The NOW educational approach – or why I consider myself a learner

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What do you do? If you are not a nurse, a painter or a lawyer, you might know how difficult this question can be. I like to think of myself as an educator. Here’s a bit about the journey that brought me to leading the educational design team of NOW and about what the NOW learning approach is all about.

It was as a volunteer many years ago that I first started working with young people, designing and facilitating non-formal education experiences, combining intercultural and experiential learning, and guiding groups of young people through transformative educational experiences.

My professional journey, however, began in a different corner: I started my career as a translator. After years of technical translations, two years ago I was gifted with a client that completely changed my relationship with my profession: I started translating articles for a website on education and innovation called Porvir. Translating content that I was deeply interested in, allowed me to reconnect with the world of formal education (a world I have lost touch with after I finished university) and learn about the amazing changes and trends that were happening in the education field around the world. Translating articles for Porvir, I discovered project-based education, personalized learning, unschooling, peer-to-peer learning, combining online and offline learning, and many other things that I hadn’t yet heard about. Each article I translated led me to videos, websites, books, other articles… an endless list of fascinating resources that I happily meandered through. Experiencing how I could get lost for hours learning more about educational approaches and innovation left me with no doubt: this is where my passion lies.

When I got involved in NOW, the inspiration I collected from my research and translations, as well as my many years of experience in non-formal education and experiential learning, made it clear that I wanted to be part of developing NOW’s educational approach. After all, this was a great opportunity to combine the practical and theoretical experiences I had with other people’s knowledge to create a new and powerful learning experience for young people.

Behind the NOW educational approach is a team of five NOWers that brings together a wide variety of experiences and expertise. Our meetings go from deep discussions about diversity and inclusion to how to use art and creativity as part of the learning process to how to turn academic topics into an experiential learning activity. Our different perspectives are constantly intertwined with the educational pillars that have been part of NOW since the very beginning:

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We believe that everybody has something to teach and we value that knowledge as much as any other; that is why we focus on peer-to-peer learning, encouraging participants to learn from each other at all times. For us, learning comes from doing, trying things out, finding solutions for real problems, making mistakes, reflecting about our experience, and starting again–this is where project-based education and experiential learning kick in. We also believe that people learn in different ways, at different paces, and have different needs in their learning processes. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in education, and that is why we put emphasis on personalized learning experiences. Finally, we believe that education nowadays should use new technologies in its favor, incorporating them to in-person or offline elements to improve the learning experience, particularly if we are talking about young people: meeting them where they are and using technology as a way to enhance learning and peer to peer exchange.

To me, the power of the NOW approach lies exactly in the meaningful combination of different learning approaches with our key values. Our goal is to allow NOW participants to learn all the time, in all of their interactions: with peers, with their local communities, with friends and family, with their coaches, with facilitators. And, of course, to allow all of these people to learn from NOW participants. Our goal is that the effects of the NOW Journey can reach way beyond the NOW participants themselves. To me, one key ingredient to make that happen is to offer space for reflection. Only then, we can turn experiences into learning.

My personal journey with NOW has already allowed me to learn a lot from other NOWers, including the NOW participants who I haven’t even met in person yet. But in their diversity they have made me question approaches I have used in the past and pay even more attention to ‘personalizing’ the educational space we offer.

Today, I am able to bring together different experiences from my professional life with my passions. This helped me understand that I don’t need to have a clear profession to have an answer to “What do you do?” It makes me happy to have an answer for that question that I truly believe in: I am an educator, and most importantly, I’m a learner. And I look forward to dive even deeper into ven more powerful learning experiences together with our participants.