Leading into the Future: Learner-Centered Ecosystems
Note from Education Reimagined 01 June 2022
By Kelly Young
How can we have learner-centered education equitably made available to every child and family who want it in the country, regardless of race, income, and zip code?
President & Founder, Education Reimagined
Two weeks ago, we released a new exciting resource, The Big Idea. Housing a collection of stories and videos, The Big Idea is designed to spark new conversations and inspire people to imagine a world of thriving learner-centered ecosystems. We are eager to grow the number of people exploring this possibility and grappling with what it would take to invent a public education system capable of supporting and enabling ecosystems to thrive. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to dig into The Big Idea and share it with colleagues and friends.
This resource is one example of how we at Education Reimagined are expanding our scope and capacity to do more to advance the learner-centered field and movement than ever before. And, it all starts with this possibility of learner-centered ecosystems that you’ve been hearing about more and more from us.
To reground ourselves, the vision of ecosystems is not a divergence from our long-standing commitment to learner-centered education. In fact, the structure of an ecosystem is a way of organizing, supporting, and credentialing learning that has the capacity to unleash the full potential of the vision for learner-centered education.
Said another way, an ecosystem is a structure for fulfillment for learner-centered education. It is answering this movement’s long-standing challenge: How can we have learner-centered education equitably made available to every child and family who want it in the country, regardless of race, income, and zip code?
But, these learner-centered ecosystems, as envisioned, don’t yet exist. Pieces of them do, of course! You and your work are evidence of that. From Big Picture Learning, to the Boys and Girls Clubs, to Montessori, to Iowa BIG, and High School for the Recording Arts, examples abound of what it looks like to center the child in their learning journey and ground the work in relationship, community, and purpose.
What is missing for these learner-centered experiences to spread and be made equitably available is the infrastructure, or the connective tissue, to enable them. We have an infrastructure that undergirds the current system, reinforcing the standardized, stratified approach to education invented in the Industrial era.
We need to invent a learner-centered infrastructure that can support thriving, dynamic ecosystems of learning and demonstrate what those ecosystems make possible in enough communities to prove their results for the full diversity of youth in our country.
This cannot all come from any single entity; it will take many leaders, organizations, and communities working together.
President & Founder, Education Reimagined
Right now, if you don’t have a learner-centered site in your community, creating such a learner-centered ecosystem takes herculean efforts from families who have to piece together learning experiences from within and outside of the public system, requiring their time, coordination, and (often) money. It just isn’t a realistic option for so many. Thus, it remains on the periphery and inequitably available.
We know it will take real invention and a collaborative effort from all of us working towards this vision. We need to collectively create the connective tissue — including the funding, supports, and credentialing mechanisms — to make ecosystems a viable option for families.
That is the challenge before this movement, and it is the challenge Education Reimagined is ready to take on.
We are doing so with the same ethos and commitments that have guided our work for the last eight years. In partnership with and in support of leaders like yourself; with a mentality of learning by doing; and with an unwavering focus on what we know is the full potential and power of learner-centered education. This will not change.
What will change (or at least expand) is what we do as an organization. Our work to date of finding, connecting, and emboldening learner-centered leaders like yourself is imperative and will continue. But, we know now that if we truly want to see learner-centered education reaching and equitably serving every child, there is more needed.
You need funding; you need policy barriers removed; and you need air cover, validation, and compiled proof that this approach to education is viable and effective. In short, you need a whole set of enabling conditions to go after the full vision of learner-centered education, unconstrained.
This cannot all come from any single entity; it will take many leaders, organizations, and communities working together. Therefore, we are taking a catalytic role, providing all that we can — a galvanizing vision, resources, tools, connections, thought leadership, spaces of invention, and lessons learned to support those ready and willing to create learner-centered ecosystems.
Over the course of the next several months, we will be sharing more opportunities to engage, explore, and connect around learner-centered ecosystems, including our deeper thinking about what makes this approach distinct from other efforts in the past. Mostly, we will be inviting you and many others to grapple with what it will take to realize the full vision.
We have the opportunity to seize this moment, learn from it, and establish an education system truly designed to serve every child, whatever the world throws their way. But, we need your help — and the help of people like you around the country — to bring this system to life.
Together, we can build the American education system we know we need today, tomorrow, and for the future soon to come.
Tour a reimagined world of learning×
Imagine what a community-based ecosystem of learning might look like in your own backyard through The Big Idea! Videos, stories, conversation starters, and more.