Wednesday, April 2, 2014

C: A School in the Clouds (Self-organized Learning Environments)


I thank you all for participating in the A-to-Z Challenge because, in doing so, you are lending great credence to the argument that public education, as we have long known it, is obsolete and dying; particularly in North America.

In educational terms, what we are all doing, by virtue of our participation in the A-to-Z Challenge, is  creating something called a Self-Organized Learning Environment or S.O.L.E.   A self-organized learning environment is, simply put, any location where like-minded individuals gather to exchange ideas, pass on new information and learn new skills.  In these environments, participants tend to set their own learning goals and pursue them at a pace that is best suited for them and for the group.  More and more, self-organized learning environments are developing in cyberspace, with participants coming from anywhere and everywhere in the world.  Usually, participants are self-motivated to learn and improve because acceptance within the group relies on everyone pulling their weight and making their best effort.

Doesn't this sound like the A-to-Z Challenge to you?

I am grateful to the organizers of this event for taking the time too set it up but, having said that, my presence in this community of bloggers is of my own volition, as it is for most of you, too.  I found the Challenge on my own and linked up according to the criteria established by the group.  I will probably never meet with any of you face-to-face but, I am hoping to be in contact via my desktop computer and my iPad, too.  No resources nor infrastructure (other than wi-fi) are required for my participation or yours.

Yet, here we all are!   Writing!  Reading!  Sharing! Commenting!  Connecting!  Growing!

By the end of April, I am sure most participants will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment, not to mention, having honed their skills, expanded their knowledge base and established new friendships and/or partnerships along the way.    We will all do this and, for many of us, we will think nothing of it.   It is just the way that we work and learn these days. It is the way of the least, for us.

If we, as bloggers and as adults, are increasingly taking charge of our own intellectual and social growth by seeking out our own opportunities to participate in events such as this then, contrast that with public school students, particularly in America.   As you read this, most American public school students will be prepping for standardized tests. These tests will be taken in classrooms and gymnasiums by students seated in rows. Each student will be answering the same series of questions, probably with pencil/pen and paper.    Few, if any, teachers or students will have had any role in developing the questions on these tests nor, on the topics covered in class in the time leading up to the tests.  Yet, the results of these tests have profound implications for all involved.

For teachers, poor results will cost them their job.
For schools and school boards, poor results will cause them to lose funding and face other punitive measures.
For students, poor results could cost them their chance at the post-secondary education of their choice. It may cost them the opportunity to graduate from high school at all.

Read here, to find out how this standardized approach to learning is even raising its' insidious head in Kindergarten classroom!

I could write an entire thesis on the topic of standardized testing and the damage it is doing to public education. But, I will reign myself in and conclude by asking you this:     who is in charge of your intellectual, personal and social growth:  you or your government and/or multi-national corporations?

By virtue of your participation in a blogging challenge such as the A-to-Z Challenge, you are voting with your actions to be in favour of charting your own course, of being in charge of your own decision making, of working in ways that fit your lifestyle and learning needs.  Think about how you learn and how you interact with the world of ideas. Then, compare your situation with that of the young children in today's outdated, obsolete dying public education system.  My heart aches for their predicament.

I will end on a hopeful note.   The way in which all of us have chosen to pursue personal and intellectual growth in today's technologically-rich society (by arranging for our own participation in learning events such as the A-to-Z Challenge, for example) are ways that are available to students, too.  The future of learning is here, now!   What remains is the political will to bring it to fruition.

For more information on how children can take control of their learning needs in the same way as we,  as adults do, please watch the following TED Talk by the visionary Sugata Mitra.    After doing so and, after reflecting on your own independence as a learner and comparing your freedom to the plight of students trapped in the standardized testing nightmares of today's Common Core-inspired school system, please vent your rage to the appropriate people in positions of leadership in your area.  Raising your voice and sounding your displeasure is one way you can make a positive difference in the lives of children.

I now present, Build A School in the Clouds.  Thank you for reading.  :)


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