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Minor Education, Towards a More Independent Learning

There has been a lot of debate in Week Two of Rhizomatic Learning revolving around 'enforcing independence'. Although some of the debate has been about the choice of words and other such technicalities, a lot of the discussion has emanated from the contradictory nature of forcing something that focuses on freedom and choice. I myself have already posted about the matter, in which I suggested that the only way that this could be possible is within a situation where the learning is their own servant and master. After some great feedback from those in the course, it was pointed out to me that education is full of impossible ideals that we never quite meet. Something I myself have posted about elsewhere. What our focus should really be is about using such prompts as the mantra that guides us, rather than the hard and fast rule that drives us. So instead I have changed tack. Here then are a list of thoughts and ideas that may not achieve 'enforced independence', but definitely work towards that goal:

  • Students must make a choice and live with the consequences, with ambivalence not an option. I have written a bit about choice. I think that instead of being forced towards a particular style or method, it is better to look at each option and make the best choice that we can, aware of the consequences of such decisions.
  • Everyone is learning something. Joe Mazza uses the term 'Lead Learner' to replace teacher and although there is a bit of conjecture about whether that means principal or all staff, I think that it is important to get rid of the term 'teacher', as in my eyes, it rarely achieves much good.
  • Students and learning are at the centre, not the teacher and instruction. In a fantastic little book by +Mark Barnes called '5-minute Teacher'. He suggests in his closing remarks that if you simply start seeing students at the centre then you are already on the right track.
  • Creativity must not be assessed, rather it is should be reflected upon. In a fantastic post by +Amy Burvall, she outlines how we should approach creativitiy. Rather than assessing it with a rubric and putting constraints on the task, Burvall asks for five 'tions' from her students: attribtion, explanation, reflection, no hesitation and no self-deprecation.
  • Rubrics are best co-created. This is a fantastic task for getting student emmersed in a task and taking more ownership over their learning. A fantastic resource that I have found to support this is BIE's 'Rubric for Rubrics'.
  • Feedback should be a two way process. Too often when we talk about feedback, it is about what feedback is being provided a the students. However, if everyone is seen as a learner, than feedback from the students is just as, if not more, important. Feedback, then, should always be an open dialogue.
  • Subjects should be the mediator, not the motivator, of learning. Although many schools are structured around 'subjects' and pushing thought a certain content, we should always have an eye on how each skill or tool may be utilised across the board and even more importantly, the world outside of the school.
  • Be open to change. The worst classes I have administered have been when I have decided prior to learning what we will do and being unwilling to adjust to each and every situation. It is so important to adjust to the needs of each and every learner, whether this be in the form of instruction, support or simply what is offered. Although you may have a plan attached to an intention, it is also just as important to go with the flow and respond to the moment, for that is what you are in.
  • Start with a space. In a great post from +Luis L√≥pez-Cano, he outlines the importance of space on controlling the learning that is even possible. Just as it is important to recognise the choices that we make, it is also just as important to recognise the constraints that may restrict us. In recognising such things, we are better able to stretch them to get the most out of them or even break them.

It is important to remember that these are guides not rules - suggestions, thoughts, beginnings, a starting point to a more independent form of learning. To treat such ideas as rules can miss the point and as John Spencer and Tom Panarese pointed out in their post '12 Half-Truths Pundits Say to Teachers', it is easy to get caught up in the fervour of change and the realities and restraints of the everyday classroom. 

In the end, this list is best understood as a list of ideals to spur me forward, each and every day, to be the best that I can be and support those under my care. Do I embody them each of them everyday, no. Not because I don't want to, but rather because life has its own way of things at times. However, such ideals are what help me continually break free from what John Goh describes, as our 'default value'. That idea laid as a foundation during our formative years.

Are there any suggestions that you would add to my list? Any tools and strategies to add to a learner's toolbox? Would love your thoughts and ideas.

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