Students engage in Cities of Learning Summit

On Tuesday 22 March 2016, sixth form pupils, two from Holyhead School and three from Whitley Academy visited the RSA in London for the Cities of Learning Summit. Cities of Learning is an innovation from the United States and aims to redesign learning for the 21st century so that all youth have an opportunity to succeed. Cities of Learning are able to help youth connect in school learning with out of school interests, find supportive social networks of peers and mentors that encourage a passion, and create real things in the real world, so they can visualise pathways toward a productive future.

The pupils were given the chance to hear from distinguished speakers about the American experience, its notable achievements and the impact it is expected to have. Then they participated in workshops with leading UK educators and policymakers, describing their experiences of learning and what they thought of the idea of a Cities of Learning in a UK context. After this we heard from Tim Cook, who had helped lead the Pittsburgh City of Learning, discuss the badge system.  Enthusiasm by the pupils was directed towards the concept, where the skills gained from extracurricular activities would be logged by electronic badges and recognised by employers.

For the final segment, pupils bravely articulated their verdict to the Summit, where they eloquently summarised the lack of knowledge and/or activities amongst pupils within the summer months. Comments towards the possibility of a Cities of Learning in the UK ranged from optimism of its potential to a wariness that their peers would engage with the idea. A pupil from Holyhead School stated “I can see the benefits from the Cities of Learning, how it opens up and makes career pathways visible”.

One thing we did learn from the pupils was a need to blur the distinct edge of learning as a classroom only event. Practical hands on experience outside the classroom can be just as valuable, but it must also be valued by society for it to blossom.