Frequently Asked Questions
We can see the immense potential and possibilities of the Big Idea. But, there is still a lot of unknown, much to be discovered if we are to invent a system capable of enabling an ecosystem approach to education.
Below we share our latest thinking and address some of the most common questions we’ve heard so far.
What do you mean by an ecosystem of learning?
It is a vision for a transformed way of organizing education that connects young people to a vibrant, interwoven world of learning experiences and supports them to navigate that world in ways that are a match for who they are, how they learn, and their aspirations. In this ecosystem, learners build foundational life skills through the exploration of their interests and in community with their peers, learning advisors, and community members.
To imagine what this vision could look like for children, families, and communities, check out the Explore What’s Possible page here.
And, if you’ve already done that and are craving more, reach out to us at Education Reimagined! While you wait for our reply, we encourage you to dig into:
Is an ecosystem just a different way to do school?
Quite the opposite! An ecosystem of learning is not just a school or district that has after-school programs and other services tacked onto it. It isn’t even just a more connected network of after- and out-of-school experiences that families can tap into during non-school hours.
It is actually about reimagining what public education could look like in our country.
If our public education system enabled ecosystems of learning, we’d see children and young people growing in community and being supported to navigate and pursue their unique learning journeys. We’d see vibrant learning experiences happening in cafes, libraries, community colleges, living rooms, museums, businesses, parks, virtual courses, and art studios. We’d see educators, families, and community members collectively contributing to the growth and development of their community’s children. We’d see a world where learning lives everywhere, and every child is learning.
So, that’s The Big Idea.
How does an ecosystem address equity?
This will take just as much inventing, as it will listening and learning. To and from the children, families, and communities these ecosystems will serve. To and from those who have been creating equitable, powerful learning experiences in and out of the public system for decades, if not centuries.
We are committed to this future of learner-centered ecosystems because we believe it offers the possibility of true liberation and equity in education. And, we know realizing that possibility will take conviction, intention, and action.
What would a week in the life of the learner in an ecosystem look like?
There is no single image of what a week would look like for a young person in an ecosystem. And, that is the point.
By its design, an ecosystem of learning offers the opportunity for each child’s learning journey to be unique—a match for who they are, how they learn, and their aspirations for the future.
But, this is not an isolated or isolating path; nor is it unpredictable chaos. Rather, an ecosystem of learning is a different way of organizing, supporting, and credentialing learning that leverages the unique assets of our communities and the virtual world to support each child to grow, learn, and thrive. In an ecosystem, young people find community and belonging; develop basic human literacies in such areas as mathematics, language, history, and science; explore their interests and ideas; receive support and guidance; push their thinking; and build their social capital. They just are not all doing it at the same building, in the same way, at the same pace, and with the same people.
If you haven’t yet, go to our Explore What’s Possible page to see what this might look like for children of different ages, in different communities. Or read An Ecosystem Approach to Unleashing Learner-Centered Transformation to imagine what it could make possible for an entire state.
In this vision of ecosystems, what would happen to teachers? To school buildings?
This vision of an ecosystem of learning is built on the vital roles that professional educators, advisors, learning facilitators, coaches, and content experts would play. What it is not built on is the assumption that all of these roles (and many more) are played by the same person, trying to serve 20-40 children all at once.
Our current system puts an incredible amount of weight on our teachers and assumes that everything a child needs to learn must be orchestrated by that one person and housed within a single building called school. Instead, the ecosystem invites professional educators to take on diversified roles in support of young people and invites family, elders, community members, and others from around the world who can connect virtually to also contribute to a child’s learning, growth, and development. To see a few images of what this could look like, go to our Explore What’s Possible page.
And, just as an ecosystem opens up new possibilities for our educators, it does the same for our school buildings. School buildings can be transformed to house maker spaces, science labs, kitchens, art and recording studios, and community gathering spaces. The idea isn’t to get rid of the building; it is to reimagine how we use that building as a resource for our children and our communities.
What about transportation, meals, safety…?
The Big Idea is a call for the invention of a reimagined public education system that can enable young people to grow, learn, and thrive in ecosystems of learning. This requires that these young people can equitably and safely navigate and access learning experiences that are happening across their community. This is part of what there is to invent—structures and supports that ensure children’s safety, health, and wellbeing and that they have the ability to get where they need to go within an ecosystem (to name a few things).
And, this is why this is a Big Idea. We don’t have all the answers, and we know different communities will address questions of transportation, meal distribution, and safety uniquely. But, we know this is possible. When we look at our community and all the people, programs, services, and assets within it, it is all there; we just have to invent it.
Do learner-centered, community-based ecosystems already exist?
But, there are pieces of this future all over the place. People are taking a learner-centered approach to education in public, private, charter, independent, out-of-school, and homeschooling settings. And, people across the country are finding ways to build stronger connections and networks amongst the learning opportunities in their community and the virtual world.
I’m excited by this and want to learn more. Where do I go?
We’re glad! We’d love to have you join us in this journey and share what you are seeing and learning. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for a follow-up conversation.
We also invite you to explore our Discover More page to find other ways to stay connected and bring the Big Idea conversation into new spaces.