do you think of a community learning center for learners of all ages?

Reply to Barbara Bray

By Teresa Roebuck      March 23, 2009 -- 11:28 PM
I have also left the current system to teach online and f2f in community/private settings that emphasize the learning... not the test/teaching role. I have been slowly building an online community of professional development support for novice teachers and will be offering it nationwide within this year. My calling is to be a support/mentor to the teachers who will be the ones to create the newest paradigms in learning. Barbara, your challenge is both timely and pertinent! How can we begin to implement this challange? I would like to add my voice to Barbara's to push for a re-birth of what it means to be involved in educating for the future.

Reply to Teresa Roebuck

By Carlotta      March 26, 2009 -- 08:30 AM
I love the idea of a community learning centre, but just wanted to point out that UK autonomous home educators certainly don't follow the transmissive/pedagogic model at all and haven't done so for decades. There are no teachers here, merely people offering tentative theories.

Autonomous learners are properly learner-centric: they decide what they want to learn.

Following on from this point, it is clear that no-one sets these particular learners a target or standard other than themselves should they so choose. And anyway it would be wise to accept that shoe-horning learning into pre-conceived standards is to foreclose on the possibilities, and implies a false epistemology in that one cannot predict the course of or measure the effectiveness of learning with any real reliability.

Reply to Carlotta


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