Among the valuable aspects of WYRED, a special mention should be made to the wide variety of backgrounds of the young people that have been involved in the project so far. Although it might be hard to properly engage all of them properly in all the activities proposed, but we do believe that the extra effort will pay off as children and young people from all walks of life do deserve to have their voices heard.
The Boundaries Observatory, a recently founded Community Interest Company that focuses on developing new approaches to social research and partner of the WYRED project from its start, shared with the consortium a story about a group of 9 young people (5 boys and 4 girls) between 10 and 12 years old, all being educated outside the normal school environment. They are a very varied group with different backgrounds and different reasons for being home-educated. Most of them have experience of conventional schooling, and for different reasons they and their families have decided to opt for home education. The group forms part of an informal network that comes together for different activities in different combinations.
Although a group of this nature might be expected to make extensive use of digital technologies to access learning opportunities, few of them are whole- hearted users of digital technologies, and in some cases, they are actively resistant to them, eschewing social media and the use of the Internet except for quite specific activities related to learning. They expressed a degree of skepticism regarding the value of these technologies and some questioned their unconditional use by other young people.
This extended to their initial responses to the digital dimension in WYRED.
Questions were raised about the data in the platform, who would control it, why was it necessary to give names, surnames and ages and why indeed was it necessary at all? What was valued was the opportunity for international interaction in this case, but not all have yet confirmed that they wish to enter the platform.
As mentioned, most of the participants have experience of the way schools work, having spent in some cases a few terms, in others longer, before taking the decision to leave and start, or return to, home education. The reasons for doing so are quite varied. In some cases, it was the sense that a lot of time is wasted in schools on things that are not relevant to learning. The focus on discipline was particularly commented on as problematic as it got in the way of actually learning things, but important was the sense that much of what is taught is not useful in their lives. Others had had negative experiences relating to the lack of humanity in the school context, where at many points in the day there is little supervision of the children and how they behave towards one another. The shared conclusion was that for them, conventional schools are not an appropriate environment.
However, some had heard of progressive schools, such as Steiner schools, and identified some positive elements in them. The group did feel that a good aspect of schools like that in general is the chance to come together with friends and try new things. The fact that the others are simply there in the school context, as opposed to having to organize to meet them was mentioned.
As a group they felt that schools could be improved, and it might be possible to design a school that would meet their needs more appropriately and in a more humane (friendly) way. They therefore decided that one of the projects the group would work on is the idea of “a better school”. The aim is to use the WYRED platform to ask other children and young people across Europe about their school experiences, explore different kinds of school and how they work, and using all this information, create their own design.
More news soon! And look for them on the platform.