Here we want to share a simplified version of our vision of the roadmap to future education. We hope to use this vision to guide activities of Open Source Learning, and to bring along efforts in this direction.
It is our vision that the future education is Self-Learning.
Recently Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) was formed to promote Self-Directed Education. For decades, there have been two distinctive movements in the states and around the world. One is unschooling movement, and the other is democratic schools or free schools movement. Unschooling movement, as in US, often takes the form of homeschooling due to the regulation requirements, so unschooling families have to register as homeschooling. However, unschooling is dramatically different from homeschooling in term of its learning methodologies. For example, there is no curriculum, and if you are familiar with Sudbury Valley School(SVS) many of unschooling’s practices are very similar to those of SVS . Democratic schools, represented by Sudbury Valley School (SVS), and free schools, represented by Summerhill, although have different emphasis where they started (democracy vs. freedom), the resulting educational/learning methodologies and practices are quite the same, so are that of unschooling communites. From what they shared on social media such as facebook or twitter, if you have been reading for a while you can easily see that what they are talking about overlap with each other a lot, and you can easily identify a list of central ideas, practices and methodologies that have been repeated over and over again in these communities. However, outside these communities, such ideas, practices and methodologies are rarely known. So that is why ASDE is created to summarize all these ideas, practices and methodologies and label them as Self-Directed Education (SDE), and put it on the map for the mainstream to learn about. SDE is a mature set of practices and methodologies. These SDE communities have been around for decades, and they already have several generations of graduates. And there are already a lot of published materials about them. People ought to know them to see if SDE can be a valid option for themselves. To me, I feel this effort is to really bring about the true face of learning to people. We heard such twisted terms such as “Informal Learning”, “Flipped Classroom”, and etc., but really the conventional classroom based teaching is what is flipped and self-learning is the real learning and the formal learning. Another relatively new but quite popular recent phenomena is learning centers. There are two major groups of learning centers, one is North Star Learning Centers, the other is Agile Learning Centers. Each has about 10 to 20 centers. They are also part of ASDE and share the same philosophies of SDE. Democratic/free schools and learning centers have physical space so the way they organize around learning is a bit different from that of unschooling. But unschooling also has the national or even global support and resources. For example, Not Back To School Camp led by Grace Llewellyn, Grow Without School(GWS) magazine run by John Holt and his legacy inheritor Pat Farenga, and filed trip programs run by Blake Boles, and so on. (The people mentioned above are all involved with ASDE). Unschooling families often have to make efforts to find local communities, but there is also online forum to help with that, and ASDE also intends to address that. I am not going to go into more details of how these groups communities differ and also I will skip listing the central ideas and practices of SDE here.
So we believe what ASDE is doing (advocate of SDE and putting it on the map) is the right step we need to take in our march toward future education. As these communities are becoming more mature, and decades of practices have produced generations of graduates and lot of self-published content, it is time to unite all the efforts from various communities and brand them with a name and introduce it to the general public. However, we also feel that maybe we can take a bigger step. ASDE intentionally confines/focuses SDE for children. However, we know that the education/learning methodologies in the universities are fundamentally the same as the primary/secondary/middle schools. And graduates from those SDE communities have no other outlets to go if they want to pursue further education and they all have to somehow “adapt” to the old education/learning methodologies that are used in current universities or higher education institutions. Such “adaption” is usually just a short period of time, and since the graduates from these communities have learned self-learning skills, they usually find it easy to overcome such an adaption period. However, there is still a phase of adaption period. So we at OSL think that why not just take a bigger step? We can just come up with a new education/learning framework that can replace the old education framework, which has only 150 years of history and whose creation is to serve the mass production based economy at the time. Today around the world in different countries, even the education can be very different in different countries and in different types of schools, they are fundamentally based on the same education framework, e.g. the class based educational framework. With just 150 years of history, this old educational framework has already deeply influenced how people think of education, so people in our modern times cannot think of education/learning without the concept of class. This is even true for many people who are supposed to innovate in education field with internet. So it is easy to understand why so many elearning or online learning sites are still based on classes (oh yeah, MOOC). And we know Sudbury has no class, and it can operate at a cost cheaper than public schools in the same neighborhood, and they have been doing so for 50 years. So it is time to have a new educational framework to replace the old one. Free Progress Education (FPE), outlined by Marco (who I got to know from ASDE commnunity) has outlined such a framework for us (I would strongly recommend you read it since it is well framed). FPE rightly pointed out that what we need is a new general education/learning framework that is very different from the old one, and we have to apply such framework to both child education and adult education. In addition to the common practices and methodologies in SDE, Marco added a few things to be essential of such a new framework, which we here at OSL agree and share deeply (evident from our past essays and speeches, which you can read on this site). Such things include: emphasis on self-reflection and understanding; anyone can be teachers; portfolios and new ways of evaluation; the need of infrastructure, both physically and also in term of software (For details of what these mean, please read of them on FPE). We think this is a more general framework than SDE to replace the old framework in child education and adult education. This framework can be further enriched or made more detailed. Things like software infrastructure also need to be built up to support it.
So we do feel that we should be able to take such a bigger step. What we want to do for child education can also be built under the same education framework, so we can accumulate our experiences and iterate through our experiments. It is time for us to replace the old education/learning framework with the new framework in our internet age. This new framework is essentially a framework of self-learning. The software built by Open Source Learning(OSL) can be part of the software infrastructure for this new framework (many other kinds of software are still needed), since OSL’s software is designed from the beginning to overcome these difficulties and to support such a self-learning future. We also hope our software can be inspiration for other software programmers who share the same vision, and contribute software for this direction. From software perspectives, since learning is essentially activities of consciousness, the kind of software is consciousness software. Knowledge Engine is the engine for consciousness software. It transforms Significant Experiences into knowledge, which we believe can be the base of all consciousness software. And we believe there will be a flourishing of consciousness software in the near future.
So this is what we understand as the roadmap to future education. The mature practices and content from current SDE communities make the time ready to propose such a new educational framework, and put this new framework into practice and enrich and refine it along the process, and expand the self-directed learning communities. The software supporting self-directed learning can truly be put into good use and push self-directed learning to the mainstream people, and thus to transform education fundamentally.
We offer this proposal here for you to contemplate with. We hope more forces can recognize this and participate in refining, enriching and applying this new framework.
So Self-Learning is the future education. Let’s make self-learning easier and bring out the true face of learning!
Update: we propose Self-Directed Learning frameworks as the set of new learning frameworks that we can use to replace the old classroom based education framework. And work is underway to define what major features should the Self-Directed Learning frameworks have.
Please refer the previous two articles to learn more about ASDE and FPE.