I’ve got a question. What is learning to you?

The World By Cycle community will soon be celebrating two years. Nic and I had planned to cycle around the world and develop a way to share the experience in a meaningful way that connected people to each other and the planet we share. The idea of building a community and collaborative dialogue in an online environment emerged while we were in South India. There in February, 2011 we developed our first educational video to demonstrate the powerful learning opportunities of vicarious exploration, known as Adventure Learning. 

The online teaching and learning landscape has changed significantly since we began our journey, there are many more resources, tools, platforms and opportunities. There are green schools, online schools, collaborative learning spaces, global networks, governments and organisations worldwide shifting the purpose of teaching and learning and working to develop meaningful connections for the good of people, of animals, of the future of our planet. It is inspiring and contagious the momentous feelings of hope and commitment from people all over the world striving to make a positive difference.

The first year with World By Cycle, I spent the majority of my time researching the good that I resonated with in education. Everyone that inspired me I started a conversation with. Those people that responded have been guiding mentors and collaborators ever since. Although I earned a Master of Education through research exploring online social education programs, much of my education for the World By Cycle project and Ride To Learn education program occurred afterwards with TED (TED Education have since, recognizing this demand, created an interactive ‘flipping’ teaching and learning aspect to their new platform) and from organic exploration, conversations and suggestions through social media platforms. 

When I learned something new, we tried it out – such as our experiment going completely package-free for three months.Whatever we learned we shared too, and our community began to grow. Finally it was time to test everything we learned out in the world and on April 1st, 2012 set off on an epic adventure, to cycle 30,000km, learn about sustainability through the story of stuff, and share it with an engaged community. From Brazil to West Africa, through Europe and Central Asia we learned about where t-shirts and sneakers come from and the impacts harvesting, manufacturing, and trade have on people, animals and the planet. We learned about all this first hand at farms and factories and shared it through multimedia online to catalyse design and development of new approaches that better people’s lives and enable environmental sustainability.

It has been an extraordinary learning adventure, and the learning continues as we research what didn’t work about our project. With no shortage on passion or team commitment, we had to stop cycling in September, 2012 due to lack of funds. Since then I have resumed my research on what is working to engage and inspire change in education. On first glance concepts such as Edmodo, Skype Classrooms and Google Hangouts are successful with ease of use (familiar from other communication tools already used) and provide opportunity to connect with another learning community. I may have had too ambitious an idea that collaboration could transpire between many learning communities at once without this first step of learning to connect to online content and then to one other community. This is fundamentally about relationships, which could potentially be a piece in our design we missed. We also learned a lot about online accessibility having cycled through a diverse seventeen countries with various online connection ability. Knowing that too many ‘clicks‘ is project death and incorporating knowledge of the many sites that are blocked in other countries will be a guiding piece of future project development to enable true global participation. 

Our teams’s learning journey continues with senior members developing new learning materials and three researchers in Canada, Pakistan and the UK exploring and analysing engagement from the perspective of educators and from two groups of students interacting with the educational content. 

Nic and I are gearing up to continue the World By Cycle expedition in Tasmania next month, exploring the impacts of animal welfare in the textile industry and then to China to continue the exploration of alternatives to cotton, including Bamboo, Hemp and recycled fibers. To raise the capital required for these explorations we are launching (right this minute) an educational consulting service – LEARNING IS in Australia. We see this as an ideal opportunity to share the research and partnerships we have developed in the last couple of years, as we believe we have a lot of value to bring to classroom education. 

During the expedition, we managed our content and team communications with an iPad and MacAir that we carried on our bicycles, so have real first hand experience to share with teachers. I’m excited about the opportunity this service will have in making a local contribution to inspire teaching and learning. It is not as big or grand as World By Cycle’s intent to shift and connect a global audience; however, I think it will be a great opportunity to support teachers and learners on the ground to connect with enriching materials and strategies that work for them. I’m actually really excited about the positive impact that can happen through this initiative; developing relationships to support humane education and green schools. 

In developing LEARNING IS, I began to reflect on what learning is – what it means to me. My first response is learning is fun, it is exhilarating and transformative; learning lights up living and possibility. Aristotle says ‘Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Ah, that is true too I think. Learning happens when things go wrong, learning can be hard lessons, desperate, lonely and challenging “I learned the hard way …” Learning, I think can also be teaching. It is through teaching something that I learn more about myself and the subject. Learning is not just a human thing though, everything living learns. Adapts. Learning may not be as I originally thought, an ignition but can also be a means to stay safe in conformity. Webster’s Dictionary defines learning as “the act or experience of one that learns; knowledge of skill acquired by instruction or study; modification of a behavioral tendency by experience.” Sounds a bit dry for a topic as rich as learning. Whatever learning is, it is different for each individual. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” said Benjamin Franklin and that is precisely our aim with LEARNING IS. Learning what learning means for each school community to develop the most aligned teaching strategy.

At the heart of learning for me, after all this thinking about it is one word that has been coming up often in my conversations. Connection. Learning happens for me through connections with others, when I am connected to my purpose, when I am connected to nature. Learning is connecting what I have learned and applying it to new situations. Learning is connecting to different perspectives and novel ideas. 

Now it is your turn. What is learning to you? Send us a quick definition here OR we would love to share your blog post about a learning journey in your life.

Thanks for staying connected and looking forward to hearing your perspective! 

Cheers, K