I've been spending a lot of my time recently thinking and reading about future learning environments and how we need to be widening our horizons when thinking about the where and how our learners will be doing their learning.
Traditional bricks and mortar schools have been constructed on the belief that learning occurs in a physical place, bound by the constraints of time and learners grouped together for instruction. Further, these assumptions are based on a further assumption that the knowledge students want/need is available only to them from that place or through/from those in that place who are able to mediate the message for them.
As we look around now we know that modern learning occurs (and, let's be honest, has done for some time now) in a myriad of places other than within the four walls of the traditional school.
Further, the nature of learning is such that it challenges yet another assumption underpinning tradtional models of schooling – that all learning needs to be validated and 'tested' externally to ensure the learning has indeed taken place. We know that this assumption isn't really valid either. Yes. there is, of course, a place for assessments that validate one's knowledge and accomplishments in ways that others can have confidence in your abilities (think how you trust a doctor in that way, or the driver of the bus you travel in) – but there's an even greater body of knowledge and understanding being developed/engaged with every day that isn't a part of this formal system of learning. Think of the insights gained from reading a book for liesure, or of consulting a car manual in order to carry out your own repairs, This learning fills gaps in our knowledge that lets us proceed to the next step, or fills a real and immediate need we have – it's not assessed formally or credentialled in any way.
The diagram at the top of this post is my attempt to capture this thinking, with the expansion of scenarios developed as we consider these two axes – formal vs informal learning (the why), and physical vs virtual in terms of the where/how.
For me this rubric provides a useful point of reference for us to consider when we're planning for our future learning environments, whether that is building a new school, rennovating an old one or considering the value of connecting our school to ultra fast broadband. There needs to be a connectedness in our thinking – understanding how these dimensions of learning might 'knit' together in the lives of our students, and how they might be catered for in the design of learning spaces (physical and virtual) that we create for them.