Wandering around in the education twitter/blogosphere led me to Education for Well-Being, which is Bill Farren's blog. He's an educator in the Dominican Republic and has put together this video:
that I would like to make a part of any workshop or talk on 21st century learning I do. Farren's site deserves better than a brief summary here, so please visit his site and get it straight from him. I'll just bring up a few points that really struck me. Education for Well-Being. Farren pushes educators to re-think their view of 21st century literacy. We should embrace web 2.0's collaborative nature to improve the lives of all our planet's residents. If we place our student's well-being at the center of our educational endeavors, then our classrooms is necessarily be centered around their needs (note: this may not always align with what they believe to be their needs!) What Farren most emphatically believes students do not need is to be prepared to provide low-cost labor in a global economy!
The economy needs to support people, not the other way around. Therefore, education needs to support economic well-being. We need our planet to support us, therefore education needs to support planetary well-being. In the 21st century, we have got to use collaboration to find ways to end the cycle of economy vs. planet that has us trapped. In the same vein, we have to stop labeling and categorizing our knowledge. Reality does not fit neatly into disciplines. Is it really possible to own knowledge?
Farren's writings helped my brain put together some other thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head that were seemingly disconnected before I got to Education for Well-Being. I read Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains about Dr. Paul Farmer's work in Haiti and around the world fighting to provide healthcare for the poorest citizens of impoverished nations. It's a book that can make the reader feel guilty for having enough to eat, but that isn't Farmer's desire or point. Instead, he's trying to change our hearts and minds to realize that every sick child deserves the dignity of the best health care possible. I wonder if Farren and Farmer have ever met? I'd love to listen to that conversation.
The needs of children is also the major theme of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Farren references Louv's "nature deficit disorder" on his site, and uses the term "biophobia" too. It may sound strange, but I believe that technology can really save us here. Innovation, collaboration, and connections built across the barriers of the world through "21st century literacy" can lead to a new relationship with and respect for the physical world around us. For example, the best resources for finding out about permaculture gardening are online wikis or forums. These "long tails" help what might start as a fringe group grow into the mainstream more quickly than ever before. Geocaching is environmentally sustainable, has a tech component, connects people who otherwise would never meet, and gets an ever-growing number of American and European families outdoors together.
My next book will be Farewell My Subaru, by Doug Fine. I don't know a lot about him except that he writes about trying to be carbon neutral without giving up the essentials of American life, which for him includes items such as wireless internet, Netflix, and thumping sub-woofers. While I personally know how to live a happy life without the last two, I get his point, and I can't wait to get the book.