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Learners Without Borders

Learners Without Borders
New Learning Pathways for All Students

September 2021 | 160 pages | Corwin

The future of education centers empowered students in a global learning ecosystem.

Despite decades of reform, the traditional borders of education—graduation, curriculum, classrooms, schools—have failed to deliver on the goals of excellence and equity.

Despite massive societal changes, education remains controlled by an old mindset. It is time to change that limiting mindset and, more importantly, the ineffective practices in education. To truly serve all learners, future classrooms must remove the boundaries of learning and become student-centered, culturally responsive, and personalized—supportive and equitable environments where each student can direct their own learning and seek multiple pathways to skills and knowledge in a global learning ecosystem. This compelling call for transformative change offers all involved in education

  • Evidence-based arguments that reveal the need to break the traditional borders that limit learning
  • Strategies to personalize learning and remove the confinement of traditional pathways
  • Examples from around the world to create equitable and student-centric learning environments
  • Resources for creating a school learning environment that expands opportunities for personalized learning into the global learning ecosystem
It is time to now imagine a different kind of learning, without borders, and to begin the shifts in practice that will result in personalized learning for all students.
About the Author
Chapter 1. New Possibilities
The Failure of Educational Reforms

Our Changing World

Hope for the Future

Chapter 2. The School Pathway
The Borders of Schooling

The Dysfunctional One-to-Many Model


Chapter 3. New Learning Opportunities
The Impact of Technology

What Matters: The Pressure on Education

New Students and Their Interactions With Technology

How to Improve: The Opportunities


Chapter 4. Changing the School Pathway
The School Pathway

Rethinking the School Pathway

Breaking Out of the School Pathway

Dropping Out of the School Pathway

Changing the School Pathway

New Personalized Pathways


Chapter 5. Breaking the Curriculum Border
Futile Efforts

The Owners of Curriculum

The Missing Actor

Students as Co-Owners


Chapter 6. Breaking the Classroom Border
The Classroom Is Not the Only Place for Learning

The Human Teacher

New Forms of Teaching and Learning

Technology and Teachers’ Roles


Chapter 7. Self-Directed Learners
Natural-Born Learners

Diverse Learners

Self-Determined Learners

The Loss of Learning

Teaching Self-Determination

Cultivating Future Creators



Chapter 8. Making the Change: Learners Without Borders
Advocating for the Right Outcomes

Making the Changes

Learners Without Borders

Conclusion: Can Change Happen?


Yong Zhao, one of our most consistently profound leaders in the transformation of education, breaks the rigid mold of traditional schools, replacing it with a global ecosystem of student-engaged learning. In this future, which is already here, students, teachers, and a community of resources are liberated from those molds, and we are inspired to re-create school as unbounded learning environments.

Grant Lichtman
Educator, Chief Provocateur, Author, Thrive, Poway, CA

This book presents some very provocative notions on why we need significant changes in today’s schools. The remote learning environments that have been implemented as a result of COVID have taught us some very real lessons and this book begins to put them in the perspective of individualized and personalized learning for students at all levels.

Marianne Lescher
Principal, Kyrene Traditional Academy, Gilbert, AZ

Learners Without Borders is a thought-provoking look at the opportunity before us. For decades, schools have remained relatively unchanged, though overnight change was forced upon us by a global pandemic. Zhao urges us to consider this upheaval as a gateway to fundamentally redesign schools, break the “default view” and disrupt education as we knew it.

Melissa J. Weatherwax
K–12 Instructional Technology, Averill Park Central School District

Professor Zhao consistently pushes us to dream big about what’s possible in teaching and learning. Anyone who wants a pulse on the future of our rapidly changing world needs a copy of this book!

Julie Stern
Learning Facilitator Author, Learning That Transfers, Visible Learning for Social Studies, and Tools for Teaching Conceptual Understanding

Long before COVID, a second virus began spreading around the world, infecting school systems and rendering them resistant to change. Its costs to students, families, and societies have likewise been enormous. In Learners Without Borders, Dr. Yong Zhao delivers the much-awaited vaccine. Its active ingredients include treating students as owners of their own learning and helping them harness technology for education, work, and life. As educators and policymakers plan for a post-COVID world, this book is their best vaccination against the pandemic of educational mediocrity.

Milton Chen
Executive Director, Emeritus, George Lucas Educational Foundation

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ISBN: 9781506377353

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