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The Value of Anywhere, Anytime Learning

10/30/2014

By Ben Alpert

I just finished watching a web panel on Anywhere, Anytime Learning, offered as part of a year-long series by the Harvard Family Research Project, featuring expert panelists actively engaged in efforts to advance opportunities for, along with recognition of, education beyond the classroom. The panel explored the following:

“Children and youth learn anywhere, anytime, not just in classrooms during school hours. How can families, afterschool programs and community organizations work together to offer children meaningful learning opportunities outside of the school setting? What is the role of families in anywhere, anytime learning? How can we make quality after-school and summer learning opportunities accessible to all children?”

HFRP Webcast ScreenshotThe answer posed by participants was that it’s the responsibility of families and communities to extend, expand, and personalize opportunities for learning outside the classroom, through after-school programs, digital means, and by interweaving and complementing school curricula with opportunities available through public and community organizations. This idea of kids learning outside the classroom, and not uniquely during school hours, is not novel, nor is the want for students to engage in learning after school-hours unique to modern parenting. Panelist Gregg Behr, the executive director of the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh, acknowledged as much, saying, “Parents have always embraced anytime, everywhere learning approaches. It’s just the term that’s new. The key is to identify those trusted adults in parents’ and caregivers’ lives… and equip those people so they can help be the guide for adults and children.”

The essence of Anywhere, Anytime Learning is that education is a community effort requiring a modern take on the age-old proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In order for the model to be truly successful, parents, educators, and institutions need to encourage and draw support from a variety of otherwise unrelated persons, institutions and organizations to complement a student’s learning in the classroom. Libraries, after-school programs, community groups, and public resources all have important roles to play in a child’s development, and have massive potential for supporting families in their efforts to raise educated children.

Where do Children Learn HFRP ScreenshotIn terms of Jewish education, this concept’s potential is multifold. First, there is the emphasis on engaging not just students, but also families. In order to teach students about Jewish culture and learning, in-class efforts should be complemented in the home and outside of school. Digital resources, community organizations, after-school programs and summer camps are all incredibly helpful tools in this effort. Perhaps just as important, Jewish after-school and congregational educators have an important role to fill as complementing instructors for students’ classroom education, by putting subject matter into Jewish perspective with commentary on Jewish values, culture and history.

I’ll finish this post with tips from the web conference for engaging students and families in Anywhere, Anytime Learning, which could be helpful for educators interested in trying to incorporate this model into their lesson plans:

  • Pay attention to where, when, why, and how kids learn, and create appropriate learning experiences.
  • Co-develop with families a learning plan for each child that spans grades, ages, settings, educators, and learning supports.
  • Guide children and families to use libraries, museums, and other institutions that offer innovative opportunities for learning through digital media.

Interested in the Harvard Family Research Project webcast on Anywhere, Anytime Learning? Find it here.

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