Activating Community Wealth – Educational Engagement Spaces
In the perfected pattern of nature, the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. There is no obvious hint of the caterpillar’s destiny, it all becomes manifest from the imaginal cells deep within the body that activate the process in which a deconstructed Earth-bound body reforms, sprouts wings and becomes a delicate beautiful butterfly which has a vital role as a pollinator of the ecosystem.
Much like the caterpillar, a seemingly inactive community has a lot going on below the surface. What is lacking are community-based spaces in which they can reform to actualize their natural potential to engage with and contribute to the ecosystem we call community.
Community engagement spaces are the chrysalises in which a community’s imaginal cells – the seeds of future potential, which contain the blueprint of a thriving community – are activated to complete the community’s transformation from surviving to thriving.
Educational spaces have always been a vital element of well-rooted and healthy community growth. However, in their current forms, these spaces generally do not have the ability to both value existing knowledge and leverage new technology to activate the wealth of the community. What is needed is a flexible platform within and upon which the knowledge brought into the space is valued equally to the technology tools. It is when these elements are combined and then engaged with the purpose of reinvesting in the surrounding community that it is shifted from a state of surviving to one of thriving. Without these platforms, community members – young and old – get the clear message that their natural wealth of knowledge earned by living in the community is invalid, and, therefore, not worth saving, nurturing or sharing with the next generation. This belief leads to the next generation being sent away never to return, thereby escalating the shredding of the community fabric, until there is nothing left, all wealth extracted and the community eventually disappears.
Fortunately, technology can be a valuable tool for community members to rewrite this ending. I've been researching solutions for those who are being disconnected from educational opportunity in its old form. One of them is the distributed education model promoted by Dr. Sugata Mitra, founder of the School in the Cloud (Self-Organized Learning Experience) in which students engage in learning while guided (and challenged) by teachers in the learning space. In this model, the learning is a collaborative effort, the students learn from each other driven and amplified by curiosity, instead of using the old top-down model that attempts to push facts into resistant students. Teachers then respond to and shape the experience with the assistance of technological tools rather than old form frameworks. The end result is all participants feeling more valued and engaged, ready to stay invested in the process and, by extension, with their community.
Activating the power of technology to bring external knowledge sources into the classrooms is vital to preparing students for the emerging world. It not only requires new ways of engaging, thereby creating intellectual ‘muscle memory’ adding dimensionality to the learning, but also provides access to the tools empowering the deepening of the story of that community, keeping that wealth local. Despite the fears of some, when used correctly, this technology doesn’t displace teachers, it actually increases the value of every participant in the classroom. By moving from a closed box to a open cooperative platform upon which the co-creation of community becomes the natural process of activating the imaginal cells, the transformation of community mindset from surviving to thriving is on track for the next generation.