Section VIII: Reimagining and Reinventing Education

Track 2: Schools for Children
(Tom Welch and Brian Flannery)


To reimagine and reinvent education means to have the courage to step back and take a thoughtful look at how we see ourselves, our children and our responsibilities in a truly connected world.  At its core, modern education has been about fracturing the world.  We have broken learning into disciplines, broken disciplines into subjects and subjects into a series of fragmented pieces in fragmented places.  Each of these fractured elements has been divided along national, state, local and school lines. This track consists of many ideas, but they are ideas which call forth new ideas.  This track speaks to the necessity of ideas for healing a fractured view of learning; ideas which call for healing the fracturing that has occurred across countries, disciplines and learners.  As Whitehead noted, “our existence is more than a succession of bare facts” and this track looks at ways to connect, renew and reimagine our fundamental approaches to education and learning.  We must question and challenge the wisdom of educational policy being based on economic competition and finding success in a globalized economy. Instead, cooperation and collaboration within this framework should be our new driving forces. There are many world issues to tackle, how is education preparing students? Is the American Dream a renewable source of inspiration?  The US education system must come together in supporting the education of the next generation of globally competent leaders. Our children need a new dream, a Global Dream. We must give students the tools to heal the lands, so they may plant new ideals.  

Tom Welch, Brian Flannery, Dane Ramshaw and David Marshak are among the educational visionaries who will be nourishing Pando Populus with new ideas to contribute to our growing, evolving, learning community.



Track Sessions:

Tom Welch: “Whitehead In The School Setting”

This session will establish a background look at how Whiteheadian notions are suited to a new view of schooling, made possible by evolving structures that can manifest that approach in a way that was impossible to consider previously.  This session will be looking at early attempts in the K-12 arena to provide an organic approach to learning, but also provide an analysis of why those approaches were, for the most part, doomed.  We will be focusing on how new technology-assisted structures are opening doors to new possibilities.


Tom Welch: “Learning In A Pando Environment: Reimagining In A New Ecology of Learning” 

This session will build on concepts from the first session to look more specifically at a wide range of possibilities, including emerging models for learning that are not restricted to geography or time, which can survive scare resources,  “forest fires” or other “ecological hardships” and reemerge in healthy ways with new growth, mirroring what occurs in the Pando grove.  


David Marshak: Ecologies of Learning— through Freedom for Community and Family Educational Values

“For the purpose of this discourse, I will call the new learning meme “the learning ecology.” If we want to construct an ecological civilization, we certainly need to be inviting our children to live within an ecological social form.
What qualities might define such an ecology?
Humans are born with a unique biological, social, and spiritual identity. Humans both unfold from the dynamic of that unique identity and develop through an ongoing interaction between nature and nurture. So the purpose of this learning ecology is to recognize and nurture the unfoldment of the acorn of the child into the oak of maturity. Within common human pathways of growth, each child has her or his own unique potential, gifts, and life trajectory, and the learning ecology must elicit, encourage, and nurture the child’s and teen’s embodiment of the wholeness of his or her potential.
In this learning ecology, human beings are perceived as complex systems that integrate a physical domain, an emotional domain, a mental domain, and a domain of soul or spirit. The physical body, the heart (as a shorthand for the emotional domain), the mind, and the soul each unfold and grow as the child grows, and they do so in a manner that is irrevocably interrelated and interdependent. This learning ecology engages the child in all of her or his domains in a way that encourages expression, connection, integration, enthusiasm, and responsibility—and later that evokes the adolescent’s capacity for systems thinking, idealistic vision, critique, sensitivity, compassion, and love.
We need to develop a learning ecology for our own historical times, one that values each individual as a person who can learn to embody her or his gifts and life purposes. An aspect of this embodiment is an empowerment of each individual as a significant person in human society, so that each person enters adulthood with the power to act in the world. For this outcome to be achieved, and for children and teens to experience significant freedom within their communal learning environment, children and teens need to be engaged in the processes of institutional governance for this environment throughout their lives there. Right now this means involvement in some form of participatory democracy, as this is the best way we have to establish norms and resolve issues. As time goes on, learning communities may find ways to make their own governance more integral than we can now imagine.
So how do we begin to move in this direction?”


Brian Flannery: TBA



Tom Welch, Education Futurist

Tom Welch is known around the country as an ardent revolutionary when it comes to the redesign of the learning process. He has been a high school French teacher,  an English teacher and was a high school principal who mandated that all administrators teach one class every day. He also taught courses in math, humanities and entrepreneurship for high school students.  His commitment to the opportunities for unbounded learning today has caused him to reexamine many of the practices and beliefs that led to the education paradigm of the early 20th century.  
The results have been varied and included the design of a  performance-based physics and math course for NASA that included non-English speaking students from abroad. With the mantra that “Everything is an opportunity for learning”  he helped teachers at an Arizona Navajo school use kite-flying on the butte above the town as the means to constructing lessons that helped students reach learning targets in every subject taught in the school.
As an independent consultant ( for the last ten years Tom has witnessed, participated in and advocated for the explosion of opportunities for learning unbound by traditional limits of time or place.  
He currently lives in Chicago where he has established himself as a “connectivist” deliberately taking a Pando approach to connect the varied organizations, projects and initiatives he is involved with.