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In education, the most important, primary, and over-looked 'modern learning environment' is the space between our ears. How we think, what we think, and why we think it, catalyses and forms functional and inhabitable learning spaces wherever we present ourselves as educators.

How I cultivate my mindset with a focus on growth, and how I choose to nurture my neurons, will ultimately shape the physical, virtual, and energetic spatial fields that will take shape around me. How I think, my pedagogical beliefs, shape the learning spaces where I work, and I want to be increasingly conscious of this. My beliefs shape my environment, regardless of whether or not I'm aware of them. Addressing what exactly modern learning practices and environments are allows us to re-engage with our own beliefs and values about what education means in the 21st century.

To uproot a garden of learning ideas shaped by an industrial, consumerist, competitive paradigm, driven by fear and scarcity, with a new bed of learning ideas shaped by knowledge building, learner agency, collaboration, and connectedness, informed by the notion of 'growth' and by environmental awareness, is no 'mean feat'. To operate balanced with a foot in each world is our challenge as educators, as a shift between ways of thinking about learning and the resources and infrastructure required, will take time. 

A growth mindset and an emphasis on 'process praise' is as much about an empathetic expansion of the heart and its capacity to feel, as it is an expansion of the mind, of growing neurons to increase the capacity to think. Having an expansive heart and mind located in the learning space of my body will inevitably change the quality of my actions and interactions with the people and living things surrounding me. In a good way too, I trust.

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Comment by Hazel Owen on May 30, 2014 at 19:34

I feel the way that you have challenged readers to re-conceptualise what Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) comprises is inspirational, Madeline. You have pulled us well away from the physical spaces...the funky desks and bean-bags... that are often the first thing that comes to front in conversations about MLEs, and asked us to consider "learning space" of their own bodies!

I guess it's one way to segue between MLEs and Modern Learning Practices (MLPs), as your take on the heart and mind brings the focus back to shifting "ways of thinking about learning", rather than only the 'what' of "resources and infrastructure".

It's partly the rationalism of the 19th century, and the pragmatism of the industrial age that made it popular to focus on intellect and to consider learning as a 'brain activity'. It was Einstein who said "Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts" (source) and this has, for me, always made me think of reflective practice and open-mindedness, as well as literal 'seeing'. The connection to feeling with your own heart also suggests elements of motivation, ethics, and commitment, amongst others. So, reshaping our own beliefs and identity is a whole body experience rather than purely an intellectual exercise.

To wrap up my somewhat random ramblings (after a long couple of days ;-p), Einstein also said “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed” (source). We need to keep rising to the challenge of ensuring we are creating learning spaces wherever and whenever we go...for ourselves and the people around us...which means, as you say Madeline, having "an expansive heart and mind".

Thank you so much for sharing, and for keeping the pondering going! :-)


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