Professor Stephen Heppell has challenged Christchurch to be the first city in the world that is focused on learning tourism. Indeed, where the whole of the Canterbury plains, as a whole system, focuses on learning.
What would learning tourism look like?
Imagine if visitors emerged from the airport to be greeted to the ‘Christchurch campus.’ They might come to jump start their learning. They may have just finished an online degree and just want to have a place to argue about their ideas. Christchurch could be transformed into a place of scholarship and learning, passion and delight – a place where tourists would come to collaborate, engage and immerse themselves in thinking.
In the past, businesses have focused on ‘training’, appointing training managers to develop, induct, supervise and manage employees. This focus is disappearing, to be replaced with the concept of a learning organisation, a knowledge economy and life long learning.
We have the opportunity to attract people who understand the complex nature of the world and want to explore learning in more depth: “They need to learn to cope with the unexpected – and Christchurch is the perfect place.” People could come to learn strategies for coping with change, to explore innovation and to use information communication technologies to stretch their thinking.
Stephen Heppell quotes England as having 2.2 million jobs that are online. One in seven are working from home. In Christchurch, the number working from home, or connecting online, has increased too. The Christchurch Campus could be the heart of online learning and of online working. With ultra fast broad band focused on learning principles we could provide worldwide expertise in the best models of home hubbing, hot desking and digital collaboration. As new spaces are designed we could become world leaders in flexible design for learning organisations.
What would it take?
For Christchurch to be a world leader in learning it would require leaders across the city and beyond to do things from a coherent systems perspective, following agreed principles of learning: learner-focused, future focused, system coherent and sustainable. It would require educators to collaborate for a greater good and to explore new ways of working across networks. “You won’t do it by rebuilding education in the old way.”
Building on Stephen’s ideas, I think there are some opportunities we should consider:
- Set up a Young Learner’s Commission. Get a group of young learners to look around the works and intereview people who are already doing great things in learning. This group would be representative of all student groups and develop an initial structure of student researchers who would listen to the voices of their peers. Learning designed by young learners, for young learners, with input from experts.
- Run a series of educational events, starting with a conference, forum or TEDx for ideas to be explored and developed.
- Establish an independent learning taskforce to work with the Ministry of Education, Christchurch City Council, CERA and government to develop ideas with all stakeholders. Resource this and ensure that all city developments are made with learning in mind.
- The Ministry of Education should set up an innovation learning unit that supports schools to try new ideas and make it easy for them to explore ways of working with each other for the benefit of all students. This should be trialled in Christchurch as a demonstration hub.
We could make a start on this before the end of the year. It will take leadership and commitment – I think it is worth it.
“…and in doing so you could rebuild your city, rebuild your future, rebuild your economy and rebuild the excitement and enthusiasm for learning. It’s a no brainer really.”