Ecotones, Disintermediation, & and Educational Crossroads
An ecotone is an area of transition area between two biomes. It is where two or more communities meet and integrate.It may be narrow or wide, and it may be local (the zone between a field and forest) or regional (the transition between forest, grassland and water(ecosystems). An ecotone may appear on the ground as a gradual blending of the two communities across a broad area, or it may manifest itself as a sharp boundary line. The word ecotone was coined from a combination of eco(logy) plus -tone, from the Greek tonos or tension – in other words, a place where ecologies are in tension… a place that is heterogeneous in nature and offers opportunities for a blended sustainability- or not.
One of my favorite ongoing observations while a Teacher in Residence at the University of New Hampshire was supervising a student teacher in a high school environmental science class for a year while studying bug life diversities and habitats on the many ecotones of an expansive school grounds consisting of streams of water, old growth forests, and natural overgrown fields. Encroaching the natural were athletic playing fields treated with an assortment of chemicals for maintenance; parking areas treated with winter salt; and a cut-through with high tension wires running along the edge of the property. While they took samples of bug life in the different areas over time, the real interesting findings were which species survived and ultimately lived in the ecotone’s blended environments; where field met stream, forest met athletic fields, etc.
The experience resonates for me today and is a metaphor for the current state of education. Teaching and learning is caught to an extent in the old growth of 20th Century practices of education which still predominates school cultures. New 21st Century educational ecosystems where technology provides possibilities for flexibility of time, of pace and of place is changing the landscape of possibilities for of what schools, teaching and learning will look like going forward. In this context, the interesting questions for me are: Who and what will survive as we continue moving forward? What will the blending of the past and future look like as virtual options and personalization become more the norm?…and what will educators need to do or how will they need to change in order to survive in an ecotone of a fading 20th century model that will be increasingly dominated by 21st century possibilities? The inevitable change is where the notion of the disintermediation of public schools enters the discussion; and the impact the 2020-21 pandemic has accentuated the tensions of the virtual and blended teaching and learning possibilities emerging today with 20th Century dogmas.…
Ecotones, Disintermediation, & and Educational CrossroadsRead More »