Recently, a friend shared this story of an influential 19-year old entrepreneur in the UK: Getting around rules to start a business in my teens. In the article, we learn the story of Ben Towers.
Aged 11, I was challenged by a family friend to build her a website. This was then the start of me learning and growing a full-service marketing agency – which reached a size of 26 full-time staff working with leading brands like Intuit and Mazars, when I was only 18. Now aged 19, I have recently undergone a multi-million pound merger of Towers Design (my agency), and I’m spending my time launching my new tech start-up, Social Marley, and investing in innovative start-ups.
While I don’t know much more beyond the post and a cursory look at Ben Tower’s website, the story pushed my thinking on the possibilities of greater learner agency and its role in the transformation of learning, education and schools. I believe his story is an example of what’s possible when “the system” and those within it release control and agency. “The system” – schools and banks, in this teen’s case, created the conditions for him to assume a significant amount of agency over his life path. Barriers were removed, and look what happened.
Some will argue that the story of Ben Tower is an outlier. But would we see more stories like this if our learners could learn within conditions that supported greater learner agency? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the majority of those of us running education systems are more focused on control than on supporting learners to take unique paths such as described here. Could this be an example of what education is all about, even if an outlier story? How would our world be different if we shifted our paradigm and allowed learners the opportunity to release more of their agency?
The more I process examples (and non-examples) of powerful learning, the more I am understanding that how we frame learner agency is at the core of real transformation. Interested in more stories focused on learner agency? Visit the Shift Your Paradigm podcast, cohosted with Lynn Fuini-Hetten. New episodes and blog posts every two week!
What are the possibilities inside each of the people you learn with and lead? How are you creating conditions for greater agency to be released?
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