The Education Ecosystem


Remember those times in elementary school where you study ecosystems? “What’s at the top of the food chain? What provides nutrients to what? How does everything relate together? Do you see how we are creating a web not just one strict path?”

I remember in 3rd grade doing a project on the rain forest. The rain forest is one of the most biodiverse places on the Earth. There are thousands of species that all work together to create  beautiful and constantly evolving environment. I created a visual chart that showed just a snippet of some animals and plants living in this ecosystem and even with just the maybe 15 species I was able to fit on a poster board, I had created a web of lines between how these species interact with one another.

In 4th grade, I got the chance to actually visit a rain forest while in Puerto Rico. I first hand got to see how different species have adapted to continue surviving in this ecosystem. I remember seeing a tree that had fallen over, but it over time had curved up because the roots were still semi in the ground and therefore the tree still wanted sunlight to keep living. The branches all arched at weird angles to try and maximize the amount of sunlight it could absorb. The tree continued to live even after being pushed down by its surroundings.

Grant Lichtman, in Part 3 of his book #EdJourney talks about how education needs to change from an engineered system created by humans to resemble an assembly line, to a natural, self-evolving ecosystem of flowing ideas and knowledge. I personally love this metaphor and entirely agree that education needs to exist as an ecosystem.

Furthermore I love the distinction Mr. Lichtman makes with the role humans play in this ecosystem:

“True ecosystems share one critically important attribute: Ecosystems are not designed by humans. Instead humans exist within ecosystems. In my view, great learning and education do not ‘act like an ecosystem.’ Great education is an ecosystem. There is a big difference.” (p.224)

The conversation Kat and I had today during our 20/20, reminded me a lot of conversations I’ve been having around the ideas of assessment/measurement lately about how we need to have systems that are limitless. The next big change that needs to occur in education is creating an entire system, an ecosystem, that is able to constantly, and naturally evolve over time like how a periodic table can predict future elements. In the past we have a system, then we discover this system doesn’t work, so we put a bunch of effort into completely changing the system.

I don’t want to keep doing a complete change of the system every decade or so when we realize that our education system isn’t keeping up with a changing world culture. I want an education system that changes and evolves with our changing world culture.


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