Dropping out or rising out wouldn’t have been option in my household. You could say I grew up in a strict household full of immigrant striving to make it in this country (uh, whatever that means—it still escapes me). Unlike many kids growing up in poor households, I felt safe from physical violence. However, it wasn’t psychologically or emotionally safe to branch out from the family tribal customs and truly express my heartfelt wishes if they veered from the acceptable norm set down by my parents and their culture.
Even if I had grown up under different circumstances, unschooling as some folks have described it, sounds far too lonely knowing my own personality and nature. These days, I spend much of my day in relative solitude since my husband has a “day job” and I’m a solo freelancer.
I am grateful for these times on my own which are often sweetly and subtly inspiring. Yet, I know that I also need and feed on collaboration with other playmates as well.
As an adult, I am trying to discover and/or create a working and learning environment that works for me. Just recently, I heard about Makeshift Society, opening recently in San Francisco, described as a “clubhouse for creatives.” There’s something quite appealing to the concept.
So, I’ve also become curious what there is available for teens and young adults in the same vein of mutual learning environments so we’re not only constrained to learning and experimenting ensconced away in a library nook. While looking for more information on the pop-up NYC Makery makerspace for kids, I found the adult version in Brooklyn:
"The Makery is a co-working space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, bringing together writers, entrepreneurs, early-stage startups and freelancers who are passionate about making wonderful things—and want to do it around other thoughtful, creative people."
So I keep asking, looking, and perhaps shaping it: Where can I do my best work? Explore furthest? Learn the deepest? And with whom?
Even though I work online (Alan and I sort of hack this site you’re reading), I myself am doubtful about online learning. I suppose because of the sense of aloneness, I suppose.
The best part of college I found was the camaraderie of being thrown into an intimate, densely populated, bustling city. Even now decades later, I get a little buzz from sprawling through the Berkeley campus. It has such a lively atmosphere. (Hehe, I suppose you can go to Burning Man just as well if the bouncing of ideas and cross currents of people in a bustling city is the experience you’re after.)
Well, even those notions have been up-ended. I just met a young barista at Farley’s East the other day. She moved here to complete her last year of study at a local art academy from her hometown in upstate New York. All the previous years, she’d been entirely learning online only and she adamantly insisted that her relationships with her fellow students were stronger online than any of her face-to-face interactions this past semester. I’m still not sure what to make of that, but it threw open what “collaboration” and mutual support is and where it thrives.
Maybe it’s virtual, as well. So not surprised to hear of Zero Tuition College—ztcollege.com—an “online community for self-directed learners” creating their own individualized curriculum to meet and form study groups. Also, Skillshare, has just opened up brand-new “hybrid” classes (they initially were about the old-school face-to-face type) which are mostly online. The intriguing part really are the student groups you can form: “Ask questions, share links, and get feedback from other students around the world.”
I’d love to compile a comprehensive list of collaborative learning environments (for any age) that you are aware of or have experienced. Also love to hear pros and cons. Please send to me Zephyr email zephyr.yilmaz at gmail dot com or my Facebook, leave a comment below, or alternatively submit your idea here.