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Education is a carnival: the "Brazilian touch”

What can we learn from Carnival to transform education? In one of my blog entries, I mentioned an article by Seymourt Paper about samba schools:

“At a samba school the dominant activity is dancing. But it has another purpose related to the Carnival, at which each samba school will take on a segment of the more than twenty-four hour long procession of street dancing. While people have come to dance, they are simultaneously participating in the choice, and elaboration of the theme of the next carnival; they are engaged in a common activity - dancing - at all levels of competence from beginning children to superstars. The fact of being together would in itself be "educational" for the beginners; but what is more deeply so is the degree of interaction between dancers of different levels of competence. What counts is the weaving of education into the larger, richer cultural-social experience of the samba school.”

Paper identified two innovative features in the learning process that takes place at a samba school: learning together and learning from each other. These two simple ideas take us back to the pre-digital era when socialising with friends was seen as fundamental for a child’s development. Roger Hart and Colin Ward were two experts insisting early in their works on the importance of children’s informal participation in their communities.

Learning is nowadays increasingly seen as a mix of formal and informal experiences, and this is one of the greatest achievements of digital learning. But the socialising experience should remain central. This is what Paper tells us about the samba school and this is what is progressively emerging with the latest trends in digital learning.

What we call “social learning” refers to the degree of interaction between learners of different levels of competence. Learning from others and learning with others are fundamental elements of the learning experience and essential for students to get full ownership of what they learn.

A few months ago, I wrote about MOOCs as “Maracana Open Online Courses” taking the Maracana stadium as the symbol of a new learning experience where tens of thousands of students get together and learn in the same place. I should have added, paraphrasing Colin Ward, that no learning is governable if it does not grow learners who feel it is theirs.

Carnival and football are two experiences that create incredible ownership among the participants. Let’s learn from the “Brazilian touch” to transform education!