Creating Connections and Understanding Connections: John Dewey and the present world of Education

How can we understand new educational trends in relation to the global network context?

John Dewey believed in:

  • Creating connections, specifically connections to nature
  • Learning through interacting with the environment
  • Interactive, hands-on learning
  • Encouraging discussion between students, debate, and constructive problem-solving
  • Interdisciplinary education, and understanding connections

Philosophically, he championed education as a necessary agent of social change. He was a well-respected philosopher, educator and psychologist who sought to cultivate a better world and increased connectivity, fairness and experience of humanity for all.

John Dewey’s work and literature The School and Society highlight progressive education with a focused on two main points: his observed views of the tendencies of education.

  1. New educational trends are reflections of our current social context – and are part of an inevitable effort to bring educational in line with broader systems of globalization.
  2. He believed in democratic social ideals – so he wondered how we could align educational change with these.

How can we use the work of Dewey and modern like-minded scholars, to examine our present education system?

Scholars who believe in progression and change, and hold a democratic worldview will likely resonate deeply with Dewey’s work, as he describes large-scale trends and movements in education through a progressive lens. What is different from today, then from 100 years ago, is our direction: advancements in technology, science and social justice have formed, emerged and settled many times over. What is not different today about Dewey, is ultimate, his compass of the world. Social idealism promotes continual progress, growth and change, moving towards a more fair and just society. 

“New educational trends, including active and cooperative learning, interdisciplinary projects, networked distance learning and global corporate universities, can be accounted for as more or less conscious attempts to bring learning in line with the changing patterns of life and work activities in the global network society.” (Waks, 2013, p. 77).

Dewey’s encouragement towards a more natural environment reminds me of the Yukon First Nations movements in Education. Incredible efforts are made by dedicated educators and stakeholders to offer more land-based opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike. I think this is one example of what Dewey had in mind when he suggested the importance of interconnectedness and nature. Our present education system in the North allows us to establish more connections with both Native culture and nature for our children.


Walks, L. 2013. John Dewey and the challenge of progressive education. International Journal of Progressive Education 9(1).
Dewey, J. (1899). The school and society. University of Chicago Press.

Human Complexity and the Development of Curriculum

Photo by Tony Gonda (used with permission). A Yukon dandelion going to seed, in front of a flowering dandelion. There are layers, complexities and stages in flowers, just as there are in curriculum policy and its processes of development.

The process of developing curriculum is more much complicated than it initially appears. Many considerations – ideology, values, public issues and interests – shape the direction of curriculum development.

To understand how curriculum exists in its present state, we must look to the past, and understand its various stages of development to arrive at its present point.

A lengthy process may be involved in the development of the curriculum. For new ideas to arise, shape society, stir social change as well as social unrest with the status quo of learning, all involve the considerable passage of time.

Within this, humans have complex and varying beliefs about the world, which direction we are heading, which direction we “ought” to go, and where our energies are most needed. The discussion of these, and the debate, and who even ought to be the head of these decisions shape our politics.

To teach a child a certain set of ideas is to prepare them or equip them with specific knowledge and tools. Their ways of being will shape the future world.  Our children are our future, and yet our visions of the future are variable. As people, they are free agents, but so much of what we teach them shapes who they become.

While progression is ideal, necessary and valuable, one must not forget that the slow movement of change allows people time to come together and, most ideally, for democratic processes to occur. Democracy allows for many voices to shape the path forward, which prevents the kind of fast-moving change that can be difficult to sustain.

New curriculum forms, as the world we live in changes, and educators and their stakeholders gather to incrementally shift the guiding documents, to match the path most suitable for the best-agreed upon future ideals of the world – to try to help shape the unknown.