A Universal Blueprint for Infinite Learning.

The big crunch is long over due for centralised models of curriculum implementation. But what might an alternative framework look like, and how could it meet all possible future educational needs?

Julian Barrell
Aug 28, 2018 · 5 min read

From the moment we are born we intuitively grasp learning opportunities without even knowing it. As our consciousness grows then so should the means of learning new skills and knowledge. However, to an increasing extent, the opposite happens.

Centralised models of curriculum implementation have driven the evolution of learning towards something that can be represented as a one dimensional plank of wood. Learning follows a narrow path of subjects until a definitive end point is reached, often qualified by a form of standardised testing, as summed up previously:

Any attempt at meaningful education reform is futile until a new, multidimensional, framework is developed. One that will enable differing educational philosophies and methodologies to flourish and ultimately energise one another.

Once this is achieved then a whole new universe of learning can be constructed, one that will truly meet the needs of each individual.

To understand what this may look like, you need to break learning down to an atomic level.

Knowledge as a nucleus for learning.

Picture a fundamental element of learning formed by a core nucleus of knowledge.

Surrounding this nucleus are a number of components designed to aid an individual in acquiring new skills, and a better understanding of the knowledge that lies at the core. Like atoms, surrounded by electrons that can exist at different energy levels, the components surrounding the nucleus of knowledge become energised through the act of learning itself.

Although this model is fairly simple to comprehend, once it is fully considered, many new dimensions of learning can be established. Especially when you begin to use learning from one atom to energise parts of a totally different atom, in the same way as real atoms share electrons to form molecules.

Harnessing infinite knowledge.

Just as the most useful organic molecules are formed by differing combinations of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, the most useful learning molecules could be formed using fundamental English, Maths and Science atoms.

It is also important that, like the numerous real atoms and isotopes within the universe, there should be no limitation to the generation of new learning atoms, methods to energise them or ways they can be integrated within molecules. Any individual, business or organisation should be free to generate atoms and have an opportunity to directly influence learning in their own unique way.

The purchase of a Lego model could provide access to specific learning atoms that encourage accurate recreation of models, inspire creative alternatives and foster a fundamental understanding of mechanics. These atoms may simply be energised by attaching photographic evidence or simply ticking off a ‘done it’ list.

Other atoms may be highly regulated and link to professional accreditation. These could require a series of learning exercises to be completed, before becoming energised through formal exams or externally moderated assignments.

The concept of learning atoms developed from an interface (initially called a PiP) I hoped to build into an online assessment system I developed several years ago.

Atoms of learning could be categorised and studied in terms of how they complement and react with one another, like elements grouped within the periodic table.

Some may emulate the noble gasses, useful in their own right with little interaction outside of their sphere of influence. Other atoms could be seen as fundamental building blocks of learning or even allow learning to flow between atoms like an electronic current in metals, possibly acting like catalysts that enhance learning along the way. All the time new atoms and isotopes could form and decay in regions of the universe yet to be fully explored.

Teachers and experts in the world of education would be the guides of this new universe, providing the means for an individual to appropriately select and energise atoms that fall within their specialism. At the same time every individual should be free to explore the universe for themselves, adding unique elements to the molecular structure of their learning.

Businesses seeking the best employees would not only be able to gain a greater understanding of how skills have been developed, they would also gain a better insight into how an individual’s unique molecule of learning might fit in within the larger structure of the organisation as a whole. They may even provide sponsorship and materials for individuals and institutions that pursue specific atoms.

Ripples of change without mass disruption…

Transition into the new universe could not be simpler. Initially, atoms could be created that reflect the nature of existing curriculum requirements. Little change would be observed to the surface of the current, one dimensional, world of education, while beneath the surface, new fundamental mechanics would provide limitless possibilities.

‘In an open-source world, why should we accept that a curriculum is a single, static document?’ Michael Gove 2012.

Differing teaching approaches and strategies could then be seen as complementary rather than at odds with each other. An individual should not only access learning that provides essential skills and knowledge but also allows freedom to cater for their own specific needs and interests.

In 2012 Michael Gove, UK education minister at the time, stated the need for an Open Source Curriculum. A promising development that sadly lacked any vision or impetuous. When this idea is fully considered, there becomes a point when the fundamental concept of a set curriculum becomes redundant.

The aim of this article is to provide a basis to move current educational discourse away from polarised, generalised and politically motivated debate about curriculum content and implementation, and provide a vision for possibilities that lie beyond centralised curriculum models.

The analogy of a birth of a new, infinite, universe, with its own unique elemental structure, seems to fit. Surely anyone with a true passion for education should be arguing for the creation of a new universe, that will open up unique possibilities for every individual.

Once we move away from current curriculum models, real opportunities to integrate fundamental learning needs with individual flair and talent will emerge.

I would like to thank David Ng and others who responded to my comments on:

I really appreciate the time taken to test the ideas behind my blueprint, at times summing up the possibilities even more eloquently than myself.

Julian Barrell

Written by

A teacher who tried to do things differently and change the way all learning is valued... Reflecting on creative teaching to inform innovation in education.

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