Learning without Limits in 21st Century Learning Spaces
By Justin Levitt
The complexity of today’s technology is becoming an increasing source of tension in the classroom. While technology’s ability to simplify a myriad of functions (e.g., monitoring the school day, repositioning shelves in the store or stocking a vending machine) has quickly improved the delivery of instruction and accountability in many schools, its creative ability to enhance our ideas has proved to be just as dynamic.
But from a teacher’s perspective, technology has great potential to disrupt the learning process and, in turn, constrain creativity and innovation in a learning environment. As a teacher educator, I find the necessity to continuously balance the necessary and positive uses of technology with the need to preserve the intellectual freedom of today’s students. And what has changed in recent years, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2013, is that individuals today are more aware than ever of the social, political and economic forces that determine their success, and they are prepared to direct this energy to achieve it.
My reasoning behind this statement is that understanding social, political and economic forces has made our idea-sharing, creativity and innovation spaces more stable and enticing than ever before. Specifically, he structure of social and political environments and their mechanisms for possible interference in our liberty of ideas and expression have changed, moving from debates over the powers of a state to confrontations over the free pursuit of knowledge and knowledge creation. And despite this, today’s parents are more confident than ever in the potential that technology offers to enrich education, as well as bring new educational opportunities to the students.
However, these activities must be managed to ensure the free flow of ideas and the ability to conduct them in a manner deemed suitable for the environment.
To achieve this balance, consider the following:
Experimentation is ultimately an expression of individual imagination and freedom. In creating something new, we create the creative possibilities available to the imaginations of others. Not only is experimentation permitted in learning (not to mention encouraged) but our notions of what is “idea-sharing” and “Idea Society” have come to encompass experimentation as well.
Principal Sorts Out Ground Rules
Formalized rules about how we test ideas and their definition of “idea” are a critical part of the space that is created around them. In general, the best rules to adopt are ideas like “It’s the effort and the plan that counts, not the final product” and “Haste makes waste.”
Sometimes it is helpful to impose restrictions. However, as teacher Alan Schwartz argues in “Creating an Ideological Curriculum,” “Such limits should be framed as best practices—as a norm, not a limit.” Even more often, our rules regarding how we conduct research—from regard for peer analysis, quality control, etc.—must be framed in the context of an individual learning experience in the classroom. The goal of these rules is to protect our students from unnatural expectations from people who are unfamiliar with such an education, as well as encourage others to be engaged and form quality ideas with us.
Question your rules, boundaries and activities to ensure that they foster the habits of independent, creative practice and not being restricted by ideas or concerns of others.
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