Learning Landscapes

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Why “Learning Landscapes”?

How did i come up with the title for this blog? It won’t surprise anyone that I have always been intrigued by learning, the process and the content. The field of education is an enormously rich and complex field and my involvement in education, and international education in particular, has not failed to engage and motivate me in many ways over my career. I enjoy making learning happen – for children, young adults, teachers, parents, administrators, institutions. As a learner myself, I have had to continuously adapt to the many schools in which I have worked, to integrate flexibly into the culture and ethos of each place. I have had to pay attention to what is valued, what needs work, and how things happen and who the voices are. Being within a place of learning is something I value and continuously seek.

So, the word learning had to be in the title of my blog!

The process of learning is diverse, intricate, personal. The complexity of the learning process is fascinating and I wanted to highlight that in my blog. In my time here in Ecuador, we have been able to travel through some of the most wondrous landscapes I have ever seen. In the Andes, at 10,000 feet above sea level, the views are breathtaking and ever-changing. Ecuador has snow-covered mountains,  an alpine tundra ecosystem called the paramo, cloud forests with stunning flora and fauna, Amazonian jungles and vast rain forests, as well as the world-famous Galapagos Islands. Thus, the word landscape came to me as a metaphor for the learning process. Putting the two together made sense and sounded lyrical to me – Learning Landscapes. 

I am currently reading a novel entitled “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss, a very talented writer. This is the second book of a trilogy, a fantasy filled with magic, heroes, and mythology. In one scene, the main character Kvothe, meets his mentor, Elodin, a Master Namer. They meet on a high stone bridge, a hundred feet above a river. I want to share this little bit of dialogue between the character and his mentor:

“What makes this a good place?” He looked over the water for a long time before he answered. “It is an edge,” he said at last. “It is a high place with a chance of falling. Things are more easily seen from edges. Danger rouses the sleeping mind. It makes things clear. Seeing things is part of being a namer.”

“What about falling?” I asked.

“If you fall, you fall,” Elodin shrugged. “Sometimes falling teaches us things too. In dreams you often fall before you wake.”

This passage spoke to me. Finding an “edge” is a way to do our best learning, to push ourselves even further to discern the truth, to figure out a solution to a niggling problem. An edge can also be a place where we have the most perspective, the biggest view that we can get of our lives, of our past and our future. Knowing where are the edges of our learning will allow us to see where we are now and what else there is ahead. I like that.