Fractal - A Flexible Structure For School, Classroom, And Learning
Repetitive structures characterize fractals.
They create a formal pattern that exists in different dimensions.
Mathematicians began to study fractals out of aesthetic interest.
In this post, I want to use the idea of fractals
To formulate solutions to acute problems that are currently facing all the education systems in the world.
I argue that schools are facing a fundamental and revolutionary change
Following the Covid-19 Crisis.
Now is the right time to create a new structure for learning, organizing routines, and the school's physical structure.
The idea of fractal units could be one of the solutions to consider.
The classroom is now the basic unit for organizing the school structure.
This unit dictates a certain number of students in a routine (38 or more)
And in an emergency (epidemic outbreak), the number of students decreases dramatically - 15 students per classroom.
If the idea of a classroom is: people who are interested in engaging in the development of their knowledge and skills together,
We disconnect classroom and learning.
Instead, you can study anywhere. You do not need a school classroom as we know it today.
1. How can we produce a more flexible room for learning? What can be our learning space unit?
One solution is to design schools with sliding walls, build spacious spaces, and divide them according to changing needs.
Another solution - making the classroom digital spaces one of the assets of the physical school.
The third solution - decide that the classroom can exist anywhere - a public library, a sports field, a garden, a yard, a nearby ballroom, a cinema, a park, laboratories, in nature, and more.
You can imagine more solutions from your experience.
So what is "fractal" in these ideas (mine and yours)?
The classroom is the base unit, the smallest triangle in the structure of the Sierpinski triangle (at the image). The most significant interactions occur in this unit, no matter where it takes place. It can be in an online meeting or a physical meeting, in different areas where the learners are simultaneously, and more.
The physical place becomes significant and not arbitrary.
For example - if the class needs to gather information on a research topic on a particular site - then they should be visiting it physically. But, access to the internet must also be available. In that case, they can access it anywhere. Suppose there is a meaning to face-to-face dialogue in the group to formulate a common idea. In that case, a place that allows this meeting without interruption has tremendous significance for the success of the action. If you are trying to improve your speaking skills in front of an audience, it is essential to do so in a place that allows you to practice standing on stage or broadcasting online.
To a large extent, a school is becoming a place that allows for many forms of learning in spaces that have diverse uses, including digital spaces.
Adopting these forms with flexibility can allow for a comfortable and efficient transition from the period of isolation imposed on the public by the corona plague to a period of careful return to routine.
Learning is the action that students take together with the facilitator-teacher to achieve their common goals.
Learning is a change in the learner's memory structures.
Learning is social, meaning it relies on imitation, experience, and behaviors in the learner environment.
The smallest unit of learning is not the one person but at least a pair, a dyad.
How can learning adopt fractal structures to produce flexibility and help change the prevailing traditional paradigm (uniform and rigid curriculum, tests, and grades)?
2. What actions will encourage learning, and how can we empower it in increasingly complex structures while using our base unit - a pair of learners?
One solution - treating the encounter between student and teacher as an opportunity for 1: 1 mutual learning out of curiosity and respect for the child's world, desires, and feelings towards learning. All this to encourage interest and a passion for learning.
Another solution - treat pairs of students as supportive of each other's learning. For example, the student team for couples will strengthen their ability to speak their learning aloud, reflect more quickly, and become aware of their learning and development (self-directed learning from an early age).
The third solution - to treat learning as a one-time event, context-dependent, intriguing and broad-minded. I love the idea of learning and embrace it. Learning is not a necessity determined from above, but something that is subject to moments of curiosity of the learner and stems from him, his experience, and the joy of his learning. There is no need for a rigid curriculum (and not for many tests) but general lines of skills and knowledge connected to the world of children. It is also essential for the teacher to be aware of the learners' progress at a pace that suits them.
You can imagine more solutions from your experience.
The organizational structure of educational institutions and their routines remains.
The routines of educational institutions remained largely traditional.
Like the curriculum, they are dictated from above and try to impose one order on everyone.
The idea of a fractal organization will build the routines from the internal logic of learning (a pair of learners) that need a meeting between them to develop and of the class (a group of learners and a teacher) that uses both digital and physical space to implement learning goals.
3. How can school routines be reorganized around the internal logic of learning and the classroom?
One solution: Let routines grow out of the educational endeavor and allow students and educators to choose each other. Do not arrange them by age/gender, but use teacher and student interest and expertise as an organizing tool.
This solution is not at all easy to implement but requires a long and gradual adjustment period, during which there will be a change in the paradigms of all the partners - teachers, parents, students. However, it will happen if everyone wants it - through open dialogue about the nature of learning, school roles, parents, and the education system.
* Of course, any solution is local and suitable for a specific community; the answer will undergo changes and adjustments in each period. However, it will be flexible and adaptable - that is, in a crisis similar to what we are experiencing now - the school's ability to respond and prepare for external changes - will be high (relative to today).
Solution two - start with the flexibility of routines within existing buildings and strengthen the choice component.
For example - allow much more choice for students and teachers starting with hours of their choice (initially - one day a week and then expand). Students and staff learn from similar or different schools in Israel and around the world how to flex the hour's system, learning topics, and classroom composition and apply in a way that is appropriate for the school, gradually and in meaningful dialogue with students and parents.
The third solution - strive to connect clusters of professions and teachers. Create communities of teachers and students interested in specific topics, start producing 'theme weeks' under their leadership, and collaborate with the parent community. You can combine online days, hackathons, events that invite the neighborhood's adults to activities (and not just the Memorial Day ceremony), participation in local, urban, national, and international projects and initiatives, competitions, and the like.
These events can produce a routine break until the routine becomes those events. Students get used to being a part of something big, and grades stop playing a significant role in school discourse. Everyone wants to succeed, win, and get better (and within all this is already the motivation, the investment, the interpersonal connections, and the learning of skills and knowledge - not what we wanted?)
With full appreciation to my friends and fellow educators,
And let's be healthy.
Good luck, 21st-century teachers.