Updated: Jul 15, 2020
History is a tremendous repository of lessons that speak to the role adversity has served to advance the human experience towards the power of possibility. In the darkest recesses of the historical narrative, great minds have availed themselves with the capacity of hope to embark upon journeys that unlocked opportunity. With vision and clarity of purpose these individuals eschewed all sense of complacency in a quest to harness the potential that resides in endeavoring on behalf of growth, progress, and the common good. This unique moment in time forces our noble profession to stand at a crossroads between a commitment to the status quo, and a purposeful reimagining of the practices that provide equitable access to the American ideal. With a courage of conviction, it is our belief that like-minded stakeholders can use this point in history to reframe education as a means to inspire transformative thought that enjoins the essence of learning with the aspirational spirit of our nation.
Vision and the practical approaches that foster growth are within reach, but require shifts that truly put the learner at the forefront of decision making. In order to meet the demands of our “new normal,” we must reframe the metrics used to gauge success by shifting the paradigms that drive the measure of systematic outcomes. That begins with the facilitators who cultivate learning environments and the learners who must build the capacity to uncover their potential through an intrinsically motivated approach. Within such a dynamic partnership resides the seeds for a new progressive era of education. As facilitators of learning, we can certainly attest to the impressive outcomes that can be attained when your craft is focused on inspiring thought, and the relationships that exist within all learning opportunities..
At the juncture that connects partnership, vision, & inspiration, we encourage all to venture down the road less traveled, and place the learner at the very center of that which creates and sustains the conditions for optimal learning. We propose the notion of immersing students in environments that infuse the principles of neuroscience with metacognitive learning experiences that offer opportunities for deep thinking, while affording learners the ability to uncover the interconnected threads that exist within concepts. Such an approach speaks to the spirit of innovative thinkers like Montessori who stated, “Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world. ” These inspiring words of wisdom are emblematic of many who have devoted their life to the cause of observing and understanding the complex nature of learning. Their unique efforts have made clear that developing and supporting independent thought must be at the forefront of a facilitator’s mind. If we are to improve the future of education, it is essential we look to our past and gain inspiration from the influential minds of those who have made significant advancements in child development. We need only look to the tremendous progress made by Harvard’s Project Zero to recognize the importance of embedding current research practices, similar to those proposed by authors like Ron Ritchhart, into the daily routines of learners to promote engagement, understanding and independence.
As life-long learners who have continually evolved our pedagogical approaches, we have embraced this period in history as a moment to enhance our craft and ultimately the opportunities offered to our students. Through our collaborative efforts, we have continually sought to be progressive in our methodology; a mindset that has served us well as we embarked upon distance learning. As such, we believe examining internal and external factors creates the entry point by which to appraise failures and successes with equal weight. Assessing value and securing actionable feedback is essential to ensuring the learning opportunities offered are fluid elements that can transition seamlessly between the school building and digital platforms. Learners are entitled to consistency throughout their academic journey, and we are prepared to engage our students with a hybrid model that embodies the tenants of life-long learning. Over the years, expanding our approach towards envisioning learning environments that extend beyond the four walls of a classroom has led us to opportunities that couple the wonders of nature with the efficiency of technology. In doing so, students have utilized their distance learning experience as a vehicle to truly engage their world. We would posit that striving for fluidity is the bellwether that provides the impetus to foster settings that build transitions and communication protocols by which to sustain the essence of our charge.
To illustrate our position, imagine fifth grade students stepping away from their distance learning platforms to investigate the transformative ideas of Newton. Through authentic applications, detailed observations fuel creativity that inspires the application of design principles, the building of prototypes, and the implementation of experimental trials. In doing so, learners eagerly return to their digital platforms, communicating with cohort members in efforts to share the results of their inquiries and build collaborative presentations making their understanding visible. Opportunities for growth are enhanced through the relationship that develops through discourse and actionable feedback. We have been witness to the increased level of engagement students demonstrate when entrusted with the discretion to apply choice in their quest for understanding. Reframing education requires a willingness to unlock the potential that exists in immersive experiences by reimagining the manner in which we support individual and cohort-based learning. Cultivating a vision that seamlessly transitions students between learning environments is attainable when leadership is accompanied with professional discretion.
The system of education is structured by factors and influenced by variables that are far more complex than any one assumption or theory can address. As such, we must be willing to assume the mantel of responsibility that is integral to advancing and meeting our purpose. In any endeavor, the attainment of success resides in the threads that connect desire, commitment and enthusiasm. These fundamental attributes will continue to be the bedrock of the transformative thought that sparks innovation and perhaps the avenue by which academic culture reflects the ideals expressed in our charters of freedom.