We are educating our students to become architects of their own learning in a rapidly changing world. New technologies, new patterns of connections and collaboration, and new realms of knowledge (and experience) offer limitless opportunities, but they also pose challenges. If our students are to thrive and lead in this new world, they will need to possess appropriate skills, aptitudes and attitudes towards learning. And educators will need to examine, question challenge and transform traditional concepts and methods of teaching and learning to assure that their students will enter the world equipped to meet and master its challenges.
What kinds of skills, aptitudes and attitudes should our students possess? The ACS Athens learner profile states that we want our students to be knowledgeable, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced and reflective thinkers, communicators, decision-makers. These attributes represent core values and principles. In addition, students must be prepared to become multi-modal and multi-literate life-long learners who demonstrate individual initiative; intellectual curiosity; critical, analytical and creative problem solving and problem posing skills; and the ability to collaborate productively in an ever- shifting array of working teams and partnerships that cross boundaries of time and culture. They need to be confident and savvy acquisitors of information and astute evaluators of the validity of the information they gather.
Traditional schooling is not the only avenue for learning. Students learn in different ways and at different speeds, and master concepts and skills and express their understanding in a multitude of ways. Alternate avenues of learning made possible by technology (on-line and blended courses, interactive books, the whole world of information at one’s fingertips, for example) are enriching learning, and in some instances offering an equally effective alternative to traditional learning modalities.
At ACS Athens, we believe that that we must embrace and adopt alternative avenues of learning where they enrich and expand our students’ learning, but we also believe that all of our practices must be rooted in fundamental educational philosophical principles of Morfosis (Μόρφωση), a central tenet of Classical Greek experience. Let us define Morfosis (for the 21st Century) as a new education paradigm referring to holistic, meaningful and harmonious educational experiences guided by ethics. Here we find what is stable, permanent and essential in a context of flux and flow.
Holistic implies understanding, nurturing and successfully combining the academic, emotional, physical, intellectual and ethical components of experience to ensure healthy, balanced individuals, who will successfully meet the challenges and changes that life will present them.
Educating learners for their lives as 21st century leaders requires us to deploy a new vehicle that supports the integration of different modalities of teaching and learning, while embodying and reflecting the principles of “Morfosis.” We call this vehicle i2Flex.
The i2Flex approach consists of face-to-face and web based teaching and learning experiences. The web based component may include both on-line synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning experiences structured for individual and collaborative interaction and guided by the teacher, as well as independent experiential web based learning, initiated and completed by the student.
The choice of what kind of learning experience is best accommodated online or independently has the potential to radically transform the nature of what happens during real-time, face-to-face teaching and learning. The i2Flex model privileges social constructivist, inquiry-based, project-based teaching and learning. Thus, we would expect that face-to-face meetings between and among students and teachers (in the classroom and out of the classroom) would feature highly interactive learning experiences that are focused on the intellectual skills of analysis, evaluation and creation, since much of the work of knowledge acquisition, associated with the intellectual processes of remembering, understanding and application, can be accomplished through on-line learning activities and independent investigation. Students will be engaged in classroom learning, but they will also understand that learning opportunities exist in many forms, and that learning occurs anywhere and anytime – for everyone.
Central to successfully implementing Morfosis via the i2Flex vehicle for teaching and learning, is the teacher’s commitment to creating high quality, web based course environments and to a continuous process of assessing, improving, and enriching them with relevant resources, materials, strategies, platforms for peer to peer and student – teacher communication and collaboration, and user-friendly navigation. Design and evaluation of course environments is based on research-based standards, consistent with the standards that we would apply to good teaching practice in any setting, developed by Quality Matters®. Individual course environments are more than repositories of course materials or an archive of course activities, but in a real sense they provide an evolving super-structure that holds the disparate parts of the course together, and ensures that the total learning experience – comprised of face-to-face classroom and field-study work, teacher structured and guided on-line learning, and independent on-line and experiential investigation – is genuinely holistic, harmonious and meaningful: a model of morfosis for the 21st century.