Learning is what prepares young people for meaningful citizenship, employment, postsecondary education, and active participation in a global society. It is developmental and experiential. It is not restricted to time or space, adult qualification or status, intent or accident. Learning is the only thing that matters. And children do learn. The question we must ask ourselves is whether they learn that which we believe will help them succeed.
We seek nothing less than to revolutionize the way children learn. This means during the typical school day, as well as by including engaging expanded learning opportunities in afterschool, weekends, and summers as part of that equation, especially for struggling students. For too long, in too many schools, young people have been provided a learning experience that so undermotivates, undereducates, underprepares, and underincludes that they are left reaching for remedial preparation for the careers, further education, and civic participation they seek. In the worst situations, young people are neither healthy nor safe, neither engaged nor supported, and certainly not challenged. In others, schools with seemingly healthy school cultures (little bullying, supportive staff-student relationships, wraparound supports for families, etc.) fail to hold high expectations for each child and instead create an environment of academic pity that fails to prepare even graduates for meaningful career, college, and civic next steps. In still others, the emphasis on academic rigor, rote memorization, and test preparation is so disproportionate that students experience high levels of social-emotional stress. This leads to a disconnection from school and the community and creates boredom in a culture of repetition from school that can extend into afterschool, weekend, and summer activities if we do not design and deliver expanded learning opportunities so they are more engaging, more personalized, more enriching, and include school-community collaboration and family involvement.
Take a moment to think about the sheer number of fundamental changes and major trends that have affected our students, families, and education over the past decade. Some might acknowledge that we’re lucky to be living in a unique time in history—a time in which global, social, and economic forces in the early 21st century have rewritten the rules we lived by in the 20th century, in politics, economics, and now education, globally. Others might see these changes as challenging, perhaps even frightening.
People often think that online students are not smart enough for a traditional college or university, they are lazy, and they don’t get “real” degrees. These claims discourage many people from taking online courses, so they get stuck in the traditional educational system that consumes a huge deal of money, nerves, and years of their lives.
Forget about attending classes for hours, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, and suffering from back pain by the end of the day. You will not be bound to physical class session when you opt for online education. All lectures and needed materials are provided via online platforms, so you’ll easily access them from the comfort of your home. You will not take public transport to get to campus, you won’t have to spend money on gas for your car, you won’t have to get up early to get dressed for class… the list of conveniences goes on and on.
Taking project-based and place-based learning to its ultimate expression, students can now pursue personalized, passion-based learning. This should be the goal of a 21st century education: to find one’s passion and develop it. While traditional schooling offers limited courses and extracurriculars that do not map fully onto students’ many interests, afterschool programs can expand their options and help them locate more experiences and mentors in their communities and online. When you start browsing through interesting online courses and programs, you’ll notice the Self-Paced label on most of them. What does this mean? Self-paced learning means that the students can start completing the targets at any time, and he can arrange a learning schedule that meets his individual needs. The fact that online programs are cheaper when compared to the ones held in a traditional campus setting is enough to convince you to consider them. The average tuition for online courses depends on multiple factors, so it varies from one program to another.
Now is the time to move toward the leading edge of learning in expanded opportunities afterschool, summers, weekends and through school-community partnerships. Therefore, students are advised to take bold action; to revolutionize the way they learn, teach, and lead so that each child among us learns each day that he or she is a marvel.