Thursday, January 14, 2016

Education: Think Outside The Box

Education has become confused with formal Education Systems and the complications of their specific politics, institutions, resources and technologies. 

Formal education systems process people for exams - they provide limited, measured and managed learning environments geared to tangible skills such as rational-analytical thinking, attendance and punctuality.

However, don't let the system limit education - formal education systems are just a small subset of education - we are all natural learners - If we think outside the box then our education is unlimited. Education is a broad concept that overlaps all of our learning which involves other people.  We learn all the time - through our actions and experiences and through communication  - from dialogue with others and from others’ monologue - watching, listening and reading what others have to show and tell.  

Some of the best things I remember from my time at school were visits to the outside world - geography trips to the countryside; science and history trips to museums, sports trips to parks, swimming pools and sports centres. Public and common spaces have helped support formal education for a long time but more importantly - they have always supported informal education and learning. Parks, museums and libraries are easy to access life long learning environments - there are no qualification or minimum entry requirements - they are open, you can just walk in. Parks, museums and libraries won't ask you questions and examine you - they are places where you ask the questions and where you examine.

Libraries were established as education spaces for those who would otherwise have limited opportunities for education or self-improvement - they were open to everyone in a community who wanted access to books and learning. Libraries are adapting to social and cultural changes - they are evolving to become ‘read/write’ platforms where people are encouraged to contribute and exchange as well as consume. The Common Libraries initiative for example has its origins in Open Source, Creative Commons movements and community-led libraries - it draws upon the peer-to-peer and sharing economy as well as an enthusiasm for hacking and making. Leading edge library initiatives are seeking to decommodify or ‘commonify’ knowledge, to develop libraries as peer-to-peer platforms for knowledge exchange founded upon Commons principles to help build a social knowledge economy. New developments in libraries and other public an common spaces offer opportunities to think outside the box about what education is, what it can become and how we go about it - they offer viable platforms to explore parallel liberal forms of education to the established formal education system and its focus on examinations.

Public and common spaces help us think and see outside the standard school or college model - projects like Learning Towns and Scale Free Schools recognise opportunities for learning beyond the school walls and consider a new infrastructure of education. Based on conversations with pupils Learning Towns highlight possibilities for learning to be a catalyst and a driver for better communities. Scale Free Schools asks if dedicated school buildings are really the most appropriate model for learning in the coming decades and What is the role of the community in education, and the role of education in communities?

Information is a vital ingredient in education and never before have we had such opportunity to access information as we have today with information technology and the Internet. The Internet supports both formal and informal learning - from education system managed learning environments, through the multitude of MOOC hybrids and community learning environments like Peter Shukie's COOCs through to decentralised peer environments on social media and social networks.

Thinking outside the education box opens up new opportunities to innovate education and connect it with communities. Tech City initiatives like Croydon Tech City apply the concept of Learning Towns to develop communities by embracing the startup mindset with an an entrepreneurial spirit of exploration, curiosity and a focus on possibilities. Tech City initiatives offer an option to embed education in real world activities - to use the resources in a community to develop ideas and make something with them.

Formal education is for exams informal education is for life.

Don't let the education system limit your education - think outside the box - unlimit your education.

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