Speech on Life Framework Theory


My recent online speech at Himalaya Apprentice:
From Everyone Photography to Everyone Programming: Life Center, Abstract Model, Complex System.Let’s talk about Life Framework Theory!

Part of the speech can be read in the article on Himalaya Apprentice (Chinese only).

Also videos of part of the speech demonstrating the way of teaching programming (guiding programming learning) based on Life Center, Abstract Model, Complex System are posted:
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5

They are spoken in Chinese. However, maybe you can still watch the demo to get the ideas.

All right reserved in the posted file. Please provide a link to the original post if you use any of its content.

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Knowledge Engine based on Significant Experiences

The Chinese Version

Brief of Knowledge Engine (KE)

Knowledge Engine is for people to work with their consciousness in this digital age, for learning, team cooperation, project management, time management and so on, although currently its major focus is on learning. Or you can try it on this self-learning platform.

Knowledge Engine is built on top of Significant Experiences, which we deem as the basic units of human knowledge. Significant Experiences (SEs) are those experiences that can help you achieve a better understanding on things that you are intersted. SEs are associated with each other by tags, and tree-like frames are used to represent the “containing” relationship among knowledge, which we deem as the most basic relationship of knowledge.

SEs are basic units of human knowledge just like cells are the basic units of human body. Although cells of different tissues can be very different in various ways, their basic componnents stay the same. So as the basic units, the SEs can be composed together in various ways to build up higher level of structured knowledge, just like structured tissues and organs of human body, and these SEs and structured knowledge can thus paticipate in various activities related to knowledge, such as learning, teaching, project management, writing a blog or a book, making a ppt and so on.

SEs should be caputured promptly from various contexts, and the context should be captured automatically as well. So when adding a SE, Knowledge Engine should support adding of various contexts as well.

Tags are used as the most basic relation among SEs. Using of tags allow very dynamic and flexible organizing of SEs, and thus can support powerful things like group contribution. However, in addtion to these dynamic and free bottom up approaches, upper level mechanisms can be added to support having a better top down control on the tags used. For example, for personal SEs, a top down tag tree, mechasims that support quick merge or removal of tags, a group admin’s managing of group tags (possibly setting tags on different levels). AI can be used to recommend tags to be used for SEs.

Frames as the reprentation of the basic “containing” relationship among knowledge, it should allow embedding of frames inside a frame so a frame can be expanded continuously.

Frame can be built up manually or dynamically (by putting a folder inside a frame).

Basic Elements

  • Significant Experiences
    Significant Experiences(SEs) are regarded by us as the basic units of knowledge, like cells in biological creatures. Significant Experiences are like Ray Kurzweil’s “Qualia”(Consciousness Experiences). SEs have self-vote of importance and usefulness vote by others, which are like the weights in biological neural networks.
  • Frames
    The basic relation btw knowledge is “containing”. Frame is the embodiment of such “containing” relation, it constructs life centers at the higher level and is capable to engage in large parallel computation and pattern recognition.
  • Tags
    Tag establish connections btw knowledge (like synapses rewiring)
  • TagTrees
    Tag Tree is to extract out abstract knowledge structure or patterns (we think it is better to use Life Centers instead of patterns) through SEs.
  • WorkingSets
    For a period of time, you can focus on working in a certain WorkingSet, which is a set of tags in KE.
  • Caches
    When working with a lot of SEs, cache helps to store some SE ids temporarily.
  • Folders
    Dynamic folders that retrieve SEs by pre-configured search terms.

Structured Knowledge on top of SEs

  • Learning Areas
    Learning Area is a large domain of learning, such as Software Programming. It automatically collects your SEs and structured knowledge in an area for knowledge display and discovery.
  • Learning Groups
    Learning Groups are groups of learners who are interested in the same topic of learning. Some users in the group can have some teaching roles.
  • Learning Salons
    Learning activities organized based on knowledge structures from learning groups.
  • Learning Plans
    Regular plans (weekly and monthly) and reviews, together with scheduled reminders, forming good learning habits.
  • Workflows
    Workflows to work with lists of SEs to accomplish learning and thinking processes. Workflows can be shared to spread good learning methods.

Core functions and beliefs

  • Quick capture of SEs in various contexts
    Quickly note down SEs at the moment without interrupting current work in hands. Various contexts can be automatically appended to the SEs.
  • Quick and flexible display of SEs and knowledge
    Knowledge at your fingertips.
  • Cultivation of self-reflection skills
    Self-reflection makes consciousness grow, from drops of SEs to understanding of the whole.
  • Learning or thinking accomplished through simple editing
    Learning or thinking can be done in layers and steps, so it can be transformed into many short steps of simple editing operations, making it a highly efficient process with minimum thinking. One task a time, zoom in.
  • Workflows helps you learn and think efficiently
    Learning and thinking workflows can be configured and shared.
  • Learning Plans cultivate good learning habits
    Weekly plans, monthly plans, yearly plans. Reviews and stats.
  • Visualization of knowledge and brain
    No Thinking!
  • Smooth transitioning btw learning and teaching. Teach effectively
    Rendering of one’s knowledge and instructing in a finer grain.
  • Generating knowledge of conventional forms smoothly
    wiki, pdf, ppt/slide, blog, book, and so on
  • Powering and transforming various types of knowledge related activities
    Knowledge is flowing in all kinds of activities, and all have “Learning Embedded”.
  • Knowledge needs to be applied, and knowledge is everywhere
    Knowledge formed from KE can be shared to various social networking sites with one click, with url to reference back and interact.

Ideas behind and Design Concerns/Challenges

  • Engine in the knowledge era
    As the engine in the industrial age powers automobiles, ships, airplanes, and razors, the engine in the knowledge era powers learning, teaching, blog writing, paper publication, book writing, project management and so on.
  • Instill wisdom into the machine from the human crowd
    By taking drops of wisdom from billions of human beings, the machine can have intelligence, like PageRank provides search service by absorbing the wisdom of the crowd.
  • Fragmented Learning
    Fragmented Learning is the truth of real life learning. Learning should never be separated from life and from play. KE makes it easier for everyone to learn while play.
  • Self-Directed Learning or Selflearning
    There is no learning other than Self-Directed Learning or Selflearning.
  • Understanding of Consciousness
    Our understanding of consciousness,how this understanding applies to the design of KE,and similarity with Ray Kurzweil’s PRTM. Briefly,consciousness is hierarchical lists on top of SEs.
  • About tags
    The flexibility of tags and how to manage it. Tag Tree represents abstract knowledge structure, and it can be applied to the KE itself, thus fulfilling a self-reference system.

Current knowledge produced (in progress)

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Life, Knowledge, and Psychology, our understanding of Self-Directed Education



Self-Directed Education, Innovative Education, Sudbury Model, Playground, Mentoring, Exploratory Learning, Self-Directed Learning Community, Psychological Counseling, Equal Conversation, Family Education, Modern Education System, New Education Paradigm


SDE or innovative education has sprung up at home and abroad, and has reached a certain scale and become a trend. This paper attempts to make a systematic understanding of the patterns of these different educational practices from a deeper level, and to gain a deeper understanding of the three obvious modules of these education communities: life, knowledge and psychology, as compared with the old education system, in order to form an understanding of the new educational paradigm.

Notice: please read slowly, as I intentionally write in a way for slow reading and contemplating.

SDE or innovative education, from the surface, we can say they all have life, knowledge and psychology three big modules. Let’s talk about these three modules and then we will look deeper into then to see what they have in common.

Innovative education often advocates life is learning, advocating learning should come from life, so in all kinds of innovative education, the scope of learning will often be close to students’ lives. Such as movie appreciation, cooking, novels, board games and so on.

Some of these innovative education will pay more attention to knowledge learning. Some will even offer traditional subjects like that in modern education, such as English language or mathematics, still having the concept of a standard curriculum system of modern education. Some will let students and teachers to all participate in the curriculum design, such as at the beginning of a semester and allow students to choose their favorite courses. In this way, the concept of the standard curriculum system has been weaken, but there is still the concept of the curriculum system.

The Sudbury model, we should mention, has never offered a course for all students across the whole semester. In the early days, several individual students initiated requests that the staff of SVS (there is no teacher in Sudbury, adults are all staff) give some lessons on certain topic, mostly for a short period of time. Or students who are about to graduate and decide to take the college entrance exam will apply for specialized tutoring by SVS staff. In recent years, because of the rise of the Internet, these short lessons have almost disappeared in SVS. I feel SVS’ value has always been more opposed to the concept of curriculum.

But there were schools that used to be the Sudbury model, made a change due to requests from students, mainly because students saw so many classes in traditional schools, they felt pressured to have their own curriculum every semester. So they started as described above at the beginning of each semester students and teachers together will develop this semester’s courses and students can choose what courses to take to get credits. But the school has also reserved another track for students who prefer the Sudbury model, the Sudbury track, which means that no class-taking is needed.

Many of Silicon Valley’s big tech companies are also making educational innovations. Google, Facebook and others have set up their own schools. Perhaps because it is this type of technology company that started the school, and which are aimed at their employees’ children, so knowledge learning is very strong at these schools. A lot of emphasis is put on the learning of various systems, such as road system and electricity system. Another focus is project-based learning.

There are some such schools in China that can be considered to be oriented towards the elite, although they are also doing educational innovation and consider life learning skills very important.

Therefore, in innovative education communities, there is a split between life learning and knowledge learning. For a significant number of people, at least, the two are not the same.

Here’s we share a view from Sudbury founder, Dan, a former physics teacher at Columbia University. He believes that for most people, learning so much about math is unnecessary. If you’re not doing engineering or science work, for most people, it’s enough to learn arithmetic and statistics.

When looking at the memories or interviews of the graduates of SVS, I was most impressed that these Sudbury graduates have a strong ability to explore life and can do the deepest level of thinking, although they did not take any courses in Sudbury. Perhaps it is precisely because there is no curriculum in Sudbury, which gives them the ability to think and explore freely.

There are no courses in Sudbury, but there are books everywhere. SVS consciously set up entire wall shelves in all rooms, filled with books. There is also a special conversation room for people to converse on various topics. I understand these are to build up the concept in people’s minds that “knowledge is everywhere and everyone should create their own knowledge”. Dan, the founder of SVS, said that knowledge are models in the human brain, and that everyone is creating their own knowledge.

Now in most schools, there are psychological counseling teachers in solving some of the students’ psychological problems. In the innovative education communities, it seems that they pay more attention to psychological health of the students. For example, the Agora Learning Community has Growth Mentors who have a constant focus on the mental growth of students. I don’t know much about the detailed work responsibilities of Agora’s growth mentor, but I feel they’re doing it quite systematically.

I think we all notice that in all the SDE communities, there are a lot of games, all kinds of games, such as board games, video games, playing cards and chess, all kinds of sports, dancing, musical instruments, watching movies, writing novels, traveling and so on. I believe that we all have played these as we grow up, and have experiences of playing them, some might be good experiences, some might be bad experiences. By comparison with others during these games, everyone can find a lot about themselves through these games. This is actually a very good place for education, and it is an educational place that every family can have. A good coach knows how to provide different guidance to students with different personalities. The core of the guidance, I think, is to give students the confidence to explore for themselves.

Each child is different, and each person has a different starting point. Some people are very confident from the beginning, while others may care more about the feelings of others. Life is rich and people are diverse. Good mentors/coaches should be able to notice these rich diversity at different levels. Some people may not be very good at sensing and exploring in a certain environment. Good coaches should be able to keep an eye on this and give these kids room to feel and explore better. Of course, in a generally speaking equal and tolerating environment, all children can feel and explore well. Bad environments, such as parents or coaches who like to scold, make it harder for these children to feel and explore on their own. Creating an environment where different children can play together and be able to feel and explore on their own makes a good educational environment.

I understand the role of a psychologist, a large part of which is to create a safe environment of mutual trust. With such an environment, daily play can become a good place for learning.

Therefore, we can say that psychology, in addition to life and knowledge, should be one aspect that a learning community must pay attention to.

Omnipresent and equal conversation is also an aspect of shaping such an environment. Mimsy, the founder of SVS, has talked eloquently about the omnipresent and equal conversation in SVS, arguing that it is the central thing in the SVS model that replaces the curricula of other schools. In fact, as long as there are common things people are interested in, or specific things to do together, equal conversations can become the best place for education. Like conversations we observe between children, they are conversing of their own significant experiences or making short summaries, instead of lecturing lengthily like teachers do in schools. I believe that many parents also find it helpful to do things together with their children that are of mutual interest and to converse their experiences equally while engaging in these activities, just like friends together.

Therefore, education can be omnipresent. First of all, you have to have play, preferably a lot of people play together. Learning will certainly happen in playing. The key to make a good learning environment lies in the respect for equality and diversity. Play/learning/creation is the three in one life activity, in which we get the fundamental life experience. Equality manifests itself as diversity in life. We experience equality through our respect for diversity. A good educational environment should be one in which there is a wealth of play/learning/creation activities, where there is playground, plus respect for equality and diversity, to let everyone feel and explore freely and in self-directed ways.

Family is a good place for education. Every family’s parents can be the best teacher. For the learning communities, they just have more people to play together. A large part of what many self-learning communities are doing now is making up for the damage that students have been subject to at home and in schools if they have been to traditional schools. These injuries are psychological, but can also be considered to be learning/educational, such as losing self-directed learning capacities.

So from the above we can see that in these SDE communities, there are obviously these three big modules: Life, Knowledge, Psychology. However, below I will argue that their distinction is superficial and artificial. They are actually deeply connected, if we realize that to learn is to explore, to feel, and to create your own knowledge.

In fact, from my experience, even in the learning of knowledge, the ability to explore is the most important. There are many things to learn in life, and we must grow our knowledge organically. So the ability to feel and explore is very important.

The lecturing way of teaching in modern education, it is its nature to drive students to the direction of knowledge memorization. This was well understood at the beginning of the modern education system, which was designed to make the mass quickly memorize terms and subject matters in order to become industrial workers to work around machines. Nor do we deny that the ability to remember quickly is useful. But we must remind ourselves that modern education is so misery if it only trains people to remember things, since it has taken up so much time of people’s life. There are too many skills to learn. Perhaps the most important skill is the ability to explore in complex life systems. And to truly master a large amount of knowledge, you cannot rely on memorization, instead you have to rely on self-directed feel and exploration to form organic knowledge with their own understanding.

As I mentioned in the educational model of Paracraft Learning Center, learning based on significant experiences and abstract modeling is the most efficient learning.

Now the innovative education has just come out of the traditional modern education system, many models are still influenced by the modern education system, it is difficult to get rid of the old model all together at once. But with the deepening of our practice, we should gradually form a new understanding of education, and really get rid of the old educational paradigm.

Now many educational innovations, have realized that learning shall tend to the needs of students, to be centered around students, and do the curriculum design accordingly. However, it has not departed completely from the traditional education’s lecturing and knowledge memorization model. The curriculum model is still easy to drive students automatically towards knowledge memorization, and it does not realize the self-directed feeling and exploration are the core of learning and education, and does not realize that self-directed feeling and exploration are what run through life, knowledge and psychology all together and make the three an integrated whole. Traditional lecturing and knowledge memorization model automatically drive students away from their natural self-exploration process. So we see that SVS graduates who don’t take courses have a strong ability to explore life and are able to think from the bottom.

As the founders of SVS said, we must create our own knowledge! In modern educational theory, the concepts are knowledge transfer and knowledge retention, so various means, such as asking questions, doing projects, etc., are used as means to increase knowledge retention and to achieve better knowledge transfer effect. But in fact, knowledge is created by the individuals themselves. It is like one candle lighting up another candle. The ability of a candle to give light is the inner ability of a candle. Knowledge transfer and knowledge retention are pseudo-concepts. Realizing that we are all creating our own knowledge, we can then form a new and correct understanding of the various patterns of teaching and learning.

I have been following up and have also been personally involved in educational communities targeting young migrant workers in the city. It should be said that this group has the most real learning needs, there is no tests for them to take. In their educational practice, they should get rid of the shackles of the old educational paradigm and practice the best educational model. But for those schools serving these groups of students, because they have just come out of the old educational paradigm, it is still difficult to get rid of the influence of the old educational paradigm, so unconsciously they still have a lot of traces of the old education, without realizing that there can be a better way.

The teaching/mentoring design based on significant experiences that I talked about in my previous article is about how to adopt some kind of conversation/mentoring way of teaching based on significant experiences without changing the existing curriculum of these learning communities.

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t make lectures. The teacher’s lectures with his own rich experience is very wonderful. If the students just listen, they can also gain a lot. And for very young students, if you don’t say a thing, they don’t know a lot of things. But I think, as soon as we have successfully introduced the topics to the students and aroused their interests, teachers should immediately stop the lecturing, and instead introduce related playgrounds to students, encourage students to explore by themselves, and share their exploration processes and what they find. Teachers can provide guidance according to their rich experiences. Therefore, the lecturing, as a means of to induce interests is ok, but should stop when needed.

I have noticed that some of Agora’s students already have a strong ability to explore knowledge, and have a strong sense and thinking about what to learn and how to learn. I converse with them only to acknowledge their feel and thinking, and share what I have sensed while they might have missed, after all knowledge is a very complex life system, it takes a certain amount of time to gradually accumulate experience. But these students have developed a rather complex ability of feel, thinking and exploration skills, I think this is what the traditional lecturing way of teaching cannot achieve. I think learning is about developing such abilities gradually.

We know that there are this kind of conversation based teaching in some universities. I haven’t experienced it myself in the university, but I’ve heard a lot of people saying that teachers and students in graduate schools in Europe have a lot of one-on-one conversations. My freshmen year history teacher was teaching us mainly in this conversational way, and it had impressed me very deeply and inspired me greatly. He asked us many questions in class.

Does anyone think this approach is very demanding for students, and only applicable at universities? I don’t think so. In fact, this way of teaching is also very rare in colleges.

Some people say this way is very demanding for teachers? I don’t think so. Teachers do need to have their own rich learning experience, and also need to learn to teach this way because they might have been used to how teachers teach in classrooms. But it should not be difficult. It should be quite easy for teachers with rich learning experiences to switch to this way of teaching once they realize that it aligns with their way of learning very well! It should be much easier than training teachers for lecturing at school.

I think the real reason is that we need to have a clear understanding of the distinction between lecturing of textbooks and mentoring for exploratory learning.

We also notice that good mentors or coaches rarely do lengthy lecturing. They many times simply tell you where to try, point out relevant knowledge, the rest are left to you to explore.

I didn’t work full-time as a teacher, but while I am a part-time teacher, I always felt comfortable (of course, I teach in the mentoring way. If it were the traditional lecturing way, I would still feel very awkward), can quickly apply my experience of learning and teaching in real life. For example, in the “teaching” in the real life scenarios, one of the methods I often use is to instantly point out the relevant knowledge models or significant experiences that the other person is exposed to, to instantly expand the other’s knowledge around their current significant experience, or to make connections with their existing knowledge, so to generate learning interest in them, or to make them experience the joy of knowledge. This, I think, is similar to Sudbury’s ubiquitous books. These experiences, I naturally apply them in the formal teaching places.

Learning and teaching are ubiquitous. For a teacher, the first thing they need is a lot of learning experiences. As an edupreneur, it is best to have learning experiences of several large and different areas. Secondly, teaching is ubiquitous. Teaching in many informal settings of life can instead cultivate the skills to “teach” on the basis of full respect for equality and diversity, and accumulate a great deal of experiences on that. These experiences are precisely what we need in order to create a new educational paradigm and to get rid of the old educational paradigm. We are not still at the stage of breaking up old things. Now we need to build a new understanding of education, a new paradigm. Only in this way can innovative education or SDE be “powerful” and spread to the wider population, and find models that can be replicated, so that more people can have access to SDE.

When I used to hear the word “informal learning”, I always argue that informal learning is actually the real learning, the formal learning. Now I would like to say what we really need is informal learning. Because once the learning becomes formal, the two opposing identities, teachers and students appeared, the relation between people start to gets distorted, it is then difficult to achieve equal conversation anymore, thus we have lost the education. Therefore, to do education, what we want is informal learning, so that learning and teaching can return to their original “omnipresent” nature, so we can have a lot of “teaching” experience in informal learning scenarios.

Paracraft Learning Center is the educational model that integrate life, knowledge, and psychology together. Because the Paracraft Learning Center is part-time and each student participates only two to four hours a week, so we are unable to provide psychology counseling teachers like many full-time SDE communities. But the PLC is to give students who keep running from lessons to lessons and have always been led by the teacher by the nose, a breathing space, and some free space for self-exploratory learning. We believe that giving children such a free and self-directed space to explore, to participate in play/learn/create three in one life activities, to gradually build up life self-confidence, to learn the life expression, is the way to rebuild life. Various psychological problems can be healed in this process.

Paracraft itself is a very rich playground, where different children can play for life discovery. And as a spatial intelligence based software education platform, Paracraft also contains a wealth of knowledge. It is developed with a transparent architecture that allows potential children to even learn the underlying knowledge of 3D animation engine and artificial intelligence design. And these knowledge learning, not through the way of the curriculum, although we also have a small number of courses and a large variety of courses, but students are most of the time working on projects in our rich playgrounds (including learning resources) to explore the self-directed learning. Mentors mentor them through observation and conversations, guide them to restore and enrich their ability to explore and to create their own knowledge.

We see that the outstanding students graduating from modern education system often lack life skills and conversation skills. At the same time, because of their high grades at school, they mistakenly think that they are good at learning, but actually they do not have the skills to explore the truth by accumulating various facts and significant experiences, even if many of them have good thinking ability and feeling capability, and can subconsciously use these abilities.

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Mentoring based on Significant Experiences



Significant Experience, Abstract Modeling, Abstract Knowledge Model, knowledge, Sudbury Model, mentoring, conversation, education equality, exploratory learning, modern education system, exam-oriented education, new education paradigm, life thinking, life exploration, mentoring design


This article aims at the innovative education or Self-Directed Education (SDE) communities that have gradually gain popularity but still kept classroom-based learning and have not completely moved away from the old education or test-oriented education framework. We propose here a teaching design based on Significant Experience to help these learning communities shift from lecture-based teaching to a mentoring model that pays more attention to students’ exploration abilities.


What is “teaching”? In the communities of innovative education or SDE, we have gradually turned teaching into mentoring, and correspondingly turned teachers into mentors. Mimsy, one of Sudbury’s co-founders, has said that one of the biggest features of Sudbury Valley School (SVS) is the ubiquitous conversations between students and students, between students and staff, between faculty and staff, on a variety of topics.

The kind of conversations in SVS are a bit different from how people usually converse. In general, adults are used to expressing our judgments or conclusions directly, rather than the significant experiences behind them. People’s judgments and conclusions will generally be very different, often will become the focus point of opposition and disputes, and people argue back and forth for many rounds and still cannot resolve their differences.

We can say that these opinions, judgments or conclusions are the individual knowledge of people. When we converse, we are used to taking our knowledge directly out, rather than conversing on the sources of that knowledge, which are the significant experiences beneath. It’s often difficult to agree with each other in terms of perspectives or knowledge, but if we’re just communicating our own significant experiences, we can all respect each other’s expression of their own significant experiences. We actually share many common significant experiences together. Some experiences may be owned by the other party, not us. Or maybe the other way around, owned by us, not by the other party. But we can all respect each other’s experiences. If you don’t have some of the significant experiences, then remind yourself that your knowledge may lack some significant experiences and need to acquire them through some activities. During the conversation, although we may not have a strong personal experience in the thing being discussed, we still can have some understanding of the experiences shared by the other side, and be aware that these experiences are the foundation of the other person’s knowledge or opinions.

When everyone lays out their own significant experiences, we then look at all the significant experiences related to this topic as a whole, trying to form some overall understanding. This is the process of building knowledge from significant experiences. This process should rigorous, comprehensive, and even scientific. The process that scientists discover new knowledge is essentially the same.

The process of creating knowledge from significant experiences takes a certain amount of exercise.  In the conversation, the first thing we need is to share all our significant experiences related to the matter. Then let’s see if the process of learning (or drawing conclusion) from the significant experience is rigorous and complete. When we are obsessed with making our conclusions/views clear from the start and eager to communicate the views, the other person may not know the significant experience behind, let alone whether you have been rigorous in your steps of building up knowledge from significant experiences.

In fact, as long as the relevant significant experiences are laid out and there are no obvious omissions, it is not very difficult to build up knowledge from these significant experiences. You can even do so by just taking a glance of these experiences and then know immediately in your mind. The major mistake when creating knowledge (drawing conclusion) we often make is we didn’t recall and evaluate all out significant experiences completely and rigorously. So, first of all, putting all the relevant significant experiences out is the foundation of conversation.

This is basically the kind of conversation that SVS have, whether it’s between students and students, between students and staff, or between staff. From this perspective, “teaching” is ubiquitous. The founders of SVS always talks about SVS’ efforts to allow students to explore on their own, but it is not like adults don’t pay attention to the students. There are many subtle and complex things that the staff are carrying out in SVS, and one has to experience them directly by themselves. Such as conversations mentioned here, the experience and knowledge of both sides related to the matter are often not equal, so how to still engage in equal conversations? And how to manifest teaching and learning in their natural form? Learning and teaching are universal in life, not just in formal teaching/learning places.

SVS and many other SDE communities advocates age-mixing. So is there any teaching between the older kids and younger kids? Is it more like a relationship between an old player and a new player?

I think mentoring should be like the relationship between the old player and the new player. The old player tells the new player where there is things to play with (including various resources), guide when necessary, get the new player started, then let the new player play by himself. Old players sometimes need to offer a little help when the new player gets stuck. More often the old player only needs to give a gentle reminder so that the new player will be able to continue to explore on their own. Old players sometimes sum up what something is in the simplest language, which is the expressive power of abstract knowledge models. The relationship between the old player and the new player seems to be perfect embodiment of the relationship between the mentor and the learner, as well as the way to mentor.

What old players share with new players is a wealth of significant experiences and simple knowledge models. The old players are mainly to guide the new players to explore and form their own knowledge. Old players point out where there are things to play with, point out significant experiences for new players, and share more relevant significant experiences they have, with a brief overview of relevant knowledge models, all of which are guiding new players to explore and create their own knowledge.

Of course, there is actually a lot of things to explore here for this topic. I am only giving a general introduction here.

Design of Teaching/mentoring based on Significant Experiences

The main purpose of this paper is to discuss with you a feasible and easy-to-implement teaching design based on Significant Experiences that can go along with the curriculum of many SDE communities. I hope what I have talked about so far, can lead you to explore this topic. We shall all come together to explore this and contemplate.

Teachers in conventional schools are mostly giving lectures. Except for a few very good teachers, most teachers lack of relevant significant learning experiences. For mentors in the SDE communities, lecturing is still needed sometimes. Because younger children have very little experience, mentors need to talk about things to let them know there are so many things out there. Mentors also want to showcase playgrounds like old players. All the purpose here is to “induce learning interest” and guide students to play and explore on their own. As long as students can explore on their own, the mentor’s purpose has been achieved, and they stop lecturing.

In a way, that’s how kids converse. Watching their conversation, it is more about sharing each other’s significant experiences, or telling each other where to play. Adults develop stronger abstract minds and then stay more in the knowledge level of conversation. And in adults, we often see that the more knowledge one has, the more prejudice one has. This is mainly because the lack of insight into the source of knowledge, which is Significant Experience.

In addition, today’s children are generally more lonely, lack of adequate conversations with other children, which should be an important component of their education. And in our more formal teaching/learning places like schools, should we make more conversations happen between students, and students and teachers? Of course, conversations based on Significant Experiences are equal and friendly. Any authoritative conversations with inequality will immediately come to an end. If you have a clear understanding of the process of how knowledge comes from Significant Experiences, the conversations will be more effective.

Figure: the three Yuegu children in the picture were conversing. An adult came with her child.
The adult asked: kids, you do not go to school to study?
One Yuegu’s child replied: We are learning right now!
I noticed that the child the adult brought with her was clearly quite lonely and rarely have others to converse with.

If we look at education from the perspective of the relationship between people, we can see the deep problem of modern education. In education it is  vital to manifest equality among different people, and usually our concept of what knowledge is can have a huge influence on this equality in education. If we are well aware knowledge is something that everyone create for one’s own, then it is easy to have equality. If we think knowledge belongs to some people of certain authority, then there can hardly be equality.

It’s not just the relationship between adults and children in school, when we observe interactions between adults and their children at home, we can see there are a lot of equality issues, when compared to the interactions between children. In the face of inequality imposed by the adult, children’s response is very direct and even natural. Over time, this influence will gradually develop into certain personalities.

Therefore, design of teaching/mentoring based on significant experiences should allow students or students and mentors to have more such conversations based on significant experiences. Mentor’s role is more like an old player guiding new players to explore.

Mentors can guide students to build knowledge on a variety of topics according to their interests and goals. This may be a bit like the term paper or term project in American universities, but it will be done a lot more frequently and be of various sizes.

About the old educational paradigm

In traditional education based on lecture/homework/examination, it is natural for such a system to drive students towards the tendency of knowledge memorization, as if learning is just to remember those external knowledge.

The SVS Model is unique even among SDE communities. In SVS there is basically no lessons. Early years, some students may ask for some short-term lessons that might get terminated at any time. In recent years because of the development of the Internet, even such classes are almost not anymore. But looking at the interviews and memories of SVS graduates, they all have a strong ability to reflect on themselves and explore their own lives, to be able to think about life at a very deep level. I think that’s something that can be hard to achieve in many SDE communities that still have a lot of lessons.

I also found in my mentoring practice in the Paracraft Learning Center that children are naturally capable to feel and explore. For example, we have established a wealth of learning resources, open learning documents, there are a variety of excellent projects we recommended, there are small project list that we have divided into a couple of big difficulty levels, from beginners to intermediate to advanced, and some basic categories, such as 3D modeling and construction, animation and programming. Children themselves will choose the right learning resources or projects for themselves. When they take a break from working on their projects, they will go to the document to read content that is related to their projects, or find some related small projects to practice with. When they have chosen small projects that are a bit too difficult, they know to take a step back and choose a simpler one. Some will try to learn faster, and they will challenge themselves by picking those difficult programming projects, or taking apart other people’s rather complex programming works, see how the code is written, and study it for hours a day.

So we noticed that children are naturally capable of exploring. The younger the child, the more capable s/he is. But children who go to school for a few years lost this capability gradually. When they run into problems, such as how a block in Paracraft is used, they are used to asking the teacher directly. Some children may be a little unhappy if the teacher doesn’t give a direct answer but asks them to look for it in the document. But younger children mostly know how to try the block on their own in an experimental way. Young children hardly ask the teacher. Instead they use all kinds of methods to explore.

There is also a general view that children lack the ability to contemplate, I found that to be so untrue in my mentoring practice in the Paracraft Learning Center. In fact, children have a strong ability to contemplate, as long as we give them a chance.

So this kind of exploration and feeling is natural to everyone. By the age of 11 or 12, after the development of abstract thinking ability, these children’s ability to self-reflect and to explore life will be very strong, and they can engage in deep thinking of their life, unlike children who go to traditional schools.

But the traditional old education system, the kind of lesson/homework/examination way of education, immediately drives the students to the direction of memorization, deviated from their natural ability to explore learning and to create their own knowledge. Therefore, we say that the test-oriented education is evil, not only because the cruelty and torture of the examination, but also because the education model itself. This model quickly leads children to the wrong way, and strips away their natural innate ability of learning, makes them accustomed to think that learning is the memorization of other people’s knowledge, rather than creating their own knowledge.

The harm caused by such education can be seen in many of today’s social problems, whose roots are right in this education.

I will stop here. I hope we can explore this topic together. Such a teaching/mentoring based on Significant Experiences can be carried out in many SDE communities that still have semester long curricula. I have tried this method 10 years ago teaching in a learning community that served the young migrant workers. So I know it works. I hope we come to explore this field together!

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Understanding Sudbury Model



This essay tries to explore and form a deep understanding of the Sudbury Model, and what it means for the education innovations around the world.

The Sudbury Model is very rich, beyond what can be put into one article. Here I only choose some elements that I personally consider to be the very core of the model. For me, the Sudbury Model is love at first sight. After 20 years of practice in the education field, I feel it is about time for me to reflect on the Sudbury Model again. From my reflection, I feel that the very few essential elements of education that I have summarized after all these years of education practices, are right in the heart of the Sudbury Model. Please note here the I use the word Education in the most general sense as education is indeed everywhere in our lives and work,


I heard of the Sudbury Valley School from John Taylor Gatto for the very first time in 2004 or 2005. I loved it right there when he talked about it. The SVS (Sudbury Valley School) is a safe playground to me from the very beginning. Large groups of children can play there, which I always feel is the deepest core of the Sudbury Model. When a large group of children can play richly together, learning needs arise in a natural way. After you have the learning needs, the ways of learning is numerous, taking lessons being only one of them. This is what is actually happening at SVS. There are so many ways of learning. Even though there are a few very short term lessons, they appear naturally and disappear naturally. There is never such a thing called curriculum.

This model is quite similar to my childhood experiences. When I first heard of SVS, I was doing my graduate school research on elearning. I was very frustrated with what has been going on in the research and development in the academics and industry. Sudury Model is kind of what I had wanted to realize when I decided to devote my career to education 5 years before then. I thus changed my major and successfully applied an elearning graduate school research project. However, all the researches on elearning I had read then were so far away from what was on my mind, and very often the very opposite of it.

Learning/education has to have a Playground. Learning is everywhere. Play/Learn/Create, the three in one activity is the pervasive life activity in our daily life and work. When we talk about education, it must first have a Playground. Education is everywhere, not just at those formal educational places or scenarios. It is safe to say that life is full of education opportunities. We can even consider psychological consoling also part of education, since the root of many psychological problems are rightly due to the kind of education the person has been through. When we understand education in this general sense and we practice broadly in various educational settings, I believe we will all discover one thing: education must have a Playground.

Build a Self-Directed Explorative Learning Environment

Once you have the learning needs, how do you set about learning it? It is people’s natural innate exploring capability that SVS counts on.

To build a self-directed explorative environment, you need rich resources, so students can feel richly and strongly in this rich environment, and thus they can make choices, to accomplish self-directed explorative learning.

Thus in SVS, books are everywhere. SVS intentionally has all walls occupied by bookshelves that take up the whole walls. And the bookshelves are full of all kinds of books. These rich resources, are the explorative space for children, meeting their various learning needs. From learning perspectives, these resources are also Playground. Rich resources provide the possibility of choices, so students can feel of their own needs, and choose the appropriate resources for their learning. This kind of learning capacity, is what they need in the real world, because not all knowledge will be made into lessons in the real world. You just have to use your senses, to sense yourself, to sense the resources, and know when to skip ahead if it is too simple, or when to draw back if it is too difficult for now. In deed, learning in the real world requires very complex skills of sensing and exploring.

So the books and the various activities at SVS, can be all seen as Playground. Students need to sense their own interests to make choices.

We can also consider the age-mixing at SVS as a way of protecting children’s capability to feel, because the different ages create diversity. For example, in the book “Free at Last”, as the kids playing basketball together, the older kids know to sense the capacity of the younger kids, so that they won’t make moves that might hurt the younger ones. For those younger kids, by playing with older kids, they can feel the bigger challenge that they don’t feel when playing with kids of similar ages.

The staff at SVS (adults are called staff at SVS, not Teachers), are also resources that children can use. Furthermore, the staff at SVS do a lot of work to make a self-directed explorative environment for the students there. The book “Free at Last” outlined many such things.


SVS intentionally builds up bookshelves for all walls. I think it is to set up the awareness of “Knowledge” in the environment. Knowledge is not those categorized subjects or majors in schools. And not just the textbooks are knowledge. All these different books are knowledge, and we are all creating our very own knowledge.

When students have this strong consciousness of “knowledge” on their mind, they will try to create their own knowledge from their rich experiences. And in SVS you never lack rich experiences since SVS is such a self-directed explorative environment, like we said earlier.

SVS has a designated conversation room, where people can converse on any topics. This kind of conversing, is also a process to promote the building of knowledge and its expression. So knowledge is not just what the teachers teach in the classroom. When we converse, we are sharing our own knowledge, and we have to express it in our own words.

Dan, one of the founders of SVS said that knowledge is the model in people’s minds, everyone is creating one’s own knowledge.

When I read of the books by SVS founders, they questioned deeply the categorized subjects and majors in the modern education system. I think SVS’ filling up all rooms with books, is intentionally to break the wrong concept of knowledge that modern education has brought up on people. The more years I have practiced on education, the more I realized that the deep damages the concept of categorized knowledge had done to people.

So, the books everywhere in SVS, is to establish the concept of “Knowledge” in children’s consciousness, so they can disassociate the concept of knowledge from categorized subjects and textbooks of modern education. This is dismantling the concept of knowledge of modern education theory.


Mimsy, another founder of SVS, has talked many times about the universal conversations at SVS. This kind of equal conversations exist between students and students, students and staff, as well as staff and staff.

We said earlier that learning is everywhere and education practice has to have Playground. So in an educational environment that has rich playgrounds, the conversation among players sharing similar interests and Significant Experiences, are natural and common. It is like conversations among children, or like those between old players and new players, it is friendly and equal. When this kind of conversations happen, it is already the best education environment you can have. However, modern education has formalized education so much, and made it so separated from real life, knowledge and teachers become the authority, and equal conversations are not possible anymore, thus true education is lost. People influenced by modern education, deeply locked up by the wrong concept of “knowledge”, have lost the ability to make such kind of conversations.

Naturally conversation is equal, and equality is the foundation of friendship. And such equal conversations are usually sharing of Significant Experiences and abstract knowledge models. The flow between significant experiences and knowledge models in conversation is free and agile. But modern people, who are bound by the wrong concept of knowledge of modern education, lost the skill to engage in such conversations.

If they are still capable of such conversation, then their families are the best education place, and playing pokers, chess, basketball, soccer can all be very good playgrounds. Parents who excel at equal conversation can be the best educators.

So the universal equal conversations at SVS, is dismantling the way of teaching of modern education theory, which is based on classroom/lesson/homework/tests.

Judiciary Committee

SVS Judiciary Committee has a session every day, and all students take turn to be on the committee. It is a very essential part of Sudbury Model.

The relation between individuals and groups and how individuals participate in society, are very important to everyone’s life. But in the modern education system, there is rarely any chance to think and practice in this aspect. Most people still don’t know how to handle these even after they have retired from their careers.

For example, how to take the traditional ethnic values in your own culture? What I see is that many college students still stick to those values like primary school students, while some students who have been exposed to society in college start to abandon all ethnic principles immediately, doing whatever to achieve their goals.

How individuals participate in society? This is not what ought to be learned in modern education system, but it is what one has to tangle with throughout one’s life.

Where in SVS, students have full practice on this through the Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has to have some adult members. And from my memory, some senior students should be on the committee because they have been through it many times, and they are more able to think abstractly than younger ones. Younger ones often are not able to articulate things very well, so these senior students will guide them to learn to articulate it, like when and where what happened, just stating the facts instead of subjective opinions. And they also do investigation and collect evidences. So the whole process of Judiciary Committee session is a very good practice of many things.

What SVS students are practicing in these Judiciary Committee sessions, are what we lack very much in our society. Many graduates from universities, including those with very high GPAs, are unable to think clearly and comprehensively. They are very confused about rights and obligations.

Trust in LIFE

I think the above are all based on trust in LIFE. This is completely different from modern education. Life, if you give it rich soil, it will grow healthily. The goal of education, unlike that of modern education, which is to produce skilled industry workers, should be about letting life growing up to become themselves.

The Implication of Sudbury Model for Education

Knowledge is universal. Learning is universal. Education is universal. Sudbury education, is about going back to life and nature.

The Sudbury Model we summarize here, is not an education model only targeting children or a specific group of people, but an education model for all people to be used in their everyday lives. We hope educators can find these principles helpful when making educational designs in their specific learning environments.

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Inspirations from Sudbury Valley School

Chinese Version

If we look at the Sudbury Model as a kind of educational design, Sudbury Model is a design that has nicely put together essential life centers of education. For example, conversation room, quiet rooms, bookshelves, equipment user lists, judiciary committee, school meeting, and so on are all good life centers of education. This kind of design based on Life Centers, is the same as software design or organization design, in which you feel of the important Life Centers involved, and then combine these Life Centers in a certain way, exactly the same process as how children play with LEGO or build up their 3d worlds in Paracraft. These essential life centers combined together make a model of education, which represents Sudbury Valley School (SVS) founders’ understanding of education. Education is a complex life system. To work in any complex life system often requires a design process, so we educators need to do this kind of design very often, to create a good learning environment or soil, so that life can grow healthily. The Sudbury Model is a very good design. The Paracraft Learning Center is designed based on the Sudbury Model.

Although like many other people, I went to full-time schools in my life. But maybe it is because the school at my time wasn’t like today’s, or where I grew up was quite a special environment, my learning environment in my kindergarten and primary school was pretty much like the Sudbury Valley School (SVS). In short, we have quite plenty of time to play, and we play with a lot of other kids. I might be the type of person who likes to reflect on things, so I can sense the very rich and important learning in those playing activities. Thus from the very first day of school, I was quite surprised that learning was like that at school, and started questioning the way of learning at school. At the very least, I never thought that school learning is all the learning one needs. And as I kept my observation at school, I started to think that even for theoretical learning, school way of learning is not very efficient and indeed quite a waste of time and a waste of life.

So when I heard of SVS for the first time, I felt the immediate closeness. I was doing graduate school research on elearning at the time, and have read a lot of scientific papers on learning, and know all kinds of education theories. I am familiar with all kinds of R&D efforts in academics and industry. But I was shaking my head at all these. I hadn’t heard of anyone talking about the kind of education I wanted until John Taylor Gatto came to town and talked about SVS. He made a 3-hour long speech, and during his whole speech, I kept shouting hysterically inside, like listening to a great Rock & Roll performance.

Different from SVS and other Self-Directed Education (SDE) schools or learning communities, Paracraft Learning Center is part-time. Children come to the center at least 2 hours per week. We don’t think that we have to offer children the ideal perfect environment. It is healthy to be exposed to all kinds of environments. Children know how to compare and reflect. But we need to let them have enough exposure to Self-Directed Education, and this exposure needs to be powerful, deep, and rich. This is what Paracraft Learning Center aims to do. With this kind of exposure, they will have a healthy and strong core so they can handle any environment that they face and know how to gain knowledge in any kind of environment. Even in those artificial boring environments like conventional schools, they also know how to enrich themselves, to make things meaningful, to spend the time actively instead of passively.

Paracraft Learning Center is able to do this because Paracraft as a platform is very rich. It is like the rich nature, children can learn very richly in nature. So although it is not full-time and children only come 2 hours per week (in addition to time spent at PLC, our students all work on their own projects when they go home, projects that are totally from their own ideas) and parents don’t have to make a big decision regarding whether to send them to a full-time Self-Directed Education school or learning community and their children can still go to their regular school after their learning at Paracraft Learning Center, these children nevertheless have grasped the way of exploring and methods of self-directed learning, and they won’t get lost again when they head back to the classroom environment of the school, since they have gained a rational understanding of what learning actually is in PLC. In general, it is my personal belief that to allow children growing up in a healthy way, we don’t have to isolate them away from bad things, we only need to expose them to good things in life, they are then able to handle the imperfections of the real world. Life is full of good things and not that good things. But still, life is beautiful!

When I was in 3rd grade in primary school, in the summer, I re-read the textbooks that I had just finished the previous semester. What I discovered is that I had forgotten almost all of them, even though I had just taken the tests and had very high scores on them. But reading those books again, I realized some content is actually quite useful and I was supposed to remember. So, from then on before every semester, I would rush through the textbooks of that semester very quickly, just to see what content I aught to learn from them. So during the classes, I only focused on those content, ignoring all the other details. This saved me a tremendous amount of time. But I know that I need to prepare a little extra just before the tests since the tests have their weird formats. You just need to memorize a bit more for the tests. For those things that you have to memorize for the tests, I don’t regret forgetting them at all after the tests. So in this way, learning is not stressful, and I still keep good grades.

When I see today’s kids in China, after they come back from school, they have to attend many other courses by those “educational” companies, and even their weekends are fully occupied by such courses. They don’t have any time and space for playing, the kind of playing I had as a kid, with many other kids and running around freely. They never had the time to read the textbooks by themselves, always following the teacher closely step by step. They have gone to many after-school courses but still can only achieve very low grades on school tests. What they need, is exactly the self-directed learning capability that you gain from playing naturally, which is what Paracraft Learning Center gives to them, even if it is just 2 hours a week. It is a free space for these children, where they can breathe.

So I feel the SDE Model of Paracraft Learning Center, designed based on the Sudbury Model, is an SDE model that can spread widely and expose a lot more families and children to SDE. It has been my work for the past 20 years making efforts to spread the Sudbury Model to all people, and making Sudbury Model an educational choice available to all families and children. In recent years, I found that youth software education might be the way to make the breakthrough and expedite the process. And Paracraft, the rich 3D programming software, is the best way to carry out this task. So we incorporated Paracraft and Sudbury Model together and started this Paracraft Learning Center model. It has been quite successful so far, drawing families of all backgrounds. And most of them never heard of SDE or Sudbury before. However, children love to do all kinds of things in Paracraft, so we have rich opportunities to do education with it.

To learn about the Paracraft Learning Center, you can go to :

Or read this essay:

Paracraft Learning Center

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Paracraft Learning Center

Chinese Version


Paracraft, Learning Center, Youth Programming Education, Exploratory Learning, Significant Experiences, Abstract Modeling, Complex Systems, Playground, Small Project Lists, Learning Documents, Learning Records, Learner Profiles, Learning Consulting, Self-Directed Learning, Self-Directed Education, Spatial Perception, Spatial Thinking, New Education Paradigms, Life Education, Life Discovery, Life Expression, Life Center, Future Education


This paper introduces the educational model of Paracraft Learning Center (PLC), which is a Self-Directed Education (SDE) model based on the Sudbury model. The difference is that PLC is part-time, and is for all children and parents, even if those families haven’t heard of SDE at all. By doing so we hope all children and families have access to the Sudbury Model of SDE, and thus we can spread the Sudbury model to the whole society. It is a replicable and scalable model of SDE, is a future-oriented model of education. Its successful implementation and the large-scale replication, which can be expected in the near future, will be a key part of the future education of mankind based on the new educational paradigm.

Our pilot Paracraft Learning Center, also known as Creative Space, is available both on and off campus. The school is used for 4:30 class time, 2 hours a week. It’s Saturday and Sunday off campus, and it’s two hours at a time. There is a charge outside the school.

This paper gives a brief introduction to the learning/education model of the Paracraft Learning Center.

Paracraft, “Learn to program, learn to learn!”

Figure: Paracraft, “Learn to program, learn to learn!”

Our slogan has always been “Learn to program, learn to learn!” “Paracraft’s learning is not only about learning a wealth of knowledge, but also about learning how to learn. And what we’re talking about here is learning not in a linear way, but in an interactive way, in interaction with the living space, including the process of feeling, making choices, interacting, collecting feedback, iterating. That is to say, the process of self-learning.

Implementation and operations:

Let’s first look at how learning in a specific creative space works.

First of all, the creative space is project-oriented. Students start working on projects from the very beginning when they enter Paracraft, and they have plenty of time to work on their projects. We also have lessons, even a wide variety of lessons, but that is only a relatively small part of PLC. Our approach is not the same as many project-based learning. Simply speaking, our students are playing independently and really in the rich playground. Real play, will certainly contain a wealth of learning, as long as we build up good playgrounds.

Our resource/soil construction is an important part of this playground.

Resources and Playgrounds to build

In the construction of resources, we uphold three principles:

The first is richness. Children of all ages and backgrounds can come to Paracraft to find what they can do, or projects that suit their current level of skills, with a wealth of choices. This is the basis of SDE.

The second is openness and transparency. In this way, exploratory learning is easy to carry out.

The third is to be well structured. We have such abundant resources, if there is a good structure, students can see the approximate structure at a glance, as if we look at a complex but well-structured building. This makes it easier for students to interact with them. instead of linearly seeing from the beginning to the end. Students can interact with resources according to their own interests and levels, to achieve their current needs of growth, to achieve organic learning.

Figure: Complex buildings with good structure

When the rich resources are well presented, and we also mentioned earlier that Paracraft itself is a platform for children to play and create, these resources together with Paracraft itself then become a good playground to play with, children will be self-directed in their exploration of learning.

Let’s take a look at our current resources. Our resource and playground construction is continuous, we continue to build our resources according to the feedback obtained during the operations of PLC.

Small Projects List

The following image is a list of our small projects. A list of small projects is what students can do in their studies. When they don’t have any thoughts or ideas, take a look at this small list of projects to see which ones they can currently try. Generally, project-based learning is a relatively large project, and our students can quickly move on to a large project in Paracraft, and they spend most of their time working on that kind of project. But they usually try those small projects to during their break of working on large projects to learn knowledge and skills related to their large projects. And the children all know how to make such switches and how to manage their time very well.

Figure: Screenshot 2 of the list of small projects

In the Small Projects List, We have only made distinction of large stage difficulty levels, from beginners to advanced levels. There is no finer division, let even by age. When students browse through the list of these small projects themselves, they can sense what they are able to work on. Some of our children also specifically challenge themselves by picking really difficult projects to see if they can grow their skills faster. If they find it really hard, they’ll choose something less difficult. This process of self-directed learning is in fact part of our natural learning ability.

Learning Document

The following figure is our learning document. One of the most important things in programming learning is to learn to query documents to learn. Have a general idea of what’s in the document and know where to look when you need it. In fact, this is modeling-based learning. We’ll cover modeling-based learning in more detail later. Any study of complex systems requires modeling-based learning skills, such as document queries. So we build up rich documents to consciously develop students’ ability of learning in a complex system.

Figure: Learning Document

The first is a 26-minute instructional video. Also on the list of small projects. Students who are just starting out with Paracraft can start doing projects in Paracraft as soon as they watch this video. So the students in PLC are working on projects from the start.

Tutorial Videos

This is our tutorial video. Watching video for learning can be a problem because it is difficult to find what you have learned before. So we mark the time, such as minute and second of important learning content under the tutorial video for students to browse quickly. Because these pages are searchable, students can do a search on them as well.

Figure: Tutorial Videos

Figure: A video on the timeline that identifies the important learning content

Excellent Works, including Paracraft itself

In addition to the above resources, in fact, Paracraft itself, because of its software design adhering to the principle of openness and transparency, also become a good learning resource. This is reflected in the following areas:

First, in Paracraft, you can open a project through the id of the project, and then you can switch to edit mode and open the code editor or movie editor to see how the project is made. This makes it very easy to learn from other people’s works. In fact, many students in the creative space are learning in this way.

Secondly, we have keepwork.com, this works sharing platform, so that students can share their works and communicate.

In Paracraft, it’s easy to open up a terminal where you can see the state of real-time code execution. Paracraft and NPL are open source software. For potential students, they can gain an in-depth understanding of the source code for Paracraft and NPL and participate in the software development of Paracraft and NPL.

Therefore, in Paracraft,, we recommend the excellent works of other students. Our students often browse through all kinds of works to learn from them.

Our students explore these works and open them up for study. Even our official works, which are quite complex, they’ll open them up. These works are our very important learning resources.

Learning how to explore up to a certain level, students will explore the terminal that can see the real-time running status of the code, and into the study of the source code. Paracraft was designed to be software that open students can learn on their own. We presently are focusing on very young kids. We are building more content, building better playgrounds for them, so that all students can start the exploratory self-directed learning from the very beginning.

Learning Record

In addition to learning resources or the construction of playgrounds, another major feature of creative space is Learning Records. We do a lot of learning recording in PLC, including learner profiles, learning counseling records, and daily learning records.

Students Learner Profiles

We will build a learner profile for each student from the beginning. This document will be updated as we learn more about the student. This learner profile represents a student’s life as a unique individual. Just as expressed in Paracraft’s work “We Are All Wonders”, everyone is a unique life. The Learner Profile also represents the mentor’s continued interest in the growth of this life. A new mentor, just look at the student’ profile, should be able to have a general understanding of this life.

Figure: Student Learner Profile

Learning Consulting Records

We do Learning Consulting for our students about once a month. 5 minutes per student. Students take turns and can ask the mentor any questions about their learning. If the students have no problem, the mentor will take the initiative to ask students some questions, to understand the current situation of students, where their interests are, what kind of projects they want to do and so on. Mentor can also guide project ideas based on students’ ideas and their abilities. We have a document on how to do a learning consultation.

Figure: Creative Space Learning Consulting Record

Daily Learning Records of PLC

Then there’s the daily learning records of PLC.

We say that knowledge is an abstract model based on significant experiences. Therefore, we think that a teacher can only teach what s/he has the abstract knowledge model of, representing her/his own personal understanding, and s/he can only teach to what s/he has experienced significantly.

Our teachers, in fact, we do not have teachers, only mentors, our mentors are professionals with very rich learning experience. An important responsibility of mentors is to guide students to explore learning, to cultivate their habits of self-learning, and to create their own knowledge models.

To guide students to develop their own learning habits and abilities

Therefore, when students ask questions, we specifically ask the mentor not to directly give students answers. Specifically, we ask the mentor to follow these steps:

Mentors don’t give answers directly. Mentors should have enough knowledge of our resources and abstract knowledge models to point out the direction of exploration. For example, if our documents or tutorial videos have relevant content, let students find in it, and observe whether students can successfully find the resource and be able to understand for themselves.

If other students know, let the other students answer. Encourage students to communicate more with each other and teach and learn from each other. It’s actually something that kids are very good at, and from what we’ve seen, it works very well.

If we don’t have anything in our resources and other students don’t know as well, then our mentors need to be able to demonstrate on-site how to explore and discover knowledge. So we ask our mentors to have a wealth of learning experience and relevant important knowledge models so that they can demonstrate exploratory learning in the field.

Afterwards, the mentor shall do some analysis, if it is indeed our resource that is lacking, or the structure is not clear and difficult to find, or the content is obscure and so on, can be further improved, they shall continue to improve our resources.

Guide students to build their knowledge based on Significant Experiences and Abstract Models

In addition to guiding students to develop their own learning habits and abilities, our mentors need to guide students to build their knowledge based on significant experiences and abstract knowledge models.

Here I give two examples.

These kids love to connect with each other online and use Paracraft’s networking features to work on projects together. I feel they like networking so much, constantly trying to enter the LAN or Internet server URL. I asked them whether they know what they entered, why is it such a string of numbers? Why are a few points separated? How do I locate a computer on the network with these numbers? What is the difference between a local area network and the Internet? What’s the url you entered? What does the previous ip address have to do with this url? Then let them open the command-line terminal in windows or mac (children cheer when they see that their computer can enter the command line like Paracraft), use commands to find their computer’s LAN ip address, and then find out what the ip address of a website is. Then let them open the browser and tell them what is behind entering url in the browser address bar when visiting a website.

Because children are very interested in networking, it is a very good opportunity to guild them to explore what is networking. I see what they’re doing and what they’re interested in, point out the knowledge behind it, and guide them to explore. By networking with Paracraft, they have accumulated some Significant Experiences about the networking knowledge. Based on my own knowledge model of the networking and my significant experience that make up that knowledge model, I made a design on the field dynamically in real time. Show students something on the spot, let them try something, accumulate more significant experiences related to the networking knowledge model, let them have a little concept of the network knowledge model, establish an initial framework, and when they encounter the significant experiences related to the networking again, they can quickly identify them, can continue to enrich their knowledge model.

Another example is that many of our students like to play a digging game in Paracraft, or like to build high ladders or mountains, and then climb mountains, climb high and high. (Jump down again!) I asked them, do you know how tall you can go up? Or how deep can you dig? Tell them it’s 255 and ask them why it’s such a number. 256 is 2 to what power. Very young suddenly can not answer this immediately, then ask what is 2 to the power of 2, and so on. It’s about pointing out the relevant knowledge behind the phenomena they’re exposed to on a daily basis, such as the binary here, and allowing them to accumulate more relevant and significant experiences based on the level they can currently understand.

Professional programmers are people with very rich learning experience who are well aware of the important knowledge models in software programming, who are very aware of the significant experiences involved, and who can quickly identify relevant knowledge models and significant experiences when they see what children are doing. Then instantly point out the relevant knowledge model to the child, and then according to the child’s interests and abilities, give more relevant significant experiences, so that children can quickly have a accumulation of related significant experiences. Our mentors also need to have a good ability to express abstract models in concise words. This is also a very important ability as a programmer.

So in the implementation of the creative space, our mentors are constantly doing these things, repeatedly exposing students to these significant experiences and knowledge models, to help students build their own knowledge.

Therefore, it is very important that we have mentors with rich learning experience in a certain field. It is only by having a very rich experience that has impressed him/her that such kind of guiding can be conducted, and is possible to impress his/her students with Significant Experiences.

Of course, all of this is based on the interests of students. Children love to play Paracraft and create things in it. Mentors who are familiar with Paracraft and related resources also need to tell their children where to play, which is also a role for mentors. Children usually communicate fun things with each other. For new students, the mentor should give a little guidance. And as the students advance, the mentor needs to constantly show them where the next palyground is. These are actually part of the construction of our playground.

Therefore, you see that our mentors must pay attention to the growth of life, must carefully observe the students’ learning.

Mentors also need to make a learning record every time they run the PLC. Keep a record of what they observed students have learned today. At the end of each creative space, the mentor asks the students what they have learned today to help them continuously enhance their ability to reflect on their learning and build a significant sense of learning. Now it is mainly mentors to record what students have learned. Gradually we will let students do this recording themselves. The mentor’s recording is shared with the student’s parents respectively on the same day. At the Paracraft Learning Center, we want parents to be involved in their children’s education. Our modeling-based knowledge representation is basically understandable to parents, because a lot of knowledge (based on abstract modeling) is connected and there is not much knowledge gap.

The following figure is a sample recording of significant experiences of one of our student.

Figure: PLC Daily Learning Records: What Students Learned

Our mentors also document what they have learned. We think that mentors must be learning as well when mentoring. If the mentor has provided mentoring at PLC and there is no Significant Experiences of learning recorded, we feel that there may be a problem.

The following figure is an Significant Experience in PLC documented by a mentor.

Figure: PLC Daily Learning Record: What Mentors Learned

These learning records are also the basis for our mentor training and supervision.

In addition, we want students to have a learning plan before they come to PLC, what they want to do today, and what to learn. Parents can help students with this recording at first. Later slowly we let students record on their own.

A wide variety of “lessons”

The learning at PLC is mainly about working on creative works. In addition, we also have “lessons”, and a large variety of lessons. The Special Topic Lesson is for a specific topic, such as how to design the game level, how to save your game when passing a level and so on. We will also observe the overall situation of students learning and design some lessons accordingly, or provide project guidance. More often it is the kind of the real-time dynamic little “lessons” based on abstract knowledge models as described earlier, maybe a couple minutes to ten minutes. This kind of “lesson” is the daily routine that we have at PLC.

Well, above we have introduced the specific operations of PLC. You can see that the Paracraft Learning Center is based entirely on working on creative works, and based on play/learn/create activities.


Let me briefly talk about the effects of student learning in the creative space. Less than a semester of study, our students have developed the habit of self-directed learning, such as when they have problems they will first go to our resources such as documents or tutorial videos to find out if there is anything there to help them. They’ll look at the list of small projects when taking a break from working on their large projects to see if they can fill in some related knowledge with the small projects. Some will even explore rather difficult coding projects to see if they can master programming faster. If they find it too difficult, they will choose a less difficult project themselves. Such ability to explore and feel is in fact the most fundamental ability of learning. Of course, when mentors see the students making such a challenge, they give appropriate guidance to see if they can help students succeeding in the challenge. They will also check out content related to their projects, such as reading on documents and videos related to the train track in Paracraft when they are exploring the roller coaster project. Students who make puzzle games will read on documents and videos related to setting up traps, or study how the traps in other people’s projects are set up. Some students are interested in circuits, so they will focus on the content of circuits, and they will build many small projects of circuits.

I believe that through these examples, we can see that “Self-Directed” has great significance in learning.

Children in the creative space have plenty of time to do what they want to do, and you can say that they spend almost all of their time doing what they want to do. They just need to take a look at our resources during the break or when they run into problems, to see if there’s anything that can solve their problems or help them grow. They also regularly schedule some time to browse our documents or videos to ensure continuous learning.

Because these children are doing what they want to do (rather than doing a teacher-designated project like in many schools or institutions, or even following the teacher step by step), we can observe the real interest of children of these ages through their projects. For example, their favorite projects are in these categories: roller coaster, parkour, puzzle game. Boys, in particular, will be fond of making roller coasters and parkour. I watched a lot of the thrilling roller coaster games they made and all kinds of scenes and types of parkour games. Many children like to build mountain climbing game, and they build beautiful games. Children who play puzzle games like to study the use of various traps and command lines.

In addition to these categories, many children also show their unique interest. For example, some children like to build very complex circuits. Some like to build aircraft ships and so on and have demonstrated very good modeling skills.

Although there are many stories about students’ learning and creation, we don’t talk much about them here, as we will tell in other articles.

PLC model, to understand from the perspective of learning and education

Let’s take a further look at the creative space from the learning and educational perspectives.

Based on abstract modeling and spatial learning

Paracraft’s learning is based on modeling and space. Paracraft’s learning is rich, but it’s a highly integrated, unified whole.

First, for building 3D scenes in Paracraft, the 3D modeling is based on abstract modeling. Programming is also based on abstract modeling. We say it is more important to learn how to learn, learning is also based on abstract modeling, it is a modeling process from the significant experience to the abstract knowledge model.

Figure: Paracraft Education: Abstract Modeling and Space

Abstract modeling is based on the feel of life space. This feel is the basis of spatial thinking. Spatial thinking is the core of thinking, is the basis of all thinking. Paracraft’s 3D construction, animation and programming, as well as how to learn, are all about the space from sensibility to sense layer by layer learning, is a very complete and unified learning. Software programming is actually a rational understanding or science about the nature of life space. Therefore, we can also say that Paracraft is the most complete programming education.

Knowledge in Paracraft, the core of which is knowledge of 3D animation and programming. The typical books are shown in the following figure.

Figure: Core knowledge in Paracraft

In fact, all the books on this whole shelf of the city’s central bookstore are the relevant knowledge contained in Paracraft’s software. In Paracraft, students end up learning so much that they can become professional animators or programmers.

Figure: Core knowledge in Paracraft

But that’s not all. In the following figure we also just list some relevant knowledge. There are more that can not be listed here. So the Paracraft Learning Center is designed to teach such a wealth of knowledge. In the face of such a wealth of knowledge, how do students learn, how do we teach? It can only be organic learning, organic mentoring.

Figure: Knowledge in Paracraft

Unlike ordinary schools or institutions, which can only teach one or two textbooks, our mentors are professionals with extensive learning experience. In their careers, they have read thousands of books and developed their own understandings. Their mentoring is to fit into what students are doing and their interests to help them absorb this great amount of knowledge organically.

Significant Experience and Abstract Knowledge Model, let’s discuss what learning is and what knowledge is

We’ve said earlier that learning is a process of knowledge modeling based on significant experiences.

Figure: Knowledge modeling

We say that knowledge is an abstract model in our brain that represents our overall understanding and it is based on significant experiences. If we believe that learning is the growth of life, including the growth of knowledge, then those that have touched our lives are significant experiences, and are the basis of life growth.

Whether it’s playing, doing projects, or everyday life, we’re accumulating significant experiences. Learning doesn’t happen in the classroom. When there is enough significant experiences collected in a learning area, we can then reflect on and summarize these significant experiences, that is, to build our own knowledge model based on significant experiences, that is, to form our own overall understanding of something.

Then the application of knowledge is to use these abstract knowledge models in our brains, to identify the relevant knowledge models of current events, and to gain more significant experiences in the use of models, which also form feedback on the knowledge models we build, helping us to adjust our knowledge models.

Among them, the recognition or feel of knowledge models and related significant experiences is a very core skill.

This is the process of using knowledge. For example, when our mentor guide students, we need to be able to identify the relevant knowledge models in what students are doing, to perceive the status of the knowledge models that students currently have or the significant experiences that they have accumulated, in order to do timely mentoring and make design of mentoring on the fly.

The same is true of other common thinking skills for complex systems, such as problem solving and diagnostic capabilities for complex systems.

To solve a problem, we need to quickly identify the relevant knowledge model in the problem we are dealing with, and apply the relevant knowledge model. The process of solving problems is itself a learning process, such as whether the existing knowledge model can solve the problem well, that is, the validation of the existing knowledge model, the significant experiences that may be gained in this process will allow us to adjust the existing knowledge model, and we might find new knowledge models for us to explore and summarize.

In the diagnosis of complex systems, such as the doctor to see a patient, asking the patient about the symptoms, and recall their own existing knowledge model to determine what is probably the problem, for example, if it is bone-related problems, then bone-related knowledge models, then knowledge models such as bone-forming cells (chondrocyte) and bone-breaking cells (chondroblast) working mechanisms and so on. And in diagnostic practice, we continue to enrich the significant experiences related to these knowledge models to build a better understanding. Doctor making diagnosis is also a process of knowledge construction and learning. It is also exploratory and through interactive iterations. This process is very similar with programmers resolving software failures (debug).

Other more complex system-oriented thinking abilities, such as critical thinking ability, dividing skills, composing skills. This diagram didn’t listed more cases due to the limited space. But in fact, it’s all about the use of knowledge based on abstract modeling.

The essence of abstract modeling is the feel and construction of life space and the application of the basic attributes of life center. Everything around us that we can identify is life center. (Readers unfamiliar with the Life Center can take a look at our other articles for a more detailed explanation.) The life center has only a few basic properties that help us identify life centers. Familiarity with these properties can help us feel life in a variety of things, including knowledge models. Various thinking abilities for complex systems are essentially constantly identifying life centers at all levels, including dividing and composing. So for these complex thinking skills, we can help you learn very quickly based on recognition of life centers. This is also the advanced learning content as you progress through Paracraft education, which is the learning of spatial thinking. We’re not going to dive into more details here.

Therefore, we can see the process of playing, is the process of accumulating significant experiences, that is, the process of learning. And the process of using knowledge, whether it is to guide students, or to solve problems or complex system diagnosis, and so on, are also play as well. This process is also a process of constantly gaining new significant experiences, constantly revising knowledge models, or discovering new knowledge. So we can see that there is actually such a close relationship between play and learning that we can see this very clearly through abstract modeling of knowledge. At the same time, the abstract modeling of knowledge is creating one’s own knowledge, so creation is no different from play and learning. Whether it’s from significant experiences to abstract knowledge models, or from abstract knowledge models to significant experiences, it’s a process of playing, learning, and creating, three in one.

We believe that the process of life is the process of playing, learning and creating. We often say that there are only three things to do in life or every day: play, learn, and create. We also saw earlier that learning based on abstract modeling and the process of applying knowledge are based on the recognition of life. Paracraft, is thus such a life-rich education.

Figure: There are only three things to do in life or every day

The New Education Paradigm: Life Education

We see the education we demonstrate in creative spaces as a new educational paradigm. Different from the old linear learning from taking lessons to homework and to exams, this kind of learning is interactive and life-rich. The education that serves this kind of learning and based on this kind of learning is life education, which is life-rich education. This “life”, is mainly in 5 aspects.

Figure: The New Education Paradigm: Life Education

The first is “Rich”. The word richness is also used when we talk about the construction of learning resources. One of the characteristics of life is richness. First, our learning content is rich. Because we are learning based on knowledge models, knowledge models are very rich, and we can summarize very rich knowledge models based on rich and significant experiences. This knowledge is not like the past teaching materials that are only one or two books, but to learn the content of many books. To learn so much, only the mentor’s guiding is the most efficient. And we need mentors who are professionals with extensive learning experience and lots of practices.

And in the creative space, knowledge is “Personal”. To create their own knowledge, everyone must have their own understanding expressed in their own words.

This kind of learning and education is based on “Feel”, the most fundamental of which is the feel of life centers. For example, students’ feel of resources, of knowledge model and of their personal growth. Students’ feel of knowledge usage and feedback. The mentor’s feel of the student, including knowledge models and significant experiences that the student has. In the operation of the creative space we mentioned earlier, the mentor’s real-time dynamic educational design is based on knowledge model, but also on feel. Students create works of life based on their feel of life.

Another life-rich feature of this education is “Instant”, instant interaction. Make dynamic educational design based on students’ current interests or what they are doing presently.

Then there’s “Design”. We believe that all life-rich systems are inseparable from design. For example, in management, we all need to design with real-time dynamics for the assignment and execution of a task. Who is better suited to do this project, what kind of growth he/she can get, how members collaborate with each other. Each task is different, so there needs to be such a dynamic design process. At the Paracraft Learning Center, design can be said to be ubiquitous.

Therefore, Rich, Personal, Feel, Instant, Design of these five characteristics are important characteristics of the life system. Paracraft Learning Center’s education is life-rich education. This is very different from traditional education. This new paradigm of education is called life education.

Life-rich Paracraft

Paracraft is particularly suited to the above-mentioned life education platform, because Paracraft itself, is rich in life.

Figure: Paracraft is a life-rich education

In Paracraft, different children can discover what they like to do. By doing projects and in-depth learning, they will constantly discover more of themselves, and discover how their life grow. So Paracraft is a rich platform for life discovery.

Through the creation of works, children express the things that have touched them in their life, to express their feelings, their ideas, the uniqueness of each of them. These are all expressions of life.

Children’s works are creating life. In Paracraft, there are many life-rich works created by children. Paracraft author said that everyone should have their own works. From a very young age on, he created a variety of software works. His work Paracraft empowers children can start to create their own works from a very young age like him.

At the heart of Paracraft is learning of software programming. It is my understanding that software programming is about the science of life centers and about the rational understanding of the nature of life space.

We say it is more important to learn how to learn in PLC. This learning, in our case, is also based on life. First of all, students learn on their own. Our understanding of self-directed learning is that learning is a process of cruising in a complex life system, and the ability to feel and the courage to explore are very important. Paracraft Education, is Self-Directed Education. The content of SDE, we understand is to build a better playground that is rich in life, so students can learn richly, create richly!

We say all of Paracraft’s learning is based on abstract modeling. The feel of the model is also based on the feel of life, or the feel of the life centers.

As we’ve said, learning in Paracraft is composed of feeling, making choice, interacting, gaining feedback, iterating learning, all of which is based on the feel of life space.

So we can see that Paracraf is life-rich at all levels, and it centers around life.

The learning system in Paracraft

Paracraft’s entire learning system is shown in the figure below. From entry-level 3d building, to the higher-level of feeling and gain a rational understanding of life centers, we have these general progressing levels.

Figure: Spatial thinking cultivation in PLC

Younger children can start with 3D scenes and models, which is the enlightenment and cultivation of spatial feeling. You can then move up to learn animated movies, learn more about abstract models/life center expressing, such as plot design, script writing, and learn how to arrange life centers in time series.

Further up, through the learning of software programming, slowly form a rational understanding of the space of life.

After a long time of such self-directed learning in creative space, after accumulating a large number of significant experiences about life space, gradually form a rational understanding of learning, master this learn while playing, learning while doing skills, master how to learn efficiently and systematically based on abstract modeling.

With these rich significant experiences and rational understandings of life space, students can slowly appreciate and summarize our knowledge of life center, so as to master the ability to learn everything, to deal with all the thinking methods of complex systems, and to understand his/her own life.

And all of this is based on spatial feeling and spatial thinking.

A new educational paradigm based on modeling

The educational model of creative space is based on the educational model of abstract modeling, and all the operations in our education revolve around abstract modeling.

In this education system, all interactions are based on abstract modeling of knowledge.

Figure: Education based on abstract modeling


First of all, let’s look at knowledge.

Because it is based on abstract models, the knowledge in this new educational paradigm must be very rich.

This wealth of knowledge forms a widely connected knowledge. Knowledge is supposed to be broadly connected, isn’t it?

Learners see the knowledge models of their mentors, as well as the rich significant experiences behind them, and know how they are obtained, so that learners, on one hand, can understand them more easily, and on the other hand, learners automatically know what significant experiences they can gain in order to build up such knowledge models.

And knowledge based on abstract models is equal, communicative, not top-down authoritative or even coercive.

Learners can participate in the building of public or mentor’s knowledge models, such as providing their own relevant significant experiences.

This knowledge based on abstract models is dynamic. We all know that the process of modeling is to constantly apply existing abstract models and constantly adjust our abstract knowledge models based on the feedback we get from new significant experiences. Learners can also see the process of this dynamic adjustment of knowledge by the mentor. Everyone is a learner, so this new educational paradigm must be equal.

This dynamic knowledge must be closely connected to play, to life, and to community, and is constantly updated knowledge that is not as easily out of date as document-based knowledge of the past.

In fact, knowledge based on abstract models brings revolutionary changes in many aspects, and the knowledge engine we design is the work in this area. We’ll keep concise here without going into too much detail, so we’ll stop here.


We prefer the word learner to the word student.

So in this modeling-based education, our learners are engaged in learning that based on abstract modeling, which is very agile. As we said, it is like cruising in a life system, you’re ready to develop and adjust your learning strategies so you can learn the fastest and best, based on the feedback you get from your feel and exploration.

Our assessment of learners is based on the knowledge models and works that learners have and is in fact the same as our assessment when hiring mentors.


Our mentor’s guidance is also based on abstract modeling. This has been covered earlier.

Mentor recruitment is also based on knowledge models and works, as is the assessment of learners.

Our training and certification of mentors are based on abstract models. We certify mentors based on abstract models, such as their major knowledge domains and levels of knowledge, so that learners can choose mentors.

So we’ll have a matching platform for learners and mentors. Learners choose mentors, and mentors choose learners based on their knowledge models and works.


Finally, let’s look at what the role of a parent is like in modeling-based education.

Modeling-based knowledge expression is understandable and relevant to parents. Because knowledge models can connect knowledge in many fields, in fact, a lot of knowledge is connected. We don’t want to shut out parents with the kind of discipline knowledge that we used to have. In the past, it was difficult for parents to participate in their children’s education. But at the Paracraft Learning Center, parents can also participate, and parents are also in the process of continuous learning. Because our learning content is based on knowledge modeling, we can communicate with parents. The result is a more harmonious relationship with parents, rather than the very strained and distorted relationships with parents as in many schools and training institutions today.

Comparison of old and new educational paradigms

We believe that this educational model of the Paracraft Learning Centre represents a new educational paradigm. Compared with the old educational paradigm, which is composed of textbooks, teachers, and classrooms, we make a comparison from several dimensions. The purpose of the comparison is only to enable us to understand our educational model more systematically and comprehensively and to understand the meaning of our model more easily. We need to show that the new educational paradigm is a mature system as a whole and goes beyond the old educational paradigm in every way. I hope you can feel that we should have been able to enter such a new educational paradigm! Nothing can stop this progress if we are clear in our minds what education really is. So it’s important to make a comprehensive comparison. I hope the comparison below will give you more information.

Of course, as a contrast to the old educational paradigm, we just focus on its main characteristics in the system. We know that many teachers in conventional schools are actually doing a lot of great work in our direction trying to make a change to the current education, I have a few such teachers in my own life experience. We always have the greatest respect for such kinds of teachers! Our goal is to hope that everyone can become such a teacher. We hope that we work together to achieve the education of the future!

Knowledge and teachers

First of all, we look at the dimension of knowledge and teachers:

  1. a. The old paradigm: textbooks taught by non-professionals
    b. The new paradigm: many books that professionals understand and comprehend
  2. a. In the old paradigm, according to teachers’ books, linear learning: classes, assignments, examinations
    b. The new paradigm is organic, interactive learning
  3. a. In the old paradigm, there were no teachers with relevant knowledge models
    b. In the new paradigm, we have mentors with rich knowledge models
  4. a. In the old paradigm: teachers who have not been touched
    b. The new paradigm: mentors who have been touched countless times
  5. a. The old paradigm: Document-based knowledge, includes books
    b. The new paradigm is based on a knowledge model, which is built on top of significant experiences
  6. a. In the old paradigm, teachers tried to maintain false authority
    b. In the new paradigm, learners and mentors are equal. Although mentors have more abstract knowledge models, everyone is a learner.

Parental involvement

Let’s look at this dimension of parental involvement:

  1. a. The old paradigm was something that parents could not understand, because one of the core of the old paradigm was the division of subjects
    b. The new paradigm is something that parents can understand
  2. a. Parents in the old paradigm were not the object of education. Only children need education
    b. Parents are also part of the new paradigm and are involved
  3. a. In the old paradigm, parents did not need to know about learning and education, which was a matter belonging to the experts
    b. In the new paradigm, we help parents understand education. Our philosophy is that everyone should understand education.

Teacher-student relationship

Let’s look at the dimensions of the teacher-student relationship:

  1. a. The old paradigm was war with children, and the usually gentle teacher immediately turned into an animal tamer as soon as he entered the classroom
    b. The new paradigm is fun and relaxing
  2. a. In the old paradigm, teachers did not have the relevant knowledge, but merely maintained an authority
    b. The mentoring in the new paradigm is easy for truly knowledgeable mentors
  3. a. Teachers in the old paradigm do not learn
    b. Mentors in the new paradigm study with students. This is mainly due to several reasons: mentors are professionals, need to learn constantly, and eager to learn, and the best learning is to teach others; learning to understand children is to know of themselves, will help them remember how they learned when they were young; to learn more about what learning is; to learn what education is, everyone will become a parent, so education is everyone’s business, not just the so-called education experts.

Teacher training

Finally, let’s look at the differences between the old and new paradigms from the dimensions of teacher training:

  1. a. In the old paradigm, teachers did not have professional practical knowledge and taught full-time
    b. In the new paradigm, mentors are professionals, the best teachers, and do not give up their jobs and mentor in their spare time
  2. a. In the old paradigm, teachers were assessed and certified through so-called standardized tests
    b. In the new paradigm, evaluation and certification through abstract knowledge models and works
  3. a. Teachers in the old paradigm had no career in the industry and no study!
    b. Mentoring in the new paradigm is part of professional learning. Never stop learning!
  4. a. Teacher training in the old paradigm was done through teacher colleges, which is also classroom-based
    b. The training and supervision process in the new paradigm is completely different.

Here we focus on the training and supervision process in the new paradigm. First of all, the mentors in the new paradigm are excellent professionals who have passed the assessment in the mentor recruitment process and have relevant knowledge models and learning experience. Then we have the following training process:

 Read our social media and brochures, as well as past learning records, to build a general understanding
 Then there’s the internship:
 Learn in the same way as students in PLCs
 Observe how mentors mentor students in PLCs
 Further, become an assistant to help the mentor
 The next step is to enter the trial period while maintaining learning records. We provide feedback through these learning records to help them improve their mentoring skills
 Mentors who go through these steps can officially become our contracted mentors.


These are the learning/educational models of the creative spaces we share. We think this model is of great significance.


First of all, different from many SDE, our SDE is not full-time. Students usually spend 2 hours a week with us. But these two hours are a rare chance for students to explore freely. We give our children such a space so that they can have a breathing space in the running from class to class, can re-experience what they have been very good when they are before going to school, their free exploration skills of learning, which melts play, learn and create together in wholesome learning.

In the operation of the creative space, we do see that young children still have the ability to explore learning, such as doing experiments in their learning, to try various uses of a particular block in Paracraft, to figure out all its properties. The older the children are, the more they are used to just asking the teacher directly. The even older children are not only used to asking the teacher, but also expect the teacher to give direct answers. When the teacher try to guide them to find out for themselves, these children will complain about it. Adults don’t even have questions, they just expect the teacher to give lectures, or wait for the teacher to finish class and assign homework. But after a while in the creative space, they gradually resume the exploratory learning they would have at an early age, to feel themselves and explore our resources to learn, and to arrange their own time, knowing how to arrange projects together with other learning tasks. In their previous school experiences, no one ever told them that these are learning, but at PLC we keep telling them that these are learning!

Mentors in creative spaces need to observe carefully how their children play and learn, and then tell them what they are learning. For example, tell children their ways to explore, experiment, and search for information is learning. They sense their abilities in the small projects list and pick the projects they can do at the time: this is learning too. When they take a rest from working on their projects, they usually will browse through our learning document to see if they can gain more knowledge, and that’s learning. They explore other people’s good works, such as complex puzzle games or programming games, to learn the use of various traps and command lines, to study how other people’s code is written, to challenge themselves, to see if they can quickly master more complex programming, this is learning. They reflect and summarize, this is learning. Every day we ask our children what they have learned today, to let them know that their “play” is a natural learning process, and is the most efficient learning so that they can build a clear understanding and gradually form a conscious system in their minds as to how to learn. In Paracraft’s learning system, gradually, as their in-depth experience accumulates, we also help them build a rational understanding of the true nature of learning.

Therefore, Paracraft’s learning, although only takes up a small part of the students’ time in a week, but gives them a space to explore freely, so that they can take a breath and gradually restore their natural learning ability.

With these learning abilities, they can still go to study in those traditional classes, can learn other things, but they will gradually learn to be self-directed in those environments, not led by the nose by the teacher, but take the teacher’s class as part of their own self-learning, and pay attention to enriching their real learning outside the classroom. The world is not perfect, nothing is perfect, they will learn how to deal with the imperfect world.

For all the families

Children in PLC come from all kinds of families. We didn’t exclude any students. Many people say that SDE is only suitable for certain students. The running of creative space proves that SDE is suitable for all. The parents of these students have basically never heard of SDE. The fact that we have very few lessons has been questioned by parents at the beginning. Friends familiar with SDE know that parents who generally send their children to SDE communities to study have a deep understanding and confidence in SDE. However, SDE actually has great advantages. We need to be able to express that advantage very well. What I said above is our efforts on this. We need to be good at communicating with parents, so that ordinary parents can understand the model of SDE, recognize the great advantages of SDE.

PLC thus helps the vast number of ordinary families to have access to SDE, to experience SDE. We think this is of great importance to the spreading of SDE. At present, SDE is still far from being mainstream. For the vast number of ordinary families, let children participate in full-time SDE, for those parents not already having a very deep understanding and strong beliefs of SDE, it is a very difficult decision to make. I think the creative space model provides an opportunity for the average family to have a try of SDE.

Moreover, we feel that educators should not always want to have an ideal perfect environment for children. No world is perfect. But we need to give our children daily access to the beauty of life so that they can often feel the power of life. Don’t let them be in a life-suppressing environment for too long and gradually lose the power of life.

Of course, it is not only the spreading of SDE, this kind of education should be the future of education, and it is the new educational paradigm. Through this essay, we also hope that we can see that this new educational paradigm is a mature system, and it can become a new economic form. This article doesn’t have the length to talk about the corresponding business model and even the overall economic form of the new education, which we can talk about in another essay.

Education of the future

As for the future of education, we have a mature systemic thinking. Here’s just for some simplicity.
Finland has abolished subject-based education, but in most other countries it is subject-based education, although SDE is booming in many countries. The old education paradigm, do not care about students’ interest since it is all about passing the tests. Therefore, in the tests-based education system, no matter how you emphasize on student-centered, it is impossible. But the education of the future must be truly student-centered. The Paracraft Learning Center’s educational model, as shown here, is student-centered education.

What should you do if you aspire to devote your life to education and aspire to work on this future-oriented, student-centered education?

The first is to find a playground or build a playground. For example, in Nature Learning, they take the rich nature as the media of learning, let children do free exploratory learning in nature, at the same time have the guidance of the mentor. For example, in the field of English learning, you can consider how to build a fun and rich playground. For scientific learning, including math learning, we can all build such playgrounds.

With a playground to explore freely, then we will also have the mentoring of the mentors. Mentors must have a wealth of learning experience, hands-on experience, or we can say a wealth of significant experiences and related abstract knowledge models (that is, have their own holistic understanding). We have a brochure giving advice on how to mentor. Mentors are only for students who have somehow lost the free exploratory skills and habits due to schooling, helping them recover those skills.

Then there are the learning records, as what can be reflected upon to form knowledge, or reusable units of knowledge. Our knowledge engine is designed to turn learning records into truly interactive knowledge.

We share all of these, hope that more people can join us, so we can discuss and exchange ideas, together to achieve the future of education!

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Forced Schooling, Anxiety, and ‘Learning Disorders’ —Early academic pressure creates learning blocks, diagnosed as disorders.



经得Peter Gray同意,开源学习将持续翻译转载Peter Gray在Psychology Today上的专栏Freedom to Learn里的文章. 我们已经成立了专门的Freedom to Learn翻译小组,将陆续的在这里会推出我们的翻译文章。请大家关注!

Peter Gray简介:波士顿大学的心理学教授,美国大学本科心理学教材的作者(已经更新到第8版),他在神经内分泌学,发展心理学,人类学,教育学诸多方面有学术研究和发表文献。他在哥伦比亚大学获得本科学位,并在洛克菲勒大学获得生物学博士学位。他当前的研究和写作领域主要是研究孩子自然的学习方式以及玩在人生中的意义。他是多年的瑟谷模式和自主教育的倡导者与布道师。《玩耍精神,会玩的孩子真的有出息》是他的著作《Free to Learn》的中文版。他在Psychology Today上长期写作专栏:Freedom to Learn。Peter Gray是自主教育联盟(Alliance for Self-Directed Education )的创始人之一,前主席。Peter Gray的玩,除了他的研究与写作外,还包括远途自行车、皮划艇、越野滑雪和蔬菜园艺。




其他研究结果都一致的表明,被标注为某种学习障碍症的学童都经历了焦虑的状态—-尤其是和他们的学业相关的焦虑—-是比其他学童要高得多的焦虑。(Nelson & Harwood, 2011; Panicker & Chelliah, 2016)。毫不奇怪的,大量的研究发现,焦虑会抑制学习(Gray编辑,2013)。学校,几乎从其设计本身,就决定了是生产焦虑的工厂。试想一下,如果你是一个敏感的孩子,因为某种原因,在学校的朗读课里不能像你的同学一样很好的发音。(实际上,我不需要想象这个,我只需要回忆即可。因为在我上学的头几年我就曾经是一个很差的朗读者,并因此经常感到羞辱。)你经常被叫到在全班同学面前大声朗读,而其他同学似乎都比你做得更好。你僵在那里。你想嘶喊,你想逃跑。但是你不能。不管老师多么友善,这都是不可改变的事情。实际上,如果老师很友善的话,情况会更加糟糕。因为你就不能因此抱怨老师,所有的都只能是你的错。





这里是其中一个研究,这个研究不仅调查了早期培训与整体学业能力的对应关系,还调查了有多少人最终被诊断为某种学习障碍症。这就是田纳西州幼儿园前研究((Lipsey et al., 2018)。 (译者注:在美国,幼儿园前,Pre-Kindergarten,是指4到5岁的孩子在上幼儿园之前的一到两年去上的班。)我曾经在之前的一篇文章(这里)讲过这个研究,但这里我想对其中的一些结果做更细节的呈现。

这个田纳西州的研究开始于州政府给一个面向低收入家庭的幼儿园前阶段的教育项目提供了财政资助时,由Vanderbilt 大学的研究者们担任了这项研究任务,研究这个教育项目的效果。因为申请这教育项目的家庭人数超额,该项目用一个随机的过程来决定谁被录取谁不被录取。那些没有被录取的孩子被归类到该研究的对照组。这些研究者发现,在幼儿园的初始阶段,那些曾经参加了这个教育培训项目的孩子在学业考试上表现的更好,但这个优势很快就消失掉了。到了三年级,那些曾经参与了该教育培训项目的孩子比对照组在学业以及其他方面都表现的更差。很明显,待在家里,即使你来自很贫穷的家庭,在最终的学业成绩方面,也比那些参加了早期学业教育的孩子表现更优秀。



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Goals of Programing Learning Camp based on Life Framework Theory



  • 初级目标是我们希望每个学习者都能够达到的。选择参加这个学习营的学习者,我们希望你们能至少朝着这个目标努力。
  • 体验编程,了解编程怎么回事,以后想深入的时候随时可以继续深入。编程虽然需要掌握的东西挺多,需要付出时间,但你可以很从容,没有焦虑,在需要的时候付出时间学到自己需要的层次
  • 学习生命中心,抽象建模,复杂系统,和自己的专业与工作联系起来,在生活和工作中能够运用
  • 能够与自己工作或生活中需要打交道的程序员进行交流,甚至让他们感觉可能你比他们更懂编程。比领域专家更懂该领域,这本身就是优秀的程序员经常干的事情,因为我们经常需要对不同的领域进行数字化,必须对这些领域有本质的了解。你也将获得这种能力。
  • 学会如何去探索事物本质的能力,如何拆解,如何整合,如何做实验搞清楚每一个独立的部分,等等。
  • 学会知识学习中的抽象建模能力,包括善于抓取自己学习上的重要体验的能力,可以更高效的进行学习。养成反思的习惯,学会什么时候慢下来,什么时候快起来。快速实验,快速试错,勇于探索和尝试,快速迭代,需要反思的时候能够高效的进行反思。什么时候快什么时候慢,有时候欲速则不达,这是个艺术,需要自己去体会和把握。
  • 能够写一些简单的代码,不再有代码恐惧症。
  • 可以用抽象建模的方法设计并实现一些复杂度比较小的程序。



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Software Programming, What to learn?

Current only in Chinese. However, you can try Bing Translator to read it in English: bing.com/Translator



建模,机器,数学(依据某领域的数学来做新的软件),UI,工具,生态。 除了工具有必须熟能生巧的成分和各软件生态的熟悉需要一定时间外,其他都可以通过建模思维去快速学习,数学本来就是建模。




















抽象建模思维之一,就是把大的东西分解成各个独立的个体,然后对这些独立的个体分别弄清楚。 基本指令,就是学习编程的初始的玩地。

在我们的教育实践中,我也发现很多孩子自然的就有这样的能力,不仅是对每个指令会利用我们在编辑器里提供的各种范例来了解这个指令的使用(我们并没有教他们去这样使用,完全都是他们自己到处点探索出来的。好的软件设计本身也应该是这样的,方便人的探索。) 另外,很多孩子还会单独创建一个代码方块自己写更多的例子来测试这个指令。很多孩子很喜欢改跑步或者走路等指令的参数,看看如果特别快或者特别慢会是什么效果。




















– 与人交互最主要的大家最直觉的表层的抽象模型应该是什么?
– 然后这个抽象模型里的具体的每一个部分展开后有应该有什么样的细节的抽象模型?
– 需要分几个层次?

– 首先应该开发出来的是什么?是否是一个完整的整体,人一看就能懂,就知道如何交互?
– 如何获得用户的反馈,确定后续迭代的重点?
– 同样的分层,需要分几层?
– 创造出来的游戏是否是富有生命的,“好玩”的?玩家在其中的有多大的自由可以去“玩”或者说在多底层可以去改变,甚至学习和创造?
















三者间关系的把握:一定要有实物,要动手。不要只是阅读抽象的理论。 如果讲机器,就要有能接触到的机器,哪怕是虚拟的。

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Variable and Data Structure are abstract modeling



通过变量,我们把一个复杂领域分离出来了变化的部分和不变的部分,或者说我们识别出来了其中的生命中心。比如distance, speed这样的变量,就是这些领域的生命中心,代表那个不变的抽象模型,虽然它们的值是可以变化的。正是通过把变化中不变的部分识别出来,我们完成了对该领域或问题的抽象建模

程序员写一个程序,要创造很多自己的变量。优秀的程序员往往在对这些变量的设计包括命名上有卓越的能力,也懂得花费心思做好变量的设计与命名工作。会起名字的都是高手! 不仅仅是在编程领域,可以说在很多领域都是如此,比如音乐领域里窦唯就是有名的会起名。命名的过程,其实就是感知和创造生命中心的过程。








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Open Source Learning Hiring Volunteers

​“开源学习”组织是致力于推广自主教育,尤其是瑟谷模式的公益组织。“开源学习”是自主教育联盟 The Alliance for Self-Directed Education ASDE(全球性组织,总部在美国,创始人彼得格雷 Peter Gray)在中国的联系组织。在软件研发方面,“开源学习”长期专注学习软件上需要的技术突破,正确的对学习和教育进行数字化。比如我们认为知识的基本单元是重要体验,知识是基于重要体验上的抽象模型。同时“开源学习”致力于新教育范式的探讨,比如导学应该如何进行,“玩地”应该如何建设,如何进行平等坦诚的生命交流。生命框架理论是我们提出的涵盖计算机科学,教育,管理,生物等等诸多科学技术与艺术人文领域的理论框架,我们期待基于该框架来建设未来教育的理论基础,欢迎大家一起来建设,一起来重新认识学习和教育!自主教育百年来已经有了丰富的实践经验,我相信我们现在处于一个急需系统理论建设的关口,以推动自主教育走向更广阔人群和整个社会。





– 目前主要是参与大概每月一次的地方组织者的线上交流会。需要英语好。需要偶尔夜猫子一下,因为一般是北京时间夜里3点左右的会;
– 参与自主教育联盟论坛的讨论,分享我们在中国这边实践的经验以及中国自主教育开展的进展;
– 如果英语足够好,可以帮我把自主教育的很多文章翻译成英文。翻译方面可以和我做些交流。









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Properties of Life Centers

There is only Chinese version for now.

生命中心(Life Center)是克里斯多夫亚历山大(Christopher Alexander)的提出的概念。他是著名的建筑家,但对软件业的影响深远。



第二条属性则是自我阐释,界面友好,易于交互,好玩 。同样的,生命中心的概念是可以适用于所有有生命的生命体的,而生命中心的概念,认为凡是能够被人所识别的都是生命。所以生命中心是可以普遍运用于各个领域的。当运用于不同的领域时,我们相应的用那个领域的词汇去表述这个属性。比如在软件设计或者产品设计里,我们说要界面友好,易于交互。而对于作为生命中心的个体的人,我们说要能够很好的表达自己,让别人一看就知道你是做什么的,应该如何跟你交道,或者知道如何跟你玩。自我阐释,好玩,这样的词我们可以认为是比较根本的词,在各个领域里我们都可以去使用。所以你看,知识在不同的领域都会有呈现,但是会呈现出那个领域的一面。在不同领域工作的人,从自己个人的角度与这些知识进行互动,获得个人的体验,表达出来一定是带有个人的特殊角度的语言的。所以仅仅是学会书本上的语言,不能够自我表达的人,我们不认为对知识有自己的理解。而对知识有多领域的经验的人,能够获得对知识深层的理解,知道知识在不同领域变化的形式,可以变化着不同的语言去表达,并能够针对不同的人去用对方合适的语言去表述。我想,这些是不是让我们对知识是什么增加了一些了解呢?对“教”多了一些理解呢?





第四条属性,复杂的生命体系往往是分层的,每层包含数个生命中心,并且各层相对独立。比如设计的好的软件系统,就应该有良好的分层。这样我们在了解低层的功能时,我们不用担心去看高层的功能,我们只需要在底层的生命中心间去玩即可。而我们对底层的生命中心有一定掌握后,我们可以上到更高的层面,去跟那个层面的生命中心去玩,以达到对那个层的理解。不好的分层,则会当我们了解低层的功能时,发现经常需要去看高层是做什么的。在了解高层的功能时,发现又经常要涉及低层的东西。这就是软件设计里很不好的意大利面条的设计(spaghetti code),一团糟的。在学习中,我们面对复杂的知识体系,也往往是通过逐层推进的方式来进行的。因为每层是相对独立的,我们不用担心我们不能对这些知识一下达到透彻的理解,我们可以放心的先达到某一层的整体理解,靠这个理解去指导我们的行动,在获得了更多的体验后或者在有了更好的资源后,我们再期待可以达到下一个层面的整体理解。同时,如果说对于一个领域,我们的兴趣或者我们主要要做的事情并不需要我们达到下一个层面的那种细节的认知程度时,我们就不用盲目进入下一层的学习。比如我对学习历史有业余爱好,对历史的学习往往能够帮助我理解我现在所处的社会。但是我不是专业搞历史研究的,当我发现我对历史的学习在某些地方已经可以进入到去看第一手的材料的时候,我并没有盲目的进入到那个层去。因为我知道进入那一层,获得那一层的技能和整体认知,需要投入的精力有多大。所以我满足于目前我对历史学的这一层,还是尽量的依靠史学大家的总结出来的知识,靠他们帮我去过滤,进一步丰富这一层的知识,有时间有好资源的时候就看一下。但我不会把大量的时间投入到历史的学习中去了。其他要学习的东西太多了。其实大中心里包含数个小中心也是分层,从抽象的角度看。










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Introduction to Life Centers

Only the Chinese version is available now.


生命中心(Life Center)是克里斯多夫亚历山大(Christopher Alexander)的提出的概念。他是著名的建筑家,但对软件业的影响深远。















所以我们说生命是本自具足的, 而不是所谓的一张白纸等着老师们在上面作画。这点也是我们同那些现代教育之父们根本不同的一点。也许他们并不完全认同人如白纸,但他们应该对生命的本自具足是没有很深的认识的。本自具足的意思是当有限的生命从虚空蹦出来的同时其本身就已经包含了虚空的一切,包括绝对静止和完美。也正是因为本自具足,我们说生命是平等的。所以虽然我们有知识上的不同,但在教育上我们不能因为知识上的不同而形成僵化的权威,而要通过我们对教育设施与组织方式的建设,去尽量的实现教育上的平等。所以我这里讲的教育平等是指学生和老师之间的平等。

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Is my child playing or learning?





















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