Where to now? Why learning can’t stay the same…

By March 12, 2018No Comments

Learning is changing. There’s no doubt about it. After some research into trends and predictions for the future, there seems to be some themes emerging about what learning is going to look like and how we’ll shape this experience going forward.

Here’s what I’ve come across while researching and designing learning:

  • While the emphasis seems to be on STEM, there is also another theme running parallel; ideas of personalisation, purpose and meaning. It’s all well and good to have people trained in science and technology, but if they don’t care about it and it doesn’t make sense to their interests or abilities, what’s the point?
  • We need to relax institutional rules and structures. What works for one person, won’t work for another. Self-directed learning based on a broader, shared theme – where individuals personalise that theme – is going to make far more sense and takes advantage of the world of information available for research.
  • Innovation isn’t always tech. There is strong movement running parallel to this obsession with trendy tech start-ups. The maker’s movement, organic growers and up-cyclers show us that there’s a still a need for something real – something that offers connection and community. And something that looks to preserve or conserve what we already have, not add more noise or ‘stuff’ we don’t actually need. What if we educated on innovating so as to reduce the ecological footprint and improve social outcomes?
  • We spend a lot of time educating ‘subjects’. What if we integrated soft skills more successfully and seamlessly into the curriculum? Kindness, respect and empathy shouldn’t be something we learn as ‘add-ons’. These qualities should be firmly embedded and modelled in learning. After all, we learn more from people by observing who they are rather than what they teach.
  • Teach people how to learn not what to learn. We spend a lot of time ‘putting things in’ but what if we spent more time on ‘seeing what comes out’? Encouraging people to ask their own questions, design their own projects and achieve their own goals means we can focus more on ways to get them there. Instead of being the destination, we – as educators – need to become the GPS (but a real life one that doesn’t mishear instructions and take you the long way round).
  • ‘Blended learning’ seems to be a nice compromise going forward. The sometimes too-rigid expectations around face-to-face delivery and the lack of accountability around online learning meets somewhere in the middle with this model – so that there both structure and flexibility. We need to keep that sense of community alive but we also need to acknowledge the changing nature of modern living and that 9-5 will become a thing of the past.
  • Cancel the commute. Not everyone wants to commute an hour or more every day when they can access a lecture online. But they do want to meet to discuss, debate and pull apart the content. We need to maximise face-to-face delivery for collaboration and ensure that we are making the most of human contact (not sitting passively in lecture theatres). We need to really value the student’s time.
  • ‘Slow down to speed up’. Instead of trying to squeeze so much in, can’t we just take our time exploring this world? I think we try so hard to grasp at so many things, we don’t ever do one thing justice. It’s more of ‘tourist approach’ rather than an ‘immersion experience’. Immersion is where the real learning happens.

Education is changing but are we changing with it? We need to let go of the past, what we’re told is right, and start to see that learning – like everything else – needs to be linked to purpose and meaning, a sense of community, and doing good in this world.

Leanne Roulston – THINKA Co-founder, Learning

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