A ‘Living’ Model for Frugal Education

An idea that I’ve been noodling around with for a while now is a model to represent frugal education design. I want something simple that I can share with people to more clearly articulate the idea with fewer words. I’d rather save those words for a paper in the near future. Originally I had an idea for a circular pedagogy model which I talked about in a keynote in late 2021, however, in hindsight, using the ‘P’ word was a bad idea. Frugal education is not specific to the methods and practices of teaching, but more the design and delivery of all facets of education, such as the design of spaces, the simplification of processes, and the conscious consumption and of materials and resources – all of which are incredibly important, but don’t necessarily align with what people think of as ‘pedagogy’. Hence why I call it frugal education and use terms like educator and participant over teacher and student.

Then there’s the pesky frugal word. When we talk about frugality a lot of people think of money, but that’s only one aspect of what that term represents. This model will help refocus people’s attention more on resources and less on price specifically. Finally, we want to think of the process of education design as a continuous cycle, rather than a linear path from ideation to delivery, to avoid falling into the trap of creating single-use designs.

An example of a linear deign process.

How might we design activities, spaces, and interventions that can be reused again and again in a sustainable way, whilst at the same time improving with each iteration? This iterative and sustainable approach takes its inspiration form ‘The Circular Economy’ as well as other frameworks and processes including design thinking, systems thinking, open-sourcing, and our old favourite, frugal innovation. Mix in some research and good open education practice and this model can become a powerful tool to help reimagine education designs as valuable resources in their own right. Resources that can evolve over time, informed by user feedback and insights from others who might remix and reimagine them in new and interesting ways.

So far this is where I’m at…

An initial model for frugal education.

Initial thoughts:
I originally had publish in place of open source, but the problem with publishing is it’s not inherently open. People often share their ideas, successes, and research, but that doesn’t necessarily provide others with the materials and instructions to apply, adapt, or build upon what the author has chosen to share. Open source, on the other hand, is explicit and refers to the publication of the designs, code (where applicable), and documentation of a ‘product’ to allow others to use, modify, and redistribute it in line with open licencing agreements. In education, these are often referred to as open education resources, or OERs, which is itself a form of open sourcing.

I’m not 100% sure if this is the best term to use here, simply due to the common understanding of open source as a reference to software in particular. However, it is the right term in my mind, so maybe it’ll stay. 😊

In the spirit of fugal education, this model will be refined over time, informed by research, experimentation, and feedback from others. I wasn’t sure about publishing this in its current form, but by sharing my thinking I can get input from others and the model can be further refined in public. Therefor, I’m going to make this a living page that I’ll update periodically with each new iteration. I have no doubt there will be plenty of changes to come.

Feature image by Med Badr Chemmaoui