When leading a workshop on the future of learning for the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders last week, I was struck by the ways in which the conversation kept cycling back toward two seemingly disparate but intricately intersecting themes:
- The need for the new learning ecosystem to be led by learning agents who manage decisions with learners and their families locally
- The need to cultivate wide ownership for learning among families and across businesses, communities, and other stakeholder groups.
These two strands of insight wove together as the discussion raised foundational conditions for learning:
- The need to build a foundation of learning skills and dispositions upon which learners could build in pursuing their particular learning journeys
- The need to instill responsibility in learners for their own learning, both for its intrinsic value and out of a sense of stewarding public funds
- The need to situate learning in community even as learners exercise more choice around their learning options
- The need to decide as a wide community how we will communicate about and cultivate an interest in learning among young people who today seem unmotivated by or disenfranchised from their educational experiences.
At the heart of the discussion was a deep belief that learning matters, not just for individual development and well being but also for communities’ vitality. And a deep recognition that the current educational system simply doesn’t meet the needs of all learners. In opening up the conversation to consider an ideal learning ecosystem, participants sought both to lessen restrictive regulations whose generalities cannot reflect knowledge of individual learners’ needs and to extend responsibility beyond the narrow range of today’s teacher evaluation systems, whose metrics can only reflect part of what makes for successful learning.