Opening Up Space

starry sky

The gist of this week’s readings and viewings to me is that there is a movement to take formal learning and open it up. By open it up, I mean a few different things:

  • Connect formal learning in the classroom to activities and community outside of the classroom
  • Create opportunities in the classroom for students to explore what interests them
  • Connect students with other students and other people in general who share interests
  • Deconstruct and recreate what education looks like now that we have tools like the internet, which removes limitations that existed before

There are a lot of good-feels behind these things, so I felt pretty positive about it all. It also feels impossible or maybe too rosy. In the big picture, I wonder if this isn’t a reaction against all of the structure that has crept into education. I hope we don’t just react against structure without taking into account ways in which it might still be a useful component. My dad likes to say “don’t take down the fence until you know why it was put there in the first place.” He has a lot of sayings that still float around in my head. So, hopefully, folks who are spearheading this are not completely rejecting structured learning as inherently bad for learning.

Something that comes to mind about all of this in terms of libraries, is actually related to public libraries. Public libraries have more of the community space role and our local Central Rappahannock Regional Library does this well. The public library becomes the space where like-minded people can gather to pursue an interest. One of the problems with pursuing our interests with a group is where to do it. Not all activities pursued together can be pursued entirely online. Public libraries often provide space, and sometimes the resources. I know CRRL has a group that plays European games regularly. They also have a knitting group, book club, card playing group, etc. They help facilitate bringing people together in the community who wouldn’t necessarily know each other otherwise, and that often includes young people.

However, I wonder about the motivation to make such group connections happen. I suppose the thought would be that if you are interested enough you’d take the risk and put yourself out there in the community. But I wonder how many are really willing ultimately to do that. It is risky. I think of how we generally separate ourselves even from our physical neighbors and don’t necessarily even want to get to know them. Let me also add that when I moved into my house last year I intentionally interacted with my neighbors on multiple occasions because I want to reverse that trend at least for me personally. This was an intentional decision, though, as my inclination would be to keep to myself.

Perhaps that’s where the formal education in some form comes into play. The instructor can become the facilitator for such connections and the boost of confidence needed. The student wouldn’t alone in taking the risk as others in the class take the same risk.

This all still feels a bit vague and up in the theory clouds, but I can see the potential positive impact of bringing it down to earth.


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