Why should the learning environment be changed?
Development produces development. Each discovery leads to more discoveries and increases exponentially the rate of change. In a decade, we are experiencing more changes than people experienced in two centuries around the time of Gutenberg. The environment shapes the human brain, especially the brains of children. It means that with the extreme changes in the environment brain development changes extremely. Consequently, everything related to children’s brains, such as education, needs to change rapidly.
It is a frequent statement that education should prepare children for a future and for occupations we don’t even know about. However, the problem is more complex than that, because we don’t even know what kind of kids we want to prepare for the unknown future.
The nervous system is shaped by the environment and so far there is not much more that educators and specialists did than label a high percentage of children and called them special-need children.
The year 2020 gave a little insight into the future. The 21st century kicked the door with a pair of legs. Digital technology has suddenly become part of everyday teaching and learning. One day the responsible parents limit or even forbid the use of digital devices, the next day the kids have to sit in front of the computers all day. A parent mockingly asked that “does the school period count into the ’machine time’ or not?”
Humankind is facing a special situation which we can call a crisis. And such decision times will become more frequent. New inventions, as well as pandemics, can bring sudden changes. The situation is very much in line with the original meaning of the word „crisis” when the old solutions don’t work anymore, but the new ones are not developed properly, yet. Similar to any special situation, distance learning has widened the gap between those who were already at an advantage and could progress and those who couldn’t.
Stimulus richness increases the appearance of diversity. However, those who are less prepared can hardly gain, so, the differences increase and become significant. Any disadvantage causes an even greater disadvantage in a crisis. People experienced this condensed in 2020 during the restrictions because of the COVID pandemic. While about 10% of the children could progress better at home than in the classroom, the third of the student population, typically disadvantaged students lag significantly behind. Institutions and individuals who were more or less prepared for the 21st century were able to take advantage of the online situation.
Given that the 21st century is bringing explosive change at an ever-accelerating pace, institutions, educators, and parents have to be prepared for children with diverse development and have to provide them flexible learning environment. A methodological renewal is needed.