Q&A with Jemar Lee: Living a Learning Lifestyle

Topics: Future of Learning

Jemar Lee is an alumnus of Prairie High School and Iowa BIG, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a sophomore at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.

To further explore the strategies raised in Navigating the Future: A Strategy Guide, KnowledgeWorks reached out to Jemar Lee, who participated in the workshop that informed the creation of the guide, to share his thoughts on the opportunity area called “A Learning Lifestyle.”

Jemar is an alumnus of Prairie High School and Iowa BIG, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a sophomore at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. Before attending Morningside, Jemar took a gap year where he served as an intern with Alliant Energy, a fellow with Education Reimagined and a team member of the Midwest Learner-Centered Network. Jemar is enrolled is Morningside’s Adventure program that grants learners with experience-based and project-centered learning opportunities and takes learning beyond the traditional classroom setting.

Navigating the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide is designed to help K-12 educators, postsecondary education institutions and community-based learning organizations take action with the future in mind.
Learn More

The strategy guide asks, “How might we integrate schools into their environments to make learning a joyful, lifelong practice for all learners?” Why do you think that should be an aim that education stakeholders should pursue?

For so long, learners have been told what to know, how to act and what to expect in the real world while being given little to no opportunity to experience it. They are told what to do and who to be. Then, one day, they are expected to make decisions about what they should do and who they want to be on their own. Integrating schools into their environment would solve this issue by allowing learners, from the very start, to learn what the real world is and how they fit into it. This approach also gives marginalized students who do not have the privilege of experiencing meaningful learning opportunities outside the classroom an opportunity to do so while gaining social capital. I believe this change could help dismantle oppression that is rooted in some of our institutions.

When looking at the strategies outlined in this section of the guide, what stands out to you as most important or exciting?

To me, “Pave A Two-Way Street” is one of the most compelling elements of A Learning Lifestyle! Healthy relationships among students, teachers and the community can be built when all members of a community work alongside educators to improve the learning environment. Learners can have the agency to take action with these stakeholders in their communities, which gives youth a chance to be deeply and civically engaged. I think that is what we want for our societies.

Where have you seen examples of communities or schools carrying out any of the strategies that might enable a learning lifestyle?

Iowa BIG provides an example. From the perspective of businesses, organizations and community members that interact with students in more meaningful ways, they gain a first-hand look into the talent that they have right in their communities, which creates better pipeline development. From the perspective of the learners, the interaction with the communities allows them to find their purpose and passion in this world, become more active in their communities and build networks with a variety of professionals. I see this as a Return on Investment (ROI) for ecosystems in the long term. Once learners see their relevance in their community, they may begin to want to stick around to help better that ecosystem.

What would you recommend stakeholders keep in mind if they are looking to enable a learning lifestyle?

Trust the process. Not all of it is going to be perfect overnight or with the snap of a finger. Make it clear why you are doing this, and how it benefits the learners first and foremost, the community and all those involved. Also, look through the lens of young people. Be prepared to see them change in who they are and how they see themselves in the world. This can be quite powerful and moving if done correctly.

What do you hope the community-school relationship will look like in the future?

I hope to see student learning in our public libraries, at local businesses, nonprofits and other places. I hope to see what we mean by ‘teacher’ redesigned, and to explore new ways of credentialing educators and education administrators. Moreover, it would be amazing to see learners following their passions and solving issues within their community while gaining academic credit. I think that would be astonishing and extremely transformative for our ecosystems.

Navigating the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide is organized into five opportunity areas for building effective strategies and offers examples of strategies that stakeholders might adopt, along with associated tactics. Explore more opportunity areas and strategies.