I created a post where I outlined what I thought should be the guiding principle for 21 century learning centers. In what follows in this post I intend to present what the philosophy of teaching and learning that I believe should guide the learning environments that we create.
I believe in learner-centered learning. A learning environment exists for the learners. I am an unrepentant constructivist. I define constructivism as developmentally appropriate learning that is learner initiated and directed that is supported by the connected physical and digital network of the teacher and partners of the learners. Like Huzinga and Piaget, I see play as instrumental to human learning as it is quite literally, practice for life. I also believe, like John Dewey, that learning should have a practical aspect to it and relate to the learner's world. Learning should be hands on, touch and try rather than the prevalent mode of tell and test. I believe in dialogue and story telling as the primary structure for communication in a learning environment. Like Jerome Bruner and Roger Schank, I believe we organize our world with narrative order by telling stories and that we should encourage learners and teachers to interact in this way. Learning environments should prepare us for the world by allowing us to interact with the world to, as Sir Ken Robinson encourages “find their element”. In this technological flat world this is very possible, necessary and doable.
The primary task of a teacher is to discover the passions of the learners and to connect those passions to the curriculum in the learning environment. The learners need to feel safe so that they will try things and risk failure. Learners should proceed at their own rate and not be penalized for failure but rewarded for success. Assessment should reward the learner for what they can do rather than penalize them for what they cannot do yet. The feedback loops need to be as immediate as possible much like in a video game so that the student will continue to “level-up”. Progress is marked by benchmarks set by the teacher and learner and should proceed at an individual pace and design in collaboration with classmates ( games). I believe that the learning environment should be a constant dialogue between the members of the learning reality with each other and the world around them. Technology should play a large role in expanding the world of learning. Students should be engaged with the real world.
Learners should have real world experiences in their learning worlds. We should strive to put students in situations where they are practicing being what they are interested in. Rather than being lectured to about history for instance, learners should practice being historians by writing history whenever possible. Learners should be journalists by creating newspapers and magazines, not just reading about it. If a learner wants to write, the learner should publish short stories and novels or magazine articles and journal articles. Learners should be encouraged at all times to share what they learn with the world, to find an audience for what they know. The purpose of the learning environment should be to put the learners’ names in lights. The environment should be a dialogue and have no physical limits or time boundaries. The learning world should be a place where learners and teachers share stories about the world around them with each other and with the larger world through the use of digital technology. The learning environment should be as interdisciplinary as possible. Curiosity should be encouraged rather than destroyed as it is so often in learning environments. Learners' interests should drive the learning, within a broad curriculum. Every group is different and every member of the group different from the others. No groups should be taught the same way and no learners learn the same! Learning is an active verb, something you do yourself and not something you have done to you. Learning is empowerment.
Everyone in the learning environment should be encouraged to see the world from as many vantage points as possible. That is how a community begins to join together into a new vision of sharing and collaboration. Imagination creativity, group formation are the special traits of human beings that learning environments should be trying to encourage in everything that they do. Learning is a social activity!
I believe everyone in a learning environment is a teacher and a learner. Human beings learn best by example. Our every action presents a way of being to those watching us. That is a tremendous responsibility that I have always been anxious to shoulder. When we leave learning environment at the end of the day we should all have sore shoulders from all of the students standing on them and leaping into the new world.