Ripplesatwork

What is the R@W_School of Learning (SoL)?

Why is there so much talk about the need to reform modern education and how does the Ra@W learning model contribute to this process?

First of all, the R@W project starts with the deepest appreciation of human evolution: biological, social and technological. Among all the amazing things that have taken place during this process, there is one that stands out as a manifestation of human creativity. That is the invention of symbolic communication systems. It is truly remarkable how people figured out how to give meaning to a sign in order to indicate a particular object or action, or a specific quality or property of an object.

For example, in one part of the world, people assembled the half-circle C, a full-circle O and a double squiggle W. This combination of signs became a symbol for a cow. It doesn’t look, smell, or give us milk like a cow. Yet, whenever ‘cow’ is written, our minds instantly conjure up an image of one!

To specify a quantity of objects, people invented numbers. And to add the quantity of one object to the quantity of another, they decided to use the sign +. When the quantities are added together, this operation is represented with the sign = and the number that follows represents the sum. No matter what the objects are, their number is represented by established signs. The signs + and = have nothing in themselves to remind us of the act of adding, but we know what they stand for because we have learned their meaning.

In the course of millennia, people have accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and mastered the art of representing the world and their experiences by embodying meaning in symbols. They achieved such expertise that, for example, the sixteenth-century German mathematician Johannes Kepler believed that mathematics was a basic source of truth. And the astronomer Sir James Jeans proposed in 1920 that ‘God must be a mathematician’ because ‘mathematics is the basic expression of our knowledge of reality. [1]

The more knowledge people gained, the stronger ground they had for their methods of research and further knowledge construction. Through their experiments, people identified new chemical elements and gave each one a symbol. And the symbols were used in ever-more-complex ways to describe chemical reactions and compounds. And think about the periodic table, displaying 118 chemical elements in an ingeniously simple pattern based on their properties!

It is as if people have mapped out exact representations of the world in different domains of knowledge: languages, algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, musical notation, computer programing and so on.

Almost anywhere we look, from our household objects to agriculture, transportation and education, we see knowledge communicated through abstract symbolic maps of meaning specific to different academic disciplines.

And that is what we learn at school—academic maps of meaning, techniques needed to manipulate them and the established facts. Sounds like a logical course for education to take, doesn’t it? Our young people are becoming more and more literate in the use of technology and the understanding of science, and therefore have more and better options in life.

But things are not so simple. There is a darker side to life: we see the disappointment of young people who struggle to find their places in life, a high rate of suicide, violence, abuse, anger in politics, disinformation, drug addiction, and the military, economic and ecological crises in the world around them. Why doesn’t expertise in science and technology and outstanding mastery of abstract mapping help humans solve these problems?

Do we have a problem with the way we are acquiring knowledge?  

In R@W, we believe that, as elegant, precise and meaningful as they are, the symbolic maps of knowledge that we are taught to master are detached from real life and the individual learner.

In preparing individuals to enter the world of rapid scientific and technological advances in the name of bettering their lives, what education ignores is the ‘distinction of one’s true inner self,’ [2] as the respected political scientist Francis Fukuyama puts it.

The distinction and recognition of one’s true inner self is the core aim of R@W. The R@W model allows one to achieve this by putting the individual in charge of his or her learning and connecting them in an equal interplay with others: classmates, family, local community members, social media friends, etc.

To this end, R@W addresses the following issues.

1.     As knowledge accumulates, and remembering everything from a school course becomes impossible, how much and what parts of the abstract academic systems does an individual learner need to know to succeed in life?

2.     Life is not divided into separate domains. It is a jumble. Life is complex and unpredictable. The symbolic systems and facts young people learn are not only intermixed with each other but they are also saturated in complex sensory experiences and emotions. Life is messy.

How can the individual learner create his or her own map of meaning that is true to his or her inner self to help them navigate the messiness of life?

The distinction and recognition of one’s true inner self is the core aim of R@W. The R@W model allows one to achieve this by putting the individual in charge of his or her learning and connecting them in an equal interplay with others: classmates, family, local community members, social media friends, etc.

To this end, R@W addresses the following issues.

1.     As knowledge accumulates, and remembering everything from a school course becomes impossible, how much and what parts of the abstract academic systems does an individual learner need to know to succeed in life?

2.     Life is not divided into separate domains. It is a jumble. Life is complex and unpredictable. The symbolic systems and facts young people learn are not only intermixed with each other but they are also saturated in complex sensory experiences and emotions. Life is messy.

How can the individual learner create his or her own map of meaning that is true to his or her inner self to help them navigate the messiness of life?

In the R@W virtual space organized for you on the Miro board, you can explore the main principles on which the R@W learning model is built and learn how it works.

If you would like a personal explanation of the course, you can book an individual tour with Dr Lena Redman, who will guide you through the model and answer your questions.

REFERENCES

1. As cited in Bohm, D & Peat, D. (1987). Science, Order and Creativity (Routledge Classics series) [Kindle version, 2011, loc. 172]. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.

2. Fukuyama, Francis (2018). Identity: The Demands for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment [Kindle version, p. 9]. Profile Books.