A learning society

A learning society

(informed by reading Kate Davies’ article in Resurgence, November/December 2009, No. 257)


It feels somewhat ironic to use an electronic media to express what I am about to say below.  I have been very hesitant to use an edublog to post.  I am familiar with Chet Bowers’ s work, particularly his book, called Let Them Eat Data, outlining the concerns and dangers of computers contributing to the ecological crises and loss of intergenerational and local knowledge. Yet, this medium is an enticing way to get messages out beyond our direct, immediate  interactions with others at work, at home or at play and get more of us to be more critical about almost everything.  How can this kind of learning community enhance our understanding of each other and the world we live in without losing touch with one in other in person to person direct contact? 

Creating a sense of meaningful, responsive and responsible community, particularly since entering the field of teaching, has been particularly important to me.  I seek out schools to “work” in close to home so that I feel connected to students in the classrooms as well as in their community at large.  Even if I would not run into them outside (many get driven back and forth to school -another post for later!), I would know and be in their “home.” Their place in the community, their issues and their struggles would be familiar to me at some level.  It does “take a village to raise a child.” I like to be connected to what I am doing.  I have never seen “work” as many others see  work in the more traditional sense of a nine to five job!  A TED talk by Stefan Stagmeister discusses a way of being and doing that I believe is important and fulfills life.  Kate Davies’ six ideas for a Learning Society that is sustainable totally captures my calling.

  1. Create Learning Communities – “A learning community is any group of people who share a common purpose and who are actively engaged in learning from each other” (p. 43).

Personal example: The Talons program at Gleneagle Secondary, Coquitlam, BC. 

2. Learning from Experience  –“…our own lived experience is the best teacher. Through experimentation and critical thinking we can learn what works and what doesn’t” (p. 43).

Personal examples: teaching hands-on science as much as possible by experimenting in the classroom and taking students into the community for small field excursions whenever possible instead of using the book!

3. Foster a New Worldview -“With its assumptions of human superiority, Western culture assumes that humankind has the inherent right to exploit other species and the planet’s resources. Developing values and beliefs consistent with sustainability will require an understanding of the destructive consequences of the old worldview, as well as creating a respectful relationship with the earth” (p. 43.)

Personal example: Continue to remind myself that actions speak louder than words. Challenge myself to lead a life that is more eco-entered rather than ego-centered. Walk the talk!

4. Think Systematically -“Based on the belief that the parts of a system can best be understood in the context of their relationships with each other, systemic thinking emphasizes patterns, trends and feedback loops. Systemic thinking focuses on the interactions between human and ecological systems. Without systemic thinking, society will continue to apply ineffective and superficial solutions that do little to resolve underlying problems” (p. 43)

Personal examples: Live life more deliberately. Follow more voluntary simplicity and smart growth principles.  Make more informed decisions and think more critically about my actions.  Why use chlorinated water to water my plants? Where are my clothes made? Do I need this object? Live life more slowly. Less is more.

5. Embrace Diversity – “We need to embrace not only different cultures and ethnicities, but also different ideas and beliefs.  This is important because it demonstrates a commitment to a democracy based on inclusion, equality and respect. It is also important because differences are a source of learning. We can learn from people who donot look or think like us, because they challenge our assumptions, beliefs and expectations” (p. 43).  In terms of ecology, the more diversity in a population the more adaptable the species is to changing factors in its surroundings.  Being in equilibrium or in balance or in stable state or frame of mind of sameness is not conducive to being flexible and ready to respond quickly.  Instead it gets us in a complacent state, lulled into believing that everything is fine and taken care of.  We are less ready to respond to sudden changes or major disasters. Instead, being on the edge of situation that can go either way allows us to respond more quickly and be more alert.

Personal example: I continue to seek out new experiences and be open to new possibilities. Seeing the potential in others and their ideas and beliefs and continuing to be a life-long learner.

6. Whole-person Learning – “ We should foster the development of whole human beings, who can think critically and appreciatively, respond compassionately and act ethically. Whole-person learning enables students to grow as authentic human beings. This is very different from contemporary education which focuses mostly on intellectual learning, and largely ignores ethical values, stunts emotional intelligence and leaves students with few practical skills for navigating the complex world around them” (p. 43.)

Personal example: Teaching mathematics 11 applications/ introductions. Students sit in groups and talk about their math questions that they are trying to solve. Yes, they socialize as well and talk about other topics but that makes us human. Sitting still and doing math problems for 75 minutes is not naturally what human beings do every day! I facilitate skills, like listening when someone else is talking, taking turns, taking care of assignments and  taking responsibility for their own actions.  When they decide what to do when something gets challenging, they are in charge of their own results.  Act responsibly and you get results that enhance learning and make you a better human being.

This list is not exhaustive. My intent is to explore these ideas further in future blogs.  I appreciate any comments or questions in the meantime.