Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Creating an Educational Ecosystem

Part 1: Creating an Educational Ecosystem: Overview

What is an Educational Ecosystem
The term ecosystem gives a picture of nature.  Plants, animals, water, paths, trees, and a plethora a tiny germs and insects cruising around.  

An area with plant and animal inhabitants who rely on each other.

That is a type of ecosystem, but in the broad sense, so is your classroom.  There are people, an environment, a set of rules for how to interact, a flow of information, and an interdependence between the people who reside in the ecosystem.Have you ever drawn your ecosystem, thought through the type of ecosystem that you have created, or that you have allowed to be created?  Through this series of blogs, I am going to look at the different aspects of an Educational Ecosystem and how these aspects can be combined and lead to an innovative learning environment.  In the true terms of an ecosystem, I am going to look at the organisms, the environment, the interactions between the organisms and environment, and the flow of energy (information) through the ecosystem.  Each time, I challenge you to look at your practice, your ecosystem.  The idea is to reflect on the ecosystem you have created and verify that it is what you want, or to change how it looks and lead to a different learning environment.

Why do this?
Often in education there is talk of top-down versus bottom-up reform and the argument that the district office can’t possibly understand each individual classroom while the teachers are unable to see the big picture.  I refuse to believe that either side should be discredited, but also that either side should stand still and let the other dictate.  Not that I am saying there should be a strike, revolt, or firings, but that all sides are working for the benefit of children and young adults.  How far off can they be from each other?  

I argue that the most important aspect of education is the culture.  We should work towards a growth mindset and change the culture of the schools for the better.  Where do we start?  We start with a conversation.  Not a conversation of words, but by walking the walk, nt just talking the talk.  We start with the overall culture and the individual educational ecosystems.  Culture is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.  Superintendents should provide the vision that leads to the culture of the district.  Teachers determine the individual ecosystems where students learn on the day to day.  My advice to a superintendent is to have a simple and clear vision.  I feel I am not qualified to say much more than that as I have no idea what else they have to do.  For teachers, I want to look at and develop the idea of the Educational Ecosystem.  

Why ecosystem?  
The classroom is a limit to learning.  Contained within the four walls of a classroom are the students, a teacher, textbooks, and a projector.  Today there are so many more things that enter the classroom both physically and virtually that I feel the term classroom is misunderstood.  Teachers no longer have to manage a classroom, they are responsible for managing a connected ecosystem that extends way beyond the four walls of the room to possibly a global (and beyond) set of influences and interactions.  To manage a learning environment is to understand the balance of interactions, the flow of information, and cycles of learning that take place.  A classroom is an ecosystem.

I heard the VP of sales for Apple, John Couch, mention that Apple is not a product, device, or software solution, but rather that they are an ecosystem for learning.  It was a great keynote for an hour and I am sure that readers know who Apple is and what they do/make, so figure out what else was said.  If I can be so insensitive to my readers and Apple… Google it.  His use of the term ecosystem is something that has stuck with me.  Learning environments (classrooms) are ecosystems and can be defined as such.  

No comments:

Post a Comment