III: Hybrid learning activity transforming schools and communities in Japan

6 Hybrid educational innovation and expanding school activity

Hybrid educational innovation and expanding school activity: Beyond traditional school learning

Hybrid activity as a collaborative intervention

Currently, educational reform in several settings is increasingly focusing on modifying school practices to foster greater agency—the intellect and energy to act—and creativity among various actors, especially children, which, in the context of traditional schooling, have generally been poorly prompted and supported. One approach to inducing agency and creativity' in teaching and learning is by transitioning from methods of teaching and learning that solely transmit and preserve cultural forms to those methods that actually transform and create culture.

In traditional schooling, the core activity is classroom-based teaching, which is intended simply to transfer the content of the textbook to children. Educational institutions arc typically tightly closed activity' systems that have little direct impact on society. Children’s learning, as Michael Cole (2005, p. 10) puts it, is typically confined to “standard classroom environments, with strict teacher control and one-to-many forms of discourse associated with transmission forms of education.” Similarly, Mike Rose (2009) radically critiqued the current narrow focus on high-stakes testing and economic competition as the goals of education: “We’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement—that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility', and the discovery of the world—to a test score” (p. x). We need to go beyond this narrow idea of schooling and expand learning activities in schools, especially at the K-12 stage, to evoke and support the development of agency and creativity among children.

This chapter examines a new landscape of collaborative learning in schools, one that fosters the agency and collective creativity of children. The discussion presented herein is based on an analysis of findings from longitudinal intervention studies on children’s educational activities in Suita City, Japan. In collaboration with local municipal elementary schools, this research project focused on hybrid educational innovation, a process intended to create advanced networks of learning based on the principle of collaboration among a variety of participants both inside and outside a school, gradually transcending the school’s institutional boundaries (Yamazumi, 2010a, 2010b).

With the increasing importance of networking and collaboration among diverse cultural organizations, we need to call attention to the need for school practices that promote children’s agency and collective creativity and develop partnerships with community organizations, businesses, experts, and other relevant actors outside the school. While such practices are rapidly becoming widespread, detailed empirical research on their form, content, strengths, and limitations is limited (see, for example, Burnard, 2011; Daniels, Lead-better, Soares, & MacNab, 2006). These new forms of activity related to the education of children can be analyzed using activity theory. By applying the intermediate theoretical concept of hybrid educational innovation, which is based on the principle of hybridity of collaborative and participatory interventions, this chapter focuses on the idea behind the intervention research presented here, namely, that school activity (and learning) is best expanded not from the inside alone, but by creating hybrid and symbiotic activities in the real life-world (Yamazumi, 2009a, 2009b).

In the following sections, to go beyond conceptualizations of pedagogical activity prevalent in the traditional school, I first discuss collective educational innovation to construct hybrid and symbiotic forms of school activity. Hybrid educational innovation of this sort has the potential to stimulate participating organizations and actors to share a new, expanded sense of the sites, objects, and scope of educational work. Second, I analyze some findings from an intervention study on a hybrid educational project occurring in Suita City with the help of the conceptual framework of activity theory. Finally, I discuss hybrid learning activities, studying how emerging collaborative and creative learning activities involve the surrounding communities and society and benefit them.

I will begin the next section by discussing intervention research with the potential to promote children’s learning activities in order to evoke and generate the collaborative and transformative agency that can “transcend the institutional boundaries of the school and turn the school into a collective instrument” (Engestrom, 1991b, p. 257) for transforming related activities, the surrounding community, and the world at large.

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