The chances are, that for most people reading this, your learning experience was pretty structured. The interesting question, however, is what that word, “structured” means to you. As with all interesting questions, it’s worth exploring.
The dictionaries can’t quite agree, which is one of the reasons why English is such an interesting language. Collins dictionary defines it as having a definite, predetermined or rigid pattern. That sounds a lot like the traditional way of learning, doesn’t it?
How many of us can remember that rigid pattern, moving from one subject to the next, wishing some would disappear and others would never end. The subjects existed only in that classroom, and never seemed to talk to each other or to the outside world. The phrase “innovation for education” was simply not in the lexicon, and many of us didn’t see how connected these “subjects'' were until much later in life. Some of us are still looking.
That definition has already decided what “intelligence” means, and how it must be measured. We learn from a model written for an age already past, for a future we can’t yet imagine.
In this model, the words are already written, and there’s not much space left for anything else. As Dr Seuss put it, “the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
Education for Innovation is a Word, Not a World Apart
So if the pattern is not rigid and predetermined, would that mean it was unstructured? Well, not quite. The Cambridge dictionary defines “structured” as being organized well, so the parts relate to each other.
Now that is a very different interpretation. A word, not a world apart. Well organized, but not rigid. The same word, with two adjacent perspectives. Innovation for education, and a change in the way we do things, really is much closer than we may think. In fact, it’s right here.
Imagine that experience of learning. You are engrossed in a project, hypnotized by the way a 3D printer works, or the way the red sits next to the black on your canvas of colours.
There is time to be mindful of the experience, to ask why, to wonder how and to share in the experience with others. There is space to reflect, to collaborate, to make sense of the experience. There is support, a learning guide to ask the right questions, and help you to make the connections that mean something to you. The parts, after all, do relate to each other.
A learning environment like this means learners can explore, create and act; write their own story. Presented with the space, the opportunities and the support, what might they find?
In his book, The Element, the late Sir Ken Robinson said “Some of the most brilliant, creative people I know did not do well at school. Many of them didn't really discover what they could do—and who they really were—until they'd left school and recovered from their education.”
The words we use do have power. When one talks of structure, there are two interpretations. Both exist adjacent to each other, both valid but undeniably distinct.
Innovation for Education Makes for a Strong Foundation
In the rigid model, the content and sequencing of learning are predefined. We talk of “instruction” and “teaching”, and notice perhaps that both words fail to mention the learner. In that approach, is it surprising that many of us don’t discover what we’re really passionate about until later in life (if we ever do).
In the more open model, a learner expresses voice and choice. After the exploration, digging deep foundations for their ikigai, learners can pick the building blocks that interest them, discard some, take more of others, and eventually build the skills that will equip them for the lives they wish to lead. The Learning Guide is at their side, but the learners themselves are the architects.
If a block tumbles or falls, they will explore why, learn from it and build back stronger. Self directed, resilient young people who are ready to meet the world where it is, and where they would like it to go. A learner will have every opportunity to have a lead of purpose and growth because of this environment, and not in spite of it. In this paradigm of innovation for education, motivation does not come from the outside, but from knowing your why.
The structure, you see, is much stronger that way.
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