Envisioning New Possibilities for Districts

Topics: Future of Learning

Could a future school function as a flexible learning space in which students moved fluidly across different kinds of learning experiences and points of focus, with a Chief Education Officer running the overall operations while master educators helped students craft their learning playlists using both local and cloud-based resources, topic-area facilitators provided intensive support in key subject areas, and specialists such as physical and occupational therapists provided support where needed?

That’s just one of the possibilities that district administrators identified in the course of exploring the future of learning at a leadership seminar hosted by the New Hampshire School Administrators Association last month.  As we explored what the expanding learning ecosystem might mean for schools and districts and what strategies they might explore to make use of future trends, participants saw room to begin working with those trends in the context of their current structures and resources.

Their ideas ranged broadly, playing out new possibilities for learning agent roles, new ways for district and communities to partner and intersect, and dramatic shifts in the conversations surrounding education:

  • Could we shift current educator roles to an expanded set of learning agent roles, with guidance counselors becoming proactive pathway visionaries, teachers becoming learning coaches, administrators becoming opportunity choreographers, parents becoming learning supporters and community connectors, and students becoming learning leaders?
  • Could a district operate as a learning village that helped students and learning agents weave together a rich array of learning experiences and locations reflecting community-wide ownership of learning?
  • Could school doors become permeable portals through which young people and other community members came and went as they learned together and connected coursework with local resources for authentic, multi-generational learning experiences?
  • Could education partner with industry to drive economic development, achieving mutual benefit and driving broader societal reinvigoration?

Some strategies for pursuing such visionary possibilities included:

  •  Raising community awareness about possibilities and the need for change
  • Co-creating and communicating an inspiring vision for the future of learning
  • Creating transformational learning opportunities
  • Improving technical tools and infrastructure to help learners and learning agents manage learning playlists
  • Gradually blurring school-community boundaries
  • Brokering new kinds of partnerships
  • Identifying local resources that could complement the services and supports that districts provide
  • Gradually changing the delivery of instruction toward personalized learning that can happen independent of place and time
  • Redefining educator roles.

I was encouraged to hear how possible it seemed for districts to create transformative possibilities for learners.  By reaching far together, we can steward the expanding learning ecosystem toward being vibrant for and supportive of all learners.