The Blank Slate Approach to Open Educative Systems Design

(Jump to Liza Loop's 1983 "Open Portal School" Paper ยง Jump to Learner Centered Networks Powerpoint)

Commentary by Liza Loop, November 15, 2009

I have been thinking about inventing a new educative system from the ground up since 1983. It has been very difficult to induce anyone to try this approach. Usually people begin with the existing models of elementary, secondary or tertiary (college and university) institutions which come with notions of classrooms, teachers, curricula, textbooks, academic disciplines and degrees. From this baseline discussants begin to tweak minor features of the system. This is "educational reform" because it is a reformulation of the conventional educational paradigm.

More creative concepts emerge if one asks about "learning" instead of "education." There is a large body of research that explores how, why, what, where and when both children and adults learn. But when I pose the question of how to create institutions that facilitate these various types of learning the conversation quickly reverts to how one or more of these innovations can be introduced into a traditional classroom. Even when one investigates home schooling and online schools, one finds that many parents try to emulate the classroom in the home.

Why does the classroom model keep reemerging? Probably because it is a very workable solution to the problem of how to educate large numbers of people. Taking a wild guess, I'd say it works for 50% to 70% of the students for 50% to 70% of the learning objectives that teachers and parents hold. We need traditional classrooms for those who thrive in them. But what about the other learners - the other 50% of the students and those who have opted out of the student role? What about the learning objectives that aren't suited for the classroom and the learning objectives of the students that teachers and parents don't care about? A "universal" educational system needs to accommodate all learners with all their disparate learning interests. Classrooms aren't bad, they just aren't good enough.

What shall we put on our "blank slate" to start our thinking? Let's try the question words. As we begin to develop answers on separate pages in this wiki perhaps an ontology of educative systems will emerge.

  • Who is the Learner?
  • What is being learned?
  • Why is the individual learning this?
  • Where is the learning environment?
  • When is the learning taking place?
  • How is the learning being facilitated and supported?