The importance of reconceptualizing learning

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What I was doing while the Educhicas were meeting: waiting for the commuter rail. All the people with their eyes glued to a screen seemed indicative to me–of our “age,” of the US, of something, that’s for sure.

Yesterday, the Educhicas (minus me) met to finalize our event plans.  They made an awesome outline that sets up our opening of the event, thematic pillars to organize the posters and photos, and guided discussion.  In the opening, my part is to talk about the importance of reconceptualizing learning.  OY.  It’s one of those things that I know, but is all jumbled up in my head in no coherent order.  Luckily, I have our glorious blog to peruse, so I’m going to start by extracting some pieces of what we’ve already said:

  • “Working with Sonia and Lily has reaffirmed a lesson that I learned abroad and what I consider to be the most important thing I have ever learned- the fact that laughter, love, and friendship are not limited by culture or language.” 
  • “girl activist who had said she learned far more from the people who shared their stories at rallies than anyone who had ever spoken at her.  It was a space where we were learning from each other and it was an education in activism, community support, and solidarity.”
  • “What unites the learners is a belief that learning is practiced for the sheer joy of it—rather than to acquire certification or secure a job. Learning occurs when we engage with the world, in friendship with others, using our hands and wits and reflecting on our discoveries…as a mood, a way of doing and thinking that provides another option to learners who are seeking to discover things for themselves. Learning is not about getting it right or becoming the expert; it is about creating an environment of conviviality, discovery, and joyfulness.
  • “We were able to practice some words with her and at this point I felt like the teacher and her the learner/student. It’s great to be a in a situation where these roles are constantly being reversed and switched. Such role reversals is the way the education system should always be, and the way I see it being the most beneficial […] We say that Sonia and Lily serve as an example for what education looks like and how we can learn things outside the classroom wether that is with Ray workers, on a poster next to McPhails, in a Capstone class, etc.”
  • The obsession with formal education and the US diploma have led to a valuation of that knowledge above the learning that takes places within relationships and among people who don’t have a piece of paper saying they’re $200,000 in debt for their degree.”
  • “My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors”
  • “Deconstructing what it means to have a college diploma/degree and analyzes whether or not it is symbolic (representing this notion of being “educated”) or substantive (you’ve actually learned the necessary things one needs to make it in the world, beyond just a classroom) is really really cool.”
  • “I’m not suggesting we get rid of colleges and universities. I’m not disillusion. But, we need to look more at the structural, underlying issues. I think it starts with our country’s perception of success. It is ingrained in our belief system that to be successful you have to go to a four year college directly out of high school and now, for the most part, pursue a MBA, Masters or PhD. […] Why do we put so much emphasis on learning INSIDE a classroom, when in reality, the majority of learning happens outside it?
  • “I doubt that it’s the first time anyone’s ever asked them that, but I would imagine students don’t often get asked that question.  At the least, I hope this prompt got learners thinking about their role and autonomy (or lack there of it) within learning.”
  • ” On the one hand, I am looking at this through the lens of an institution.  If education starts with the family, one of the most basic institutions within society, then it seems to be just a transferal from one institution to the next.  The optimist in me would prefer to look at Lily’s comment as education begins with a relationship.  Mother and child.  From there it just flows from relationship to relationship.  Relationships are the basis of learning communities.  Somehow though, these learning communities have become lost and mixed up with the bureaucratic and exclusionary nature of institutions.  I hope our project might be a drop in the pond in reclaiming education and these desired learning communities.”

..and all that is just since April 15th!

So, why is it important to reconceptualize learning?  I’m struggling a little, because I want to let the stories, photos, and posters speak for themselves.  I’ll try to keep my piece brief, then.  If we reconceptualize learning, we can appreciate others’ experiences and stories better.  We can see that learning is not the prerogative of the formal education system, but rather a piece of what we as individuals gain through relationships and life experiences.  Understanding learning like this begins removing the barriers between us, students/teachers, degree holders/not, etc.  Our communities are strengthened when we recognize each member’s ability to contribute to the learning of others through strong relationships.  We also tend to enjoy learning that takes place on those terms a lot more, which means for the deeper, more creative learning necessary for a better world.

What do you think?  How does that sound?  Did I leave anything out, should I be more aggressive?  I won’t read it word for word, but I just need a guide so I’m somewhat coherent.  Ah!  I’m already nervous.



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