Small is Beautiful

Recently in my Global Issues class, our learning community looked at E.F. Schumacher’s notion of Small is Beautiful. We read his infamous essay and watched the film below created by the National Film Board of Canada on his idea. What he suggests is a rethinking of the prevailing trend that unfettered economic growth is essential to the development of the species. We have had great discussions related to ungrowth, systems thinking, and the idea that we are all connected to every system and species on this planet.

Democracy Now! recently interviewed Elizabeth Kolbert, the author of a new book entitled the Sixth Extinction – a book identifying how humans are causing the largest mass extinction since the fall of the dinosaurs. Our investigations over the last few days got me thinking about my role as an educator and how I am to foster learning communities, not just learning environments, where learners can find opportunities for transformation that can address the issues raised by Kolbert and Schumacher. I find this even more challenging given that I am teaching the Global Issues course as an online course.

Small Is Beautiful: Impressions of Fritz Schumacher by Donald Brittain by Barrie Howells & by Douglas Kiefer, National Film Board of Canada

I have started to read at great length about how to create learning communities that are transformative from a virtual platform from the likes of Richard Schweir and Jay Roberts. Both of these scholars have really impacted my understanding of how we can foster ecologically literate communities. Thomas Steele-Maley and I, over the past year or so, have had critical conversations about how to develop these virtual communities, for which I am eternally grateful.

What I am beginning to understand, much like Schumacher did, is that vibrant and vigorous learning communities, whether online or face-to-face, need to be small, based on connectedness, and the transformation of knowledge. I love the way Jay Roberts puts it:

So, bring on MOOCS, bring on distance learning, flipped classrooms, and blended education. Use this new Gutenberg moment to supplement and highlight what transformative teachers have always done best– curating high impact learning experiences for the students in their care.

As opposed to MOOCS and giant groups of learners, I feel from my perspective that my online learning communities need to be intimate and small. We need to know each others history and create a collective identity while respecting each other as individuals. I am just on the beginning of my quest, but would love to hear what other educators and student have to say.

Student Responses

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