Undertaking a Learning Journey Through Ever-Expanding Enlightening Encounters.
We are in the midst of eco-socio and spiritual crises. In the name of development and progress, we have strayed away from our common home, Mother Earth. Learning ecology is essentially a learning philosophy needed for the tough journey 'back home'. We cannot "design" a journey back with the same language of growth and achievements (that has led to disasters and continues to be a serious problem). There is a need to deeply transform our educational, economic, media and government institutions to grow and nurture learning journeys towards the Home we have lost. It is not to save Mother Earth; it is really to safe ourselves and the other beings that need the biosphere we are arrogantly and mindlessly destroying.
Learning Ecology, through a learning journey, assigns everyone involved in the process, the role of a learner and a seeker in an ever-expanding contextual reality (of not only people but also Nature). The course director or coordinator is not apart from the learning process of the students. The learning journey involves an engaged accompaniment with the students in order to keep close track on what the students need to complete their learning in relation to the aims of the course and beyond the pre-determined course content.
Critical, democratic and self-directed learning go beyond the limiting boundaries or predetermined content. While there is a need for some predetermined content, there will be emergent ones too. Learning Ecology offers students the opportunity to provide content from their experience and enrich their learning experience.
The learning journey approach further consists of not just learning concepts and theories in a classroom setup. But to do so as 'class and non-class-based' learning encounters: encounters with each other as learners/seekers, with teachers, with ideas, with narratives, with power, with stories, with new topics and issues that evolved in discussions, with documentaries, with websites, with the social and cultural sites (as field visits), with people, with histories, and with the wisdom of books.
An encounter is an open, multi-directional and trans-realities approach to learning. Learning cannot be completely structured but evolves as per the needs, levels, contexts, and concerns of the learner(s). Learning becomes deeply exploratory, transdisciplinary, reflective, contemplative and moves towards civic engagement, towards the common good. It allows for one to challenge one's taken-for-granted realities. It also allows one to critically engage with given templates, formats and algorithms of thinking, feeling and acting or questioning or to go beyond them, innovating new pathways.
Diary-keeping is an essential component of this learning journey approach not only as a record but also as an internal conversation (between 'I and me'). The students are expected to regularly reflect and contemplate on the entries as well as share them in group learning processes periodically.
Making Sense of Learning Ecology
Start with asking yourself some basic questions on what you know or believe in. Start with the realities you take for granted. Question yourself. Find out what society, or nature, is. Not by reading but by what you know. Are you deeply aware of the goings-on around you at the local and global levels? Critical self-knowledge is the living soil in which your participation in a course or programme or any initiative would be more meaningful.
.You can try some guides or tools here.
Deschooling Your Mind and Body
We all live in taken-for-granted worlds. We feel safe in our comfort zones. It defines our normality. And it gives a way of life and ideas of careers. It defines us. There is a whole structure of thought and behaviours which influences us invisibly. We are mostly not conscious of it. They come to us as social templates or stories we live by. We recycle stories and futures others have created and that have become part of our examined or unquestioned everyday life.
We need to critically understand what the take-for-granted world is and how it influences us. We may be thinking and doing things which we do not believe in or want or support. Explore the meanings of deschooling, decolonisation, conscientisation and critical mindfulness. They help navigate through the above initial processes.
The earlier stage and this stage open us up to new possibilities, new pathways, new journeys in the present and the future. Are we ready?
What Should Be Our Learning Orientation?
What should 'frame' y/our learning process?
We are educated within academic disciplines. Disciplinarity is a historical stage in the way we produce knowledge. It has become ahistorical. Today its value has to be questioned. Its social and ecological footprint has to be critically evaluated. We need to look beyond disciplinarity. We need to look at interdisciplinarity. And beyond, at transdisciplinarity. We need to re-understand the world we live in -- inter-related, inter-connected, trans-layered, trans-contextual, inter-dependent, trans-temporal, trans-faith, trans-media, multi-ethnic, and trans-local and spiritual. Aggressive, violent disciplinarity has destroyed the wholeness of which we are a part of. We also need an innovative learning approach that will continuously challenge to question our taken-for-granted world. In addition, we need to work for the common, public, good that nurtures all life. How do we do it?
Making Sense of a Learning Journey
The learning journey covers 7 key areas. There can be subsidiary areas too. The diagram is It is self-explanatory. Have a look and study it.
Critical, democratic and self-directed learning go beyond the limiting boundaries or predetermined content of most courses/programme (as in mainstream tertiary education based on a factory model). While there is a need for some predetermined content, there will be emergent ones too as we accommodate an ecological approach. The learning journey ecology offers students the opportunity to provide content based on their contexts and experiences. There will be emergent content.
The Journey of a 'Programme'
If we consider a learning journey over a field of study as a programme, the stages are provided below. There could be many other ways. We may or may not need an institutional space. We can conduct this in closed or open spaces. It can be multi-institutional and decentered. We can also think of a programme with definite content areas that offer no credentials (or certificates) but a journey of learningful encounters as we negotiate our life in the world we live in. The follow up is critical to ensure that the learning journey grows to serve the common, or public, inclusive good...so that we reach out to most vulnerable, most disadvantaged,..so that 'no one is left behind'.