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    The Challenge of Change in Creating Learning Communities (2)

    There is a simple definition of learning community that says, “This phrase describes a vision and model where a community's stakeholders come together and share resources?
    Another definition is, “A “learning community? is a deliberate restructuring of the curriculum to build a community of learners among students and faculty. Learning communities generally structure their curriculum so that students are actively engaged in a sustained academic relationship with other students and faculty over a longer period of their time than is possible in traditional courses?

    [Fanya had a good thought here, that I would like to quote from…]
    Not as a 'comment' - just as a thought - learning institutions may be run and funded by the government - but their efficiency and status are a pride to the particular community where they function. It's not
    only an interaction between the 'school' and the community - but a challenge to that community to
    provide that institution with whatever it needs to succeed and thus provide the community with a source
    of pride! This may be harder to examine in the larger frameworks - but you can see it here in the kibbutzim and moshavim - where the institutions are smaller and in many cases, self-run, if not self-budgeted.

    The above two definitions are very broad, but they do point out the extent to which a ‘model’ of communications also surrounds every discussion of education and learning. And this crucial point links to another important issue, to what degree do the many shifting media and communications environments that now dominate the cultural landscape of most countries in the world affect notions of learning? Even in environments where the global media are weak, such as Nepal, radio is being used to teach and communicate. The same situation exists in much of East Africa. The fact that radio can play such an important role in the education of the community suggests how crucial the linkage is between learning, media and tools of communication. This is an area in desperate need of further research and development.

    When one asks the question, how can a learning community be built? There is the potential that the question will not deal with the reality that learning is one of the most unpredictable activities that human beings engage in. This issue exceeds the boundaries and mandate of this article. But, anyone who has examined the vast plethora of informal learning contexts that people in communities create for themselves knows that the rules for learning cannot be predefined. This is why high schools remain an oppressive experience for most teenagers. They are at an age when they are actively involved in creating and participating in their communities of interest. High school often becomes an impediment to learning and trivializes the vast amount of education that goes on outside of its walls. This process is so unpredictable and the influences are so broad, that the question of how learning takes place cannot be reduced to locality or even community and especially to school itself.

    So, we have a paradox here that defies simplification. The desire to create a learning community is very much about the need to create an institutional context for learning. We are talking here, in the most fundamental of ways, about the process of building formal strategies for the learning process. The difficulty is that building an institutional context for learning means redefining what we mean by students and it is not enough to just transform student to learner. It also means redefining what we mean by community since it is likely that any school is really made up of communities of learners. Some of these learners may be connected to each other and many may not be connected. The complexity of social interactions within a school far exceeds the complexity of the classroom, which is itself barely manageable as a learning environment.

    To be continued……



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