Another dot in the blogosphere?

An emerging group of learners

Posted on: October 24, 2014

While learners are diverse, kids who go to school can be divided into at least three groups.

The first two groups are obvious: Those that school well and those that fall through the cracks.

Societies favour the first group. Most kids, irrespective of who they are or what they might do, learn to be schooled. If schools are like factories, then these are the kids that pass quality control.

The second group is those that cannot make it through the factory door or are thrown out the back door. These could be kids that have special needs, end up in prison, or are marginalized in school for whatever reason. Some people label these kids non-traditional learners.

There is a third and less obvious group of learners. These are kids that find their own way without conventional schooling or despite it. These are the real non-traditional learners.

These kids are self-directed, aware of who they are, and more driven to self actualize. They are typically born into family or support structures that enable them to operate this way.

For this group of kids, school is often boring and an inconvenience to tolerate. They know where they are going or must go; they are sidetracked to school because of the dictates of society.

Why are this type of non-traditional learners emerging now? Like germinating seeds, they are doing so because certain conditions are right.

Technology enables learners of all ages to learn beyond text, reach out to experts, connect with others, and create on the world stage. These are things that schools do not emphasize enough and some even take punitive steps to prevent.

Another condition is progressive research and pedagogical innovation that reveal how we learn and explore more effective ways to teach. We have started to question established but ineffective ways of doing things and think of ways to change them.

Still another is how quickly new information spreads to educators via open and social online platforms. Take the explosion of educator tweet chats for example.

All these will help the learner of today (and tomorrow) to help themselves, define their own professions, and shape their own careers. They need not be told by the results of high-stakes assessment of their worth. They need not be told by content experts that they are unable or stupid.

Never before have learners been so potentially empowered. That might be what scares parents and teachers alike. But I hope that more adults overcome this fear and guide their kids on their journey. For like a germinating seed, there is no growing backward.

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