On Monday, March 4th, to kickoff the SXSW 2019 event, Pam Moran and Ira Socol held a session at the Hilton Austin Downtown discussing their new book, Timeless Learning (also written by Chad Ratliff). Our discussion began with the question: What do kids say they want to be when they grow up? After we were encouraged to discuss amongst ourselves, we presented to the group. We looked beyond actual careers paths, and our findings were this: children are driven by their passion, by who they look up to, and by a problem they want to solve. This is an important realization to make because it tells us that children are optimistic for the future and they have value in their core selves. When educators are able to identify and nourish those positive core values, they are able to create open possibilities that are both transformative and imaginative (OPTI world view, as put by Moran).
Moran and Socol explained, “when students and educators are given the opportunity to run loose, they solve problems in a more creative way.” After experimenting with this timeless learning and zero-based thinking style in a sample classroom, the students created an open concept and were more fluid in their learning styles. They were given their assignments ahead of time and the kids were more driven and self-motivated to complete their tasks on time because they became more self-accountable. They also have more options to study in their style without having to conform to one way of operating. Another finding was quite astonishing: when the children owned their environment, the behavioral issues disappeared. There was less time spent controlling the class and more time spent collaborating and working silently.
Another finding from this sample was the importance of empowering the curiosity and imagination within our educators first. How do we get them excited? We need to think about what they need in order to generate creative energy and run a thriving learning space. What it would take to unleash the creativity in educators in order to unleash the creativity in their students? To visualize this, each educator must define what success means in their classroom and how to measure this. Are the children smiling? Are they happy? Are there kids in the hallway during class? Are they safe? Are they comfortable? Are their resources met? There are many factors that may indicate a conducive learning environment, and asking these kinds of questions is a good place to start. Once these goals are set in place, there needs to be an infrastructure of support that surrounds these values through team-based learning and training our educators.
Once these systems are established, it is important to revisit student assessment on the new learning model to measure success while keeping in mind students start in different places on their learning journey. Children don’t know less than one another, they just know different. And by sharing the power, or rather empowering them to design their workspaces and think about their learning environment creatively while problem-solving with their peers, they feel heard and valued in their space. It may be a controversial statement to make (here goes), but schools should be designed for the student. Because schools are such unique places, this model will look different in every school. Although a child who grows up on the east coast will have a different experience than that of a child growing up on the opposite side of the country, the opportunities are still there. As long as we are putting humanity back in the schools, this model can still work, it just takes some imagination and support. And as the authors so eloquently put it, “Nowhere does imagination and curiosity run more wild than in the bodies and minds of children.”
You can learn more about the concept of Timeless Learning here or purchase the book, Timeless Learning at your local bookstore.