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What Might Expand Learning Infrastructure in Rural Communities?

Topics: Emerging Trends, Future of Learning

Eagle’s View Learning Center is located in Seward, Pennsylvania, a rural town of 486. It offers a learning environment whose curriculum is diverse and personalized despite scarce local resources. Eagle’s View has an onsite staff of three adults but uses online lesson content developed by the 200 teachers at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School to bring diverse perspectives and material to its rural learners.

This signal of change provides one example of how education stakeholders are beginning to find new ways of addressing the needs of learners in poor rural communities. As Jason Swanson, Andrea Saveri, and I explored in our recent paper, “Cultivating Interconnections for Vibrant and Equitable Learning Ecosystems,” learners living in them can face particular challenges in addition to the common challenges described in the opening post of this series:

  • Lack of social and economic infrastructure
  • Limited access to high-quality educators and place-based extended learning opportunities
  • Limited diversity of perspectives and interest
  • Focus on meeting basic, immediate needs
  • Lack of access to basic health services

Looking ahead to 2025, our paper imagines that a rural learning commons might provide a new layer of infrastructure that seeded educator development and expanded access to cross-cultural learning experiences. The Rural Oklahoma Learning Ecosystem would use a co-presence technology platform and a global matchmaking platform to enable teachers and students to connect with classrooms in other locations. In addition, it would develop educator capacity through a resident teaching program that seeded educator development, hosted a robust open education resource platform, managed an integrated data warehouse for rural school districts, provided training in data analytics for school leaders, and coordinated a quarterly educator Collab MeetUp that rotated across rural communities. Educators would have access to a mentor cloud so as to access expertise that was not available locally and would also be able to enhance their local learning geographies using customized augmented reality software.

This story from the future represents just one way in which ecosystem participants might address the needs of learners in poor rural communities by extending local infrastructure and fostering educator development. Where else do you see possibilities for taking new community-level approaches to support learners in rural communities?

Interested in learning ecosystems? Read more: