From Learning Factory to Learning Garden 

At heart, education is all about empowerment of people. It is widely understood that learning is a product of passion and not test taking. Society would have to embrace a more difficult educational model. Schools would become facilitators of passion instead of directors of course material. Their efforts would be unmeasurable by current standards, since individual passion can’t be standardized. The only measurement of any importance would be happiness, achievements, and sense of fulfillment of graduates over time. But, our educational system ruled out empowerment, like Marty Neumeier describes. Instead of teaching us to create, it’s taught us to copy, memorize, obey and keep score. Pretty much the same qualities we look for in machines.

learning how to learn

Our school system is built on the belief that education is a form of programming. But people don’t belong to education. The unspoken agreement is that a certain level of performance is adequate and will be credited with understanding. But do students really understand? Today’s students are not only rewarded for shallow learning, they’re punished for deep learning. Genuine learning, seeking a genuine level of understanding, requires going ‘offroad’, the outcome is likely to be a bad scholastic record. Educators have to shift their focus from judging and grading towards gaining understanding and learning how to learn. Ofcourse the limitation of education is that it only introduces students to what is broadly known. But by contributing to meta skills (learning to learn) and understanding educators can help people to use other experiences to explore what is not broadly known. Educators can help to set students on the road to mastery — learning how to learn.

learning factory

Learning is the natural process of pursuing one’s personal goals, in which we construct meaning by filtering information and experiences through our unique perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Many people would agree that ‘experience is the best teacher’ but I believe that experience by itself teaches nothing. You need to interpret your experience against a theory. Only then can you understand learning in the context of a system. A theory is a model of reality that can be used to explain, predict, or master a particular phenomenon. It’s provides a framework for experience, so you can understand what happens at the system level.

ignite learning

The mistake that traditional education makes is thinking that knowledge ignites creativity. It’s the other way around. Creativity, the process of experimenting with things, ignites knowledge. Students must learn metaskills: social intelligence, systemic logic, creative thinking, how to make things and how to learn. Future education must replace replication with imagination, reductive thinking with holistic thinking, passive learning with hands-on learning and unhealthy competition with joyful collaboration. Anyone born after the year 2000 will face a much different world than we did, and that will require a different kind of education.

learning garden

So, following the example of Neumeier; dismantle the educational factory and replace it with an educational garden. Like the best gardens, it should combine both organic and man-made components, be designed to serve the twin goals of beauty and function, and be open to the widest possible public. In this garden a new type of education occurs. One that encourage the growth of talent. The arc of human evolution is really the arc of human talent. For our purposes, we can define talent as an inherited and learned ability to create beautiful things – whether they are tools, objects, experiences, relationships, situations, solutions or ideas. If the outcomes are not beautiful, the maker is demonstrating creativity, but not nescessarily talent. Talent works on a higher level than creativity. It requires higher developed ‘making’ skills. And making skills can only be learned by making things. Therefore ludic learning is the approach in the garden. Ludic learning is learning by play. It’s an effective approach because it provides space for positive emotions.

Guided by findings in educational research and neuroscience, the emphasis on not only cognitive skills but also social skills, collaboration, play and learning how to learn makes the learning experience much more powerful. What the world needs are people who think for themselves, use their imagination, communicate well and can work in teams, and who can adapt to continuous change. This is why change is needed. And it starts with people who can make big leaps of imagination, courage and effort. Are you in?

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