Sunday, March 4, 2012

Isolation -v- Connection

I'm really excited about the way that my new school is researching into how best  to use space in its new campus.  Having read through some of the documents relating to the design,  I like the way the shared common areas (which I believe are called iCommons) will allow students to collaborate or work independently in different sorts of areas:  I've seen references to campfire spaces and home bases, watering holes where students can learn from peers and caves where students can learn individually.  I'm amazed at the way that the school has been designed around flexible learning pods instead of traditional classrooms with walls.  A word that seems to be used a lot is flexible.

How different this approach is from the traditional setting in schools, where, as Seth Godin writes, "virtually every academic activity in school is done solo.  Homework.  Exams.  Writing."  In traditional schools "information needed to be processed in isolation by individuals.  After school you were on your own."  This was the legacy of a world where information was scarce.

Nowadays "the acquisition of knowledge has been forever transformed by the internet ... the most efficient and powerful information delivery system ever developed."  Nowadays, we live in the connected world where there is "an abundance of information, networks and interactions".  Working and learning in isolation is not going to prepare students for this connected world.

One of the R&D groups that I am particularly interested in is looking into multi-age classrooms.  They are questioning why students are put into groups based on their "date of manufacture" rather than on groups based on interests, abilities or learning styles.  This group is researching into how connecting children with a variety of ages can promote learning based on individual needs rather than grade level expectations.  One thing I'm coming to appreciate is that personalized learning doesn't mean learning in isolation, all by yourself - it means connecting with others who share the same interests and needs and learning together with them.

Photo Credit: Scattered puzzle pieces next to solved fragment by Horia Varlan Attribution 

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