The Futures Education Collaboratory (The Collab)
Covid-19 has impacted, perhaps irreparably, the education of millions, undoing years of effort that seeks to address inequality, improve social mobility, and deliver on universal commitments to providing a solid foundation for future generations. It has significantly impaired the potential for teachers to create a meaningful learning environment, one that fosters the development of critical consciousness and develops agency, and it has prevented many learners from accessing education in an active and engaging way. Throughout 2020 and continuing now into 2021, Covid-19 has accelerated the need for education to be available remotely, with immediate responsiveness to those impacted by movement constraints
‘Inclusive and equitable quality education and … lifelong learning opportunities for all’ is perhaps the most foundational of the Sustainable Development Goals. As a cross-cutting goal it underpins is a precondition for, the realisation of every other goal in the UN’s Sustainability Agenda. SDG4 promotes learning through the lens of global citizenship, sustainability and resilience. Best achieved through appreciative inquiry and exposure to the diversity of culture and socio-economic status, learning should develop literacies beyond the basics, including cultural, environmental, emotional and civic. Crucially – especially in the online or ‘virtual’ world – education must build critical thinking skills, such as the ability to question, analyse and ‘truth seek’ in any environment. It’s so important to consider this when developing ways to take educational programmes online – the technology must be up to the task.
The pandemic has precipitated an exponential increase in the demand for online learning. Tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype have scaled in use and application, their cost-effectiveness transforming for many the nature and accessibility of education. Many educators and learners have relied on these tools over the last 12 months, and they have been a crucial lifeline at a time when an urgent and immediate response was needed. However, with the end of Covid-19 not yet in sight, it is apparent that society needs tools that can provide meaningful, immersive learning experiences. While Zoom and similar tools allow educators to deliver lessons, they offer limited functionality for interactivity and group work and do not adequately simulate different learning environments. What’s more, many learners feel uncomfortable using the video feature or disengaged with their videos turned off. Most importantly, the tools do not build an active, collaborative learning culture or provide opportunities for serendipity – moments that would happen in the playground, walking between classes or chatting in the hallways.
In order to respond to this challenge and provide more relevant and engaging learning opportunities, the Impact Trust and its social enterprise, Routes to Resilience (R2R), have teamed up in a unique partnership with The Virtulab to take online learning to a whole different dimension, creating a robust, immersive online platform for educational purposes.
The Education Collab is an initiative that provides a platform for futures education, and learning and knowledge exchange. It seeks to support educational organisations and service providers who deliver both formal and informal learning. Its unique learning environment has the power to facilitate deep, experiential and place-based learning, both real and virtual.
The first phase of the Collab roll-out will include a collaborative programme to engage a diverse community of organisations in the co-creation of its spaces and places. By working with providers to understand and design the places they need for meaningful education, we believe the Collab can be a platform that serves individual and collective interests. At the same time, we will together build a culture of active learning through the creation and provision of curated ‘real world’ access to ecosystems, environments and enterprises that encourage critical thinking, purposeful learners and active solution-seekers.
We will also be testing the Collab environment throughout 2021 in a dedicated series of events called ‘The Route to COP26’. This initiative will connect, convene and curate ‘collaborators’ in dialogues, debates and design programmes, giving a voice to young people and supporting their movement-building and actively advocating for change. If you are interested in finding out more about the Futures Education Collab, please contact us.