School of Everything – except for choice?

A few weeks ago I showed a friend how to use predictive text. He was delighted. So was I. Teaching and learning are precious and potent means to connect.

Charles Leadbeater (writing in Prospect Magazine) mentioned something new to me: the School of Everything. It’s an online/offline project still in dvelopment, being created with support from the Young Foundation. The site they are working on is intended to be a place where we can all connect to share knowledge; a combination of wiki, classroom, coffee shop and workshop.

They set out their principles here, which (if you don’t mind) I’ll repeat:

Everybody has something to teach. That old idea of a teacher being somebody who stands up at the front of a class in school is out of date. We want to uncover hidden teachers. We hope some of our first teachers will be young people learning from each other as peers.

Learning is personal. We think people learn best when they can choose what, when and how they learn – and when they can find the right people to learn with.

You can’t force someone to learn. Compulsory schooling often leaves people feeling that education is something that ‘happens to them’. This can create a sense of powerlessness and a ‘habit’ of disengagement. But people aren’t ‘disengaged’ in some abstract sense. Everyone’s interested in something. Start from what someone’s interested in and it’s surprising how fast they learn.

We like face-to-face. The internet’s great and all, but we’re not encouraging people to spend even more time in front of a screen. There are plenty of e-learning providers already. We want to help people organise real-time, face-to-face learning where, when and in the way that suits them.

Flexibility leads to accessibility. We’re not going to put restrictions on whether people use the School of Everything to organise institutional, private or informal learning – or whether or not people charge money. Users will be able to find or start anything, from lengthy fee-paying and accredited courses to book groups or one-to-one knowledge-sharing. And it will have room for plenty of other new kinds of learning groups we haven’t thought of yet.

The main man is Peter Brownwell, who’s just produced a new site for online giving and volunteering at (“the independent site for the smarter giver” – yeah flatter me into using you!) and blogs at where he wins my heart by gently railing against choice: “More is not enough, but then less may just be good enough.”

I’m certainly enthused by the school, but find myself curious about how it will offer everything without swamping us with too much choice. Good luck.