New Visions for Learning Require Looking beyond the Classroom

Topics: Future of Learning, Vision and Culture

For me, creating a community-wide vision for learning needs to include looking beyond the walls of school as we define it today to include and reflect the many kinds of places and platforms where learning happens. From museums to libraries to parks to sports venues to businesses to neighborhood sages and beyond, community-based learning offers a wealth of possibilities that can help make more authentic, real-world, personalized learning experiences available for all learners.

Over our twelve years forecasting the future of education, KnowledgeWorks has asked readers to question assumptions about where, when and how learning happens, is supported and is assessed. For example, we’ve asked readers to imagine:

  • What if a community learning commons enabled individuals and organizations to crowd source and exchange learning resources and services?
  • What if a vibrant learning grid supported learners in shaping their own learning experiences, drawing upon a rich learning geography to identify resources that meet their needs?
  • What if school extended beyond the walls of traditional buildings to draw upon community-wide resources in enabling personalized learning pathways?
  • What if the health of an education organization or system were measured by the strength of its relationships with varied partners?

Sound far-fetched? Forecasting the future of education involves, in part, scanning the external environment for signals of change, identifying trends, selecting drivers of change that could have a significant impact on the field and projecting plausible images of the future. While not everything that anyone forecasts comes to pass, we scan the external environment – including the macro environment and developments within the field – to explore how things are changing and what those changes could mean. Insights about such possibilities can inform both future aspirations and the actions we take today.

KnowledgeWorks Laying the Groundwork for a Community-Wide Vision for Personalized Learning emphasizes the importance of looking beyond the classroom when setting future aspirations. It also underscores the need for school districts to work with their communities to understand the broader contexts in which they are operating.

Our visioning toolkit, Laying the Groundwork for a Community-Wide Vision for Personalized Learning, includes resources to help you begin and sustain the work of implementing personalized learning.

This community-wide collaboration is exciting, if complicated, work. It can make aspirational visions stronger by bringing more kinds of experience and points of view to the table. It can make supporting strategies more robust – and more varied – by connecting more people and resources to support learning. The closer community-wide learning organizations and other partners are to the school district, the easier it can be to transform traditional school district structures to support extended learning opportunities, meaningful connections with mentors, authentic projects and pursuit of individual passions.

Plus, community-based learning organizations have vast experience in supporting free-choice lifelong and life-wide learning. As experts in this facet of personalized learning, they can help school districts grapple with important issues such as how best to curate learning challenges and pathways in support of interest-driven learning, how to connect personal and community interests and how to cultivate and support student agency. Community-based learning organizations also have relative freedom to incorporate new approaches and to support broad definitions of learning, creating rich potential for collaboration across interconnected community-wide learning ecosystems.

Fostering such learning ecosystems represents an increasingly important strategy for supporting both individual learning and community resilience. It’s vital to look beyond the classroom not just to anticipate and respond to the changing macro and industry environments, but also to cultivate dense connections that can help weave new forms of learning infrastructure in support of new visions for learning.

Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide© can help education stakeholders respond to the changing external environment. This paper, with its accompanying infographic, suggests strategies for responding to foundational issues, with spotlights on K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning and higher education.