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Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

GREGG BEHR: I love the ways in which artists and designers and writers and technologists and others are coming to the fore to say how can I participate in learning? How can I offer my content, offer some instruction, whether it's to the adults in kid's lives as parents or educators or to the kids directly themselves? And that's reflective of something that we've committed to over the past nearly 15 years in the sense of remaking learning in our region. How is it that we blur that sense of what's in and out of school so that rather than just talking about education, which conveys a sense of schooling, and talking instead about learning and all of the places kids learn. Yes, they learn in school buildings but they also learn in library's and online at home and in the neighborhood outside in all sorts of after school programs and early learning centers and in institutions of higher learning campuses. And also, if we just treat our region, if we treat our neighborhood like this great opportunity for learning, like a carnival for learning, we can do learning differently. And part of doing learning differently then is creating the relationships among the adults in the museums, libraries, and schools so that they're able to call upon each other differently. And we're seeing that right now. We're seeing schools, particularly in the use of content, pulling them on their partnerships with local designers, artists, technologists, with local libraries, with local museums and finding creative ways to supplement remote instruction.

When I think about what's on the other side of this pandemic and how we might pursue education in the coming decades, I'm hopeful that we move to a greater sensibility of learning. I know that change in word is so simple, but education really does, for most people, convey school, whereas when we talk about learning we really begin to think about all of the places any person, younger or older, can learn and how that happens and what makes it joyful and what we want to learn. And I would love to see departments of education in states like ours here in the United States or among countries around the world what if they became departments of learning? Again, it's a simple shift but it's a remarkable mindset shift as to what constitutes learning and how we might support remaking geographies, as KnowledgeWorks describes, in a way that really supports cities as campuses for learning and how we think about what happens in and out of school, how we think about the connections among early learning centers and schools themselves and out of school organizations. And then also all of the businesses and creative industries and how we're creating this... this joyful carnival of learning and how we could take advantage of it differently. And then think from a policy perspective if those who are determining our public budgets and then the related regulations and all that goes with it just thought differently about a system of learning, remote, in-person, whatever it might be, how powerful it would be and how we could harness new technologies, new buildings, new methods, new whatever in different ways in a totally different mindset about publicly how we support public learning.

  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.

This video is part of Z 17 Collective's Future of Learning series, which asks education thought leaders what learning can and should look like in the midst and wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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