Bernie Trilling is passionate about self-propelled learning

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Bernie Trilling is passionate about self-propelled learning

August 18, 2021

Bernie Trilling is working with global education thought leader Charles Fadel to develop a world-class online repository of passion-led learning projects for Australian Learning Lecture.

Bernie is a long-time advocate for using passion as a learning device to deepen knowledge and thinking.

“If a learner is not motivated to learn, learning is not very likely to happen,” Bernie said.

“On the other hand, if learners develop an internal drive and compelling reason to learn something they really care about, and if they have the right support, encouragement, freedom of time, and the right tools to pursue their self-defined passions, those learners can turn into active and confident life-time and life-wide learners.”

And for Bernie, that is the goal of education.

Bernie’s career did not begin in the education sector. At Stanford University, he attended a seminar with the noted population biologist and ecological activist, Dr Paul Ehrlich. That seminal moment led him to work at a Washington DC organisation that organised the first Earth Day in the US.

“At that time, I clearly saw education as the most powerful tool a society has to nurture future generations to think, act, and live a sustainable, regenerative life. And at that same time, educational technology held a great deal of promise to transform the learning process, so my work from then on involved both the high tech/media industry and education research and practice,” Bernie said.

The idea of creating an online resource for quality passion learning came through his son’s experience of choosing and working on a personal Quest project, guided by an external mentor.

“For learners that had already identified a personal passion, their Quest experience was often the highlight of their entire high school experience. For those that weren’t sure which of their interests could become a passion, it provided opportunities to try out several passion “hats” – and that was important to their growth, though a bit more challenging in the process.”

Bernie hopes that the ALL project will support every learner to move from a passive, conforming student just “doing school”, to an active, self-motivated, purposeful, creative, and passionate lifelong learner.

“Educators and parents need toolkits to help learners do this, and learners need support from educators and parents in investigating and exploring their interests and passions, plus wide varieties of experiences in diverse learning projects leading to their own self-managed, personal projects,” he said.

He is hopeful, too that the online resource will show parents and educators that passion projects are a very real way of deepening learning, helping young people acquire critical thinking skills, and make discernment between fact and fiction.