Harvard keeps my fire burning

Harvard is strengthening my entrepreneurial resolve to carry on with my educational entrepreneurship ventures 

HARVARD University is 25 years younger than the second oldest school in The Philippines, the 403-year old University of Santo Tomas (UST). But I have always been fascinated by the passion of Harvard to change the world.

In July 2014, I signed up with the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s GSE2x Leaders of Learning course of study lectured by professor Richard Elmore and his team at edX and HarvardX. I passed, with flying colors (with a completion grade of 98 percent). Thanks to sir Elmore and his GSE2x team; they rock!

“In Leaders of Learning, you will identify and develop your personal theory of learning, and explore how it fits into the shifting landscape of learning. This is not just about schools, it is about the broader and bigger world of learning. The education sector is undergoing great transformation, and in the coming decades will continue to change. Our hope is that Leaders of Learning will help prepare you for what comes next,” described edX of HarvardX’s course of study.

Professor Elmore, a Gregory R Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, may not know it. He was my first American mentor. Filipinos or Filipino-Americans represented two percent of his class of 9,645 students from all over the world. What did I learn from him? A damn lot. Here are a few excerpts of my responses to the many questions, discussions and essays asked of us to accomplish.


IN THE Self-Reflection part of the Introduction to Leaders of Learning, I was asked how do people learn, I wrote:

People learn best when they are inspired and comfortable.

Interest, inspiration and drive to learn come from the individual self.

A good physical environment, which means a healthy architectural, structural or engineering design of the classroom, bedroom, study room or outdoor study, make learning more exciting. Computers, gadgets, technology and other media may enhance it.

A healthy life that comes from the immediate family, neighborhood, community, society or the nation (at large) give mutually stronger moral support to the desire and passion to learn of the individual.

But you know, what? We, in The Philippines, are in not the ideal situations as described in the foregoing. Many of us are challenged by our realities. Much more failed. And yet, we thrive. We remained to have a high literacy rate; our business process outsourcing industry thrives. We are one of the hippest and happiest people on earth, according to a Hong Kong survey that a Maryland university study seconded.

Then I took Harvard’s Mode of Learning Assessment (MOLA). I will tell you something about the twin results later.

Modes of Learning

IN THE first of Elmore’s four learning quadrants, I was asked two questions: One, How have your beliefs about learning shaped your education and career choices?; and Two, How did the Modes of Learning Assessment challenge you? How did it surprise you?

I wrote:

Both my inherent and acquired beliefs about learning did me quite well in shaping my education and career choices.

It did not surprise me that upon assessment, my responses had classified me as belonging to the Hierarchical Collective (HC) quadrant, 58.73 percent, at the most; and Hierarchical Individual, 17.40 percent, at the least. I tried asking three persons within my immediate circle to choose the Modes of Learning icon that best describes what or how they wanted to learn (without explaining much each quadrant represents): Two children, one, aged 6.4 years old, and another, 16 years old, picked up the Distributed Collective (DC) quadrant; while an adult, aged 36 years old, chose Distributed Individual (DI). Methinks, I feel strongly about HC and DI (I got 41.27% for that; my DC was 38.1%).

Modes of Learning Leadership

IN THE second of four quadrants, I was asked: One, In what type of learning environment do you think you would thrive as a leader? Two, What do you think are the skills and knowledge required to be a successful leader in this learning environment?

I wrote:

I shall thrive in Distributed Individual (and Hierarchical Collective) learning environment(s), if I may be allowed a couple of preferences, but with the former only if I will have a single reply.

Not all learners can cope with the rest of the group studying many things collectively. Sometimes, people learn step-by-step and case-to-case according to their own pace, needs, realities, capabilities and time that they can spare to learning anything one brick at a time.

Customization is a more exciting name of the game this 21st century of learning, unlearning, relearning and doing your thing.

Modes of Learning Organization

IN THE third of the four quadrants, I was asked: One, How do you think a learning environment is best organized? Two, What concrete steps would you take to ensure that the organizational design supports the learning goals?

I wrote:

A learning environment is best organized if organizational structure, processes and culture are both “structured and unstructured,” “made more dynamic,” and both “adaptive and ‘respectful’ of various learning-and-teaching cultures” that will suit the preferences of the state, of the school administration, of the teachers, of the learners, and of their communities – for ultimate synergy of purposes.

Openness of vision, mission, core culture and action programs so that anyone and everyone may participate and contribute to the success of the individuals and their organization should be fully, sophisticatedly, maturely, responsibly and responsively effected from top to bottom, “bottoms-up” (so to speak), within and without the organizational design that backs up the learning goals of even those who are outside of the organization and community.

Modes of Learning Design

IN THE fourth of the quadrants, I was asked two question sets: One, Where do you go (physically or digitally) for your own learning? What are the characteristics of these spaces? Two, What kinds of spaces have most supported your learning in the past? What spaces have hindered your learning?

I wrote:


I have been nurtured by journalism’s “think critically” (inquire, discern, analyze) teachings since Grade IV during my campus journalism headstart, and by professional journalism after high school, when I did college at night and worked in a daily newspaper during the day. I always went for “media, circa-1960s, 1970s” {of oral communicating by parents, teachers, elder relatives and friends, priests and playmates); of books, of radio and TV (we had a Zenith), of newspapers and magazines, writings on the wall, and so on}, for my own learning. I have been calling them collectively as my “media space.”

I should say that my media spaces in my humble beginnings were open-ended and “dynamic.” I found exciting their leaving me with more elbow room to decide for myself if I was learning or unlearning, early on in my vegetative life.

I went for media spaces in the past 50 years. I shall go to media spaces, still, now and henceforth, for anything and everything I want to learn, teach, do and share.


CAMPUSES and classrooms, libraries and home study tables, structured activities and field trips by schools and teacher-authorities, and the like, but also extracurricular activities (I was more active outside of the academics during my gradeschool and highschool), “jamming with my elder classmates and workmates,” and journalistic coverage of events had most supported my learning in the past.

Organizational structures” (and their seeming rigidity), however, at home (“My parents were disciplinarians.”), in school (“Teachers were bookish.”), at work (“Superiors and supervisors threw their weights around.”), in the church (“My elder parishioners were holier-than-thou.”), the neighborhood (“I had a mixture of good and bad neighbors.”), and within and without the society at large (“We had martial law back then, but I was also in touch with the libertarians.”) had somehow hindered my learning, to flower and bloom more fully. I survived. But learning, for me, is living, by the way…

Design Challenge: Human Factors and your Ideal Learning Space

THIS was my favorite portion of the Leaders of Learning course.

Professor Elmore and his HarvardX GSE2x team’s instructions run like this: Briefly describe your theory of learning and then present the design of your ideal learning environment. Be sure to consider the five human factors as you develop your design.

1 Start with your theory of learning by completing the sentence: “People learn best when…”
2 Then, imagine, what is the physical or digital space where you would lead this type of learning?

You can present your ideal learning environment in multiple modes (writing, drawing, photos). You can post a written response. For any other presentation style, you must post your response online (For example: Flickr, a personal website, etc…) and then post a URL link here.

PROACTIVism’ and ‘Media School’ concepts presented to Harvard; peers’ assessments: Proficient, start them up


I ACCEPTED the HarvardX Leaders of Learning design challenge and ventured, thus:

People learn best when they are “free, happy, healthy, safe, secured and well” learning, teaching, trying, doing and sharing anything of knowledge, knowhow, know-why and where-to-go from the here and the now.

I dubbed these idea and ideals as “PROACTIVism.”

This theory of learning I call PROACTIVism is never the “activism” in the traditional sense. It is not marching on the streets, throwing expletives at anyone that resembles the Establishment, destroying public property on sight, burning flags and effigies, blocking the natural course of daily grind, and “killing” those who go against this “activist ideology.”

I define PROACTIVism, thus: One, a dynamically “revolutionary and evolutionary” learning theory; two, it is “working within, around, overlooking (and ‘underlooking,’ from any distance far or near, inside and out), and without any educational system (affluent, subsistent and those in-between);” three, teachers here practice while practitioners also teach; four, there are some basic house rules or core values (more aptly) here, but learners, mentors, peers and communities are also encouraged to think, feel and do “out of the box” (no fear to break the rules) – towards what youngsters call now disruptive innovation; five, it is like “swarm intelligence-inspired” a la our world’s First Peaceful People Power Revolution (or “fiesta” at EDSA in 1986, when a housewife overthrew a dictator and became President, and) where everyone regardless of class, color or creed were both leaders, followers, actors and doers. I can go on and on defining my PROACTIVism theory, but maybe, in more appropriate time, space and opportunity.

PROACTIVism’s physical and digital spaces are my concept of practical, hands-on, down to business, positive, upbeat and upmarket “Media Space.”


Media Nerve Center

(Y)Our and my Media Space starts up with pieces of blank papers, some pencils, crayons and pens, a typewriter, a PC with printer, scanner, copier and fax and lots of tech gadgets powered by internet access that never dies down, with book shelves, hanging cabinets and herbal plants in pots and pans, in a small (oblivious, but well-lit, “smiling color-painted” and ventilated) room with a few cubicles and a common work table facing a white board, within a big shopping mall in the metropolis. (That’s more or less how I started my micro business venture).

It is the nerve center of two bigger satellite learning centers in a suburb and a province. It is a small media workshop where creative, reflective and interactive ideas and ideals originate and exchanged for enhancement (by and through bricks and mortar or a click) anywhere else. The media workshop churns out media productions, like a health travel and entrepreneurship webTV and radio program that can be streamed from a web portal. These web broadcast airwaves or “on-the-air lanes” are what we called the live stage for debates, plays and other special presentations in the olden days.


Media School

The first of two bigger satellite learning centers is an hour’s drive from the nerve center. The media school is the urban component of my media-powered learning architecture. It is spacious, unfurnished and almost “without walls, floors and ceilings” clusters of open-spaces, in a manner of speaking. It is a customizable “cells of open-classrooms” that synergize with any given subjects, topics, questions, issues, concerns and disciplines being defined, taught, learned and exchanged by any one, some or all participants at any given time. (In my micro venture’s practice I mentioned earlier, it was a Franciscan Nuns’ convent that was to be transformed into a pediatric, juvenile and elder care center, but should have been ideal if it were developed into a media school for children and young people.) Here, health sciences are main fares.


Media Farm

The second satellite learning center is a two- to three-hour drive away from the nerve and first satellite centers. It is a small building of one to two storeys atop a rolling-hilled botanic gardens within a complex of science, math and research centers overlooking a dormant volcano and a lake. The media farm – the rural component of my media-powered learning architecture – shall have to be fire-proof, earthquake-proof and so on whose structural engineering can weather the worst typhoons, tornadoes, tsunamis and what-have-we.

Learners are taught here about agriculture, fisheries, biotechnology, climate change and calamity and disaster risks reduction management, ecology and love of environment and nature. The love and nurture for nature is what learners, teachers and stakeholders go here to this “media school” for.


Media Village

The three learning centers of my media school are made more interactive, convergent, interlinked and interconnected by proactive media and technology, and proactive tasking, events and trips that all members of the community are putting together. Health, safety, security and wellbeing of people and the environment are the foremost considerations for this replicable learning design. Its principal learning goal is to help the learning community to be able to develop for themselves into being and becoming better persons, citizens of the world and human being better than they or we are today.

Final Thoughts

IN THE concluding part of Leaders of Learning, I was asked to reflect on my final thoughts regarding the whole learning quadrants, to which I responded this way:

I used to think the best learning happens when things and matters in the educational landscape are “all-in.”

I thought that when things are in place, so to speak: big or small schools with walls, floors and ceilings, with rows of chairs facing the blackboard and the good (“know-it-all”) teacher does a “monologue” that sticks to prescribed curriculum and activities the whole schoolyear round, with long corridors to get you from room to room, or with a library, clinic, auditorium, playground and other comfortable facilities; you look nutty in school uniforms, you have school bus service and your campus is hygienic and secured, well-lit and ventilated; and more importantly, you have a home, neighborhood and church that accord you with strong moral support systems and environs conducive to learning.

I thought learning always happens within such structures of a school, a house, a village or a parish church with authority figures to lead or head.

Now I think you can do better learning by yourself, with pals or buddies, or with small or big groups – within and without the real world, real life and real time or “virtually” with a click and flick of a finger.

You can do better learning anywhere you are in the world at any given time – with school or without school.

You can do better learning in your own sweet time – whether quickly or in a huff, or faster but still within your own pace, or tediously, rigidly and more comprehensively, or faster than the speed of thought and still within your (as well as other people’s or establishments’) quality standards.

You can do better learning in any which ways or means or techniques or strategies or forms without sacrificing substance and essence.

With a “media mind, (heart and spirit)” that I think I was born into, I must say that Media played an essential part in how I used to think about learning. Media will still play great parts in why (and how come) my thoughts, feelings and actions about learning had changed to keep on evolving into the quantum level of ideas and ideals that can impact on my and my fellow human beings’ lives. #MarcGuerreroXSchools

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