What would it mean to think of education as a responsibility of a distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities?
That is the one of the questions posed to us on the website for Connected Learning. So often we think of education as the responsibility of the teacher, the classroom, and the school. It is the obligation, purpose, and duty of our schools to provide if not a strong, well-rounded education, then at least a decent one for all its students. Learning is perceived as happening only in schools, in the classroom, seated in a desk with a pencil in hand.
But what it that were not the case?
Connected Learning challenges our conventional idea of learning by recognizing that we as humans are not just students in the classroom. We are students in our everyday lives. Everything we interact with has a story, a lesson to teach whomever comes into contact with it. This can be social media, video games, comic books, even a basic trip to the grocery store. We learn most from the areas in which we are interested. For example, I, as many of you dear readers have already discovered, am not a math person. My math skills, while strong, were not achieved the fun and easy way. I hated math and anything to do with numbers. However, when math is taught in a way that I can process it-through word problems or stories that require math to advance the plot- I can finally be excited about it. I can see what once was an odious chore as something if not enjoyable, then at least amusing. If I had been taught this way throughout my entire educational career and been encouraged to pursue each topic in a way that interested me, I cannot even begin to imagine where my life would be now.
This kind of learning does not fall squarely on the shoulders of our teachers, however. What would happen if we recognized that the world was our classroom, and that lessons could be taught anywhere? What would happen if in the middle of a Romanticism unit in our English classes, the school worked with local museums to provide a broader scope of knowledge on the time period? Instead of just scribbling out equations on a board, imagine how much more would stick in our students’ minds if they had to actually use those equations to solve a real problem, say, with the town board over a matter such as parking prices or water costs.
Think about it. Our society has confined learning to the classroom and laid it out through a curriculum that makes knowledge seem irrelevant in the outside world. There is a wealth of knowledge in the existence that surrounds us. Articles swimming through hashtags, experts just an instant message away, poetry pouring in through our radios, facts and opinions literally in the palms of our hands…. so why are we not using them?
To think of education as a network of information including but not limited to our schools is almost mind-blowing. With this lens, our society becomes responsible for the education that it has chosen to ignore. We as a nation would have to stand for our students and we would have to choose our future instead of making education a side issue in political debates.
We live in a revolutionary time. Why not start a revolution of our own?