Thanks to the technological and social innovations of the past few decades, our world now changes at an unprecedented rate, with information abundant and specialized skills in demand. To learn to navigate this 21st century landscape, children need a chance to actually practice making decisions, problem solving with others, and nurturing their gifts, talents, and passions.
Children are natural learners. They are at their peak of mental flexibility and ability to assimilate ideas, insights and exploration. It is senseless to consume their days and evenings with the memorization and regurgitation of data for standardized tests on a narrow selection of subjects.
We live in an age where information is at our fingertips. Far more important than memorizing it is developing the skills of finding it, filtering it, integrating it, and using it in new and creative ways to build something valuable.
The ability to quickly translate a vision or idea into tangible results has always been a valuable skill. In today’s rapidly evolving world, it is a fundamental capacity of the leaders in every field. Daily activity at an Agile Learning Center is organized around this understanding.
Most major projects can’t be done alone, but working together can be frustrating and dysfunctional when the conditions are contrived and the participants not invested. Effective collaboration happens when people care about what they are doing and have the tools to adjust the social dynamics so they can work together successfully to produce results. When collaboration can be experienced in this manner, people access each other’s strengths and experience a deep sense of accomplishment.
Many adults express regret that they were unable to identify their passion earlier in life. What are you here to do? How do you discover your purpose? One thing we know is that you won’t find it without ample opportunities to explore. If you can’t try doing what you think you might love, you won’t find out whether or not you really love it.
We regularly hear from parents that they wish they’d had the opportunity to explore their passions a lot earlier so they could have developed a greater sense of purpose. Maybe they didn’t need to change their college major 5 times, graduate with a degree they didn’t really use, then finally figure out what they’re about in a mid-life crisis.
By high school age, most of our students have figured out what their core passions are and are actively organizing their future around those things. The sooner a child is given the time and space to pursue their talents and passions, the sooner they can develop mastery in one or more of these domains. The achievement of mastery is itself a transferable skill which provides confidence to move through the world with a sense of purpose and awareness of the difference you can make.
In the last twenty years, the American workforce has completely changed. 80% of new jobs are in small business and freelance. Gone are the days of plentiful jobs working for large businesses, in manufacturing, and assembly lines. Our educational system was designed for the old economy, where some of the best skills a child could master would be to show up and do exactly as they were told. We now need creative thinkers who identify needs, think of solutions, and know how to make things happen. An effective learning cycle will fully integrate those skills.
The cycle of learning is not complete until it is shared with others. Many people experience that it is upon teaching someone else that they have fully integrated what they have learned themselves. In today’s world, this teaching can be extended in the form of words, images, video, and digital interaction with others. In this way, children can provide value to the greater world at a scale previously not possible. The 21st century demands that we generate some evidence that learning has taken place. Our upgrade to the “report card” model includes the creation of digital portfolios.
Literacy in the form of reading and writing is essential for a democratic society. As more communication, collaboration, and decision-making move online, native fluency in digital media is just as vital to participating in the world as paper literacy has been for recent generations. The vast amount of facts and figures we now have at our fingertips replaces the need for memorization with a need for navigation and critical thinking skills. Digital literacy is not just material to be taught in a weekly computer class. We integrate technology into the daily cycles of learning, providing our children with citizenship in the digital society.
Many people imagine that culture is something that we must simply accept, that it is unchangeable. The fact is, we can create and change culture intentionally, especially within a smaller community, such as a business or school. This phenomenon has become more apparent since the advent of the internet, which made a variety and diversity of subcultures more visible. Embedding values and behaviors into the culture allows us to operate without an oppressive number of rules or overbearing structure. When the created culture becomes the new norm, the need to manipulate others’ behavior through punishments, incentives, or rewards is diminished. Because everyone is participating in the culture creation, everyone is invested in supporting it. Tools that facilitate intentional culture creation serve to make implicit cultural norms explicit, help us practice new patterns of behavior through social agreement, and enhance accountability using increased visibility of intentions and results.