Nevertheless, ecosystem is a relatively new phenomenon in education, there are a great many examples of successful implementation of this approach in different countries. Some of them will be given in this section.
Animation studio DA is a Russian charity project that was founded in 2008. It is intended to provide emotional and creative support for and socialize children and adults who found themselves in a difficult situation. The project is an informal association of like-minded people which seeks to expand as they develop. The studio DA initially produced cartoons engaging children with cancer and special needs. It used to be a charity project but now it is a whole system of projects of different sustainability and activities.
All projects support inclusion by developing and utilising various formats of activities including unique ones: inclusive yoga, art therapy, games, and integrated activities. Over the last period, it developed learning materials for volunteers and other relevant communities. Presenters have been using technological solutions and online formats in their activities for a long time such as online courses on cartoon production for parents and teachers.
StriveTogether project was created in 2011, Kentucky (USA) by the Cincinnati Community Leaders. It has expanded into a network of 70 local communities in 29 states and District of Columbia. The major aim of this project is holistic and comprehensive development of children which is not limited to the school curriculum. Participants strive to meet all the needs of children (nutrition, health and social needs) and get them ready for admission to schools after kindergarten and to universities after graduation. Therefore, StriveTogether invites all local communities to build a development trajectory for children “from cradle to career”. Distinctive feature of this project is collection and analysis of data on the participation and success of children in different projects. It allows to identify what services children need at a particular stage (for example, tutoring or further education). As a result, children performance in Mathematics improved, and a share of university graduates and children admitted to kindergarten increased.
OECD experts analyzed European learning ecosystems intended to develop and promote entrepreneurship in educational institutions as part of the Entrepreneurship360 project (Mueller and Toutain, 2015). The analysis gives examples of successful implementation of learning ecosystems at different levels of education in European countries.
One of them is ETHAZI, the Basque project which was launched in 2013-2014. TKNIKA is a Center for Applied Research in VET among 5 private and public colleges in the Basque Country, Spain. The project involves about 100 students and 25 teachers. It aims to promote innovations in VET and the central idea is collaborative learning based on problem solving. ETHAZI also promotes professional development of teachers in such areas as new technologies, creative methods, case studies, analysis and problem-based learning.
The ETHAZI project is considered to be a learning ecosystem due to the following characteristics:
- It actively adapts the learning environment to the student needs and allows to achieve the project goal and encourage students to collaborate.
- Intermodularity which implies the development of the learning process around student practice and introduction to real working conditions and production process at all stages of the college education.
- Teacher autonomy in such aspects as schedule, learning environment, group and individual work.
The French “Mini-enterprise” project of the association Entreprendre Pour Apprendre is a learning ecosystem aimed at building communication between educational institutions and entrepreneurs to achieve common goals. It enables schools to network with representatives of local communities. It can be achieved by using the ”learning by doing” approach where a team of students work with entrepreneurs, make and sell products and possibly create a fully-fledged business. Children are encouraged to test their products withing the school environment.
Learning ecosystems can also be organized in the form of alternative educational institutions embedded in the local environment that would enable students to communicate directly with community representatives. A similar approach is used as part of the Knowmads project in the Netherlands. This project brought together students who wanted to create their own learning space. The first graduates of the project defined the learning place which was the former primary school building. Every class of graduates should create a new design for the learning space that encourages them to personalize it. This approach is quite available in terms of resources. It encourages students to actively shape the environment and interact with the local community.
The given examples of ecosystems illustrate that this approach can work at any level of education and does not require large-scale investments. Ecosystems can be organized by educational institutions and individuals. They can help achieve different goals: to promote professional development and entrepreneurship, search for ways to organize the learning space, and to develop inclusive education.
Grossman, A. S., Lombard, A., & Fisher, N. (2014). StriveTogether: Reinventing the local learning ecosystem. Harvard Business School Case, 314-031.
Mueller, S., & Toutain, O. (2015). The outward looking school and its ecosystem. Entrepreneurship 360. Thematic paper, OECD.
Spencer-Keyse, J., Luksha, P., Cubista, J. (2020) Learning Ecosystems: An Emerging Praxis For The Future Of Education Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and Global Education Futures: Moscow