Shirley Brice Heath

Looking deeply at independent learning

In times of crisis, governments, refugee groups, and local citizen groups have organized local independent learning opportunities.  This practice has a long history in New Zealand, and during apartheid years in South Africa, numerous non-governmental organizations as well as local groups ran voluntary learning programs.  South Africa managed in some areas to give “school” credit for achievements under these independent learning endeavors.  Around the world in both modern economies and developing nations, these programs are on the increase often with little notice from official education establishments.  In nations such as Denmark, the United States, Canada, and England, these programs operate across fields ranging from the science to the arts and including topics such as water quality, native fish populations, theater, literacy, and creative writing.  This talk examines some of the various ways in which multiple forms of literacy and different structured symbol systems work in such programs.  Research on these learning environments calls for not only linguistics and anthropology, but also attention to findings from neuroscience, economics, and grassroots politics.