Voyager July 2019

July 18, 2019

William Faulkner

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

Dear Learner-Centered Leaders,

In May 2016, the Education Reimagined team gathered 35 learner-centered leaders in Denver, CO to test an idea: Could we create a space that would ignite and unite learner-centered leaders, empowering each of us to contribute our leadership and take the bold action necessary to build and sustain the learner-centered movement?

This idea grew into the Learning Lab. Three years later, after our 7th Learning Lab Training, this community has more than 400 leaders (including 41 young learners) representing 139 learning environments and organizations from 32 states. During that time, the Learning Lab community has taken on various local, regional, and national initiatives.

An invaluable outgrowth of this work has been the Immersive Learning Exchanges (ILX). An ILX is a two-day site visit exploring the distinction between learner-centered models and conventional models, revealing the unique strengths and challenges of learner-centered models, and offering insight into what is possible and what must be dealt with to advance each model to better serve its unique learners and community.

Since October 2017, the Learning Lab has hosted seven ILX’s and engaged 40+ Lab Community Members in this work. As the ILX has evolved, we have discovered how uniquely valuable this form of learner-centered collaboration can be.

Site visits have been a professional development tool for decades, but they are often a one-sided show-and-tell encouraging visitors to replicate the work in their hometowns. The ILX transforms the conversation into a mutual learning opportunity for visitors and hosts alike—ensuring an event that strengthens the learner-centered movement, builds deep connection amongst those in it, and results in the spread of powerful ideas and learnings, rather than the scale of a cookie-cutter model or set of practices.

It takes courage for a host environment to invite a group of their peers to not only see where they are in building out their model’s learner-centered practices but to give input into the overall progress of their work. And, at the same time, it makes so much sense when they do make that invitation because they know learner-centered transformation is a continuous journey with no true finish line. They recognize this movement has to learn and grow together.

During the ILX, visitors keep an eye out for three key characteristics as they explore and learn about the host community (which includes conversations and observations with educators, young people, and community members alike):

  1. Vulnerability—It is not merely allowed for; it is valued as essential to one’s development as a self-directed, self-correcting learner (adults and young people alike).
  2. Joy—Learning occurs as a joyful activity; it is experienced as an opportunity to learn about oneself, express oneself, make a difference to others, and belong.
  3. Mutualism—Learning is done in partnership where strong relationships are built and nurtured.

How might you use these three characteristics in looking at your own learner-centered work? Does your community value vulnerability, generate a sense of joy in everyone’s learning journey, and cultivate a culture of mutualism where partnership and collaboration are hallmarks of the experience for all? What other signs do you look for in your learner-centered work that let you know you’re on the right path? We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for the work you do to transform learning for young people in your community,

Kelly

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