Did you ever go to the “language lab” in high school? It sounded like a place where magic happened, and high-tech devices clicked and whirred to engineer your flawless acquisition of German, while assistants in white coats remarked with sterile praise on your pronunciation of Streichholzschächtelchen.
In reality, the “language lab” was a cassette recorder and a pencil, sitting on a desk engraved with the doodles of generations of bored learners. The teacher was able to get a bit of crossword time in, so at least one person in the room was happy. The science lab was much the same, and the cookery classes did everything they could to avoid creativity; explaining perhaps the culinary disabilities of many among us today.
We have just revealed how old we are, and also perhaps revealed a bit of traditional school-induced trauma, which has yet to be resolved by a competent therapist. Resolving something, however, doesn’t always stop at acceptance. We must also do better.
Entering Learnlife Studios is a very different experience. Unlike school laboratories or woodworking rooms, the learning experience is not pre recorded or rigidly pre-programmed. Learnlife Studios are equipped to explore carpentry, 3D modelling and printing, music production, electronics, multimedia, science, coding and even cooking. An environment that can be constantly reinvented to support learning and exploration.
It would be tempting to think that all sounds terribly unstructured, but as we have covered before on our blog, structure does not have to mean rigidity. All of our learners have very specific core skills they need to unlock before they take things into their own hands.
Burndown charts on the walls show us exactly where we are in this journey, where learners mark down their mastery of the way equipment functions and the core skills they are developing around carpentry, cooking, video production etc. Now it is time to iterate.
Iteration Week is when learners are asked to take something they have learned and take it further in Learnlife Studios. How can it be refined, and what practical application might it have? This could be a remix of a song that needs to be taken to the next level, and really stand out for originality, or a Laser engraved chopping board that just might be sellable through a local startup if the production cost per item can be brought down.
Any skill that we are developing as learners does not stand alone. What is carpentry without numeracy, or product iteration without entrepreneurship and communication skills? In every semester, learners will take their projects and passions through Transfer Week where transversal learning opportunities are brought to the fore. There are no walls between “subjects”, however hard mainstream education may try to convince us otherwise. Just watch Ayliean connect, maths, geometry and art with seamless ease in case you still have doubts.
Expertise and passion is all around us and we welcome this inside Learnlife Studios. We are visited by Djs, engineers, multimedia specialists, fashion designers and so many more creatives from the vibrant world around us. All of these professionals bring their skills and passion to the studios, where learners not only benefit from their infectious creativity, but also the inside track, on how things work in the professional world.
Through experts, they are able to see others happily living from their craft in a world where we are too often that our passions are “impractical” and “unrealistic” as professions. The link is strengthened between learning and industry, passion and value creation, present and future.
You can see how this all works in more detail here:
At some point,our learners are ready to take things up a level. You can read about the rites of passage in Learnlife here, and Learnlife Studios are a central part of this development. When learners have moved from explorers to creators, consolidated their core skills, and found the sparks that ignite what Auden called our “foiled creative fire”, it is time to move into the changemaker phase.
This is when learners truly specialise, by taking two things they are passionate about, and creating something in Learnlife Studios that will make a positive impact on their own environment. These could be two closely related themes (e.g. music and songwriting), or transversal (e.g. electronics and carpentry). This is the “so what?” phase, where learners must decide how their passions translate into action, impact and add true value to their community.
Cookery with set menus for all, woodwork that produced only objects our parents had to pretend to like, before discretely relegating them to a dusty drawer. The language lab with pause and rewind our only levers of control, and the rows of computers with set tasks for all to complete in lockstep. These belong to the past.
Through evolving 360-degree feedback, self-directed progress through core skills to changemaker actions, autonomy over the why, the how and the when, we have clearly come a long way from the traditional setting. Learnlife Studios belong to the future because that is where our learners are headed, and on this, there can be no compromise.