The work of transforming the education system to one that is learner-centered is the work of moving a multi-billion dollar industry from a place of comfort and familiarity to a whole new place that, at this moment, seems largely unknown and therefore uncomfortable. And, most of that money will stay right where it is until that future is visible, its results demonstrable, and clear pathways to shift exist.
Out of the $739 billion spent on public education within the United States in 2016-2017, the learner-centered movement needs an incredibly small fraction of it. But, without a small fraction of that money going towards the invention of new systems, tools, policies, and pathways, this work will remain stalled in isolated pockets around the country.
To invent the new systems and create reliable pathways for communities to transform the way they organize, support, and credential learning such that learners are at the center and communities are seen as the playground for learning, there are critical questions that have to be answered, including:
- How can we make learning visible no matter where it happens and credential it in a way that’s meaningful to employers and colleges?
- How can we develop robust and flexible governance structures with shared accountability and an equitable flow of resources?
- How can we recognize, cultivate, and empower the many adults in the community who support youth in their learning and development, including equipping professional educators with new skills to serve in reimagined roles?
Without well-rounded, first-iteration, possible solutions to these challenges, it will be hard to develop demonstrations at the scale of whole communities. And, without demonstrations that produce results the current system never has (and never will), we cannot shift the kind of education those billions of dollars are funding. So, how do we create those first iterations?
As we grapple with the complexity of what it means to develop equity-focused, community-based, learner-centered ecosystems, we can’t explore our myriad questions and wonderings in isolation. We have to consistently create spaces for people pushing for this reimagined future in education to come together and learn with one another.
If you’ve ever heard me speak in-person or on a webinar, you might have wondered where my ideas come from. Monday through Friday, I have the privilege to speak with learner-centered leaders for hours on end—gaining innumerable insights from every nook and cranny of this movement (not to mention discovering corners I never knew existed).
It is through these conversations that kernels of ideas grow into big, bold, transformative ones. I couldn’t possibly arrive at these places of thinking on my own. In every conversation, I’m present to what could be possible if we could all be in a conversation together, rather than grappling with these questions alone.
That’s why we are working with Big Picture Learning to conceive of a network of learner-centered leaders who are committed to illuminating a new future of education and making it actionable for communities across the country. We will be sharing more about this work in the future as it takes shape and moves forward.
Through consistent, aligned conversations, we can hear different perspectives, talk through half-baked ideas, and receive valuable feedback, together. Working to transform a multi-billion dollar industry demands conversations to be happening all the time. So, let’s talk. Let’s talk a lot and often. And, most importantly, let’s keep each other accountable to acting in line with the commitments we make in our conversations.