Category Archives: 70:20:10

Toddler boy in office at laptop holding his hand up as if saying "stop"

How Kindergarten Can Save Corporate Learning

Continuous learning continues its slow yet steady upward trajectory in the ever-changing L&D universe. New research by Bersin by Deloitte stresses the need “to enable employees to respond effectively to change” by creating a culture of leadership and learning. The benefits to organizations that can pull this off, according to the report?

·      Two times more likely to respond effectively and efficiently to change

·      Two times more likely to meet or exceed financial targets

·      Seven times more likely to manage performance problems

·      Ten times more likely to identify and develop leaders

A couple of weeks ago at the Education Summit, John Palmer spoke about the culture of learning at AT&T, and the value of continuous learning as a response to change. At AT&T, employees can opt to take advantage of upskilling development programs or choose to remain (and then leave) with relatively soon-to-sunset programs.

The two questions we should be asking ourselves about preparing for tremendous changes impacting the workforce:

1.      How agile can organizations be in responding to questions they don’t even know they will be asking in five year?

2.      How can we prepare the workers of tomorrow to be respond to change that we cannot define today?

An Infrastructure for Corporate Agility

The infrastructure on which corporate learning stands, and therefore its ability to adapt effectively to change, must include the mindset as well as the toolset to adapt. This means that learning theory needs to get converted to practice much faster than ever before. And in smaller pieces. And when people really need it. Charles Jennings has been telling us this for years. As machines become more capable of taking away many of our jobs, more people seem to be ready to listen.

If technology is threatening to eat us, we need to leverage technology to keep up, and more importantly, to remain relevant. So, now we are ready for a version of 70:20:10 that speaks more than ever to just-in-time learning, and need the tools to provide it. Just as everyone started to understand what an LMS is, we are now demanding platforms that are more flexible and that will provide access to and credit for learning from multiple sources. For a start, look at what the teams at Fuse UniversalEdCast, and Degreed are doing in terms of providing, curating, and aggregating learning.

What about the Culture of Learning?

The change starts in kindergarten with helping to shape a love of learning that goes beyond mimicry and memorization. The type of mind required to answer questions we don’t will be asked and change that we cannot yet define needs less structure and more open-minded problem solving capability.

Should we be teaching kids to code? Sure! Let’s also teach them to work with their hands as well and break down a problem into its component parts.

Here, too, let’s use the technology at hand to provide personalized learning that not only allows students to follow a path of most interest, but that understands how that student thinks and is designed accordingly.

Why Engagement is So Important

Last year, the Hay Group reported that “Organizations on the top quartile on engagement demonstrate revenue growth 2.5 times that of those in the bottom quartile.” They went on to report that companies in the top quartile on both engagement and enablement achieve revenue growth 4.5 times greater.” For a company with annual revenues of $5 billion, this could mean an increase of $1.8 billion if both engagement and enablement are in the top quartile. With high levels of engagement and enablement, employee turnover rates can be 40% lower.

It seems like such an obvious thing. If people feel more invested in the task(s) at hand, and if people have more of a stake in the success of the venture they are involved with, won’t they do better at it?

You may assume I am still talking about corporate success. But with 1.2 million kids still dropping out of school each year, many of whom claim a lack of engagement, we need to understand why kids are not engaged in their learning and help them re-engage. In other words, we need our schools to be successful.

Why are kids disengaged?

The fact is that the focus of so many is on the end state that the experience of education itself has been altered in a most unfortunate way. Common Core and its attendant PARCC testing have created an atmosphere of dissent amongst educators, parents and kids. Teachers have always worked so hard to engage their students. As do curriculum designers. So do all the EdTech companies pouring those millions and more of dollars into the next best educational app. But the engagement now is directed toward developmentally skewed goals and if anything is a distraction to learning rather than a worthy goal. It’s not easy to experience joy in learning when constantly in test prep mode.

Additionally, our kids have grown up in vastly different circumstances to those under which our “modern” concepts of schooling were developed. Spending eight hours a day, most of it at a desk and separated from the tools and means by which they are already learning outside the classroom may not be the best recipe for success.

What are we preparing our kids for?

I’m a big fan of backward planning, and so I consider the overall purpose of a P-12 education in terms of how well we are preparing our kids for their active participation in society and the workplace. At the end of the day, what are our kids going to be able to do once they leave the nest?

As identified by the 2000 SCANS report, schools should be preparing kids for their effective participation in the workplace by teaching a basic set of competencies that cross specific job types:

  1. Identify, organize, plan, and allocate resources (Resources)
  2. Work with others (Interpersonal)
  3. Acquire and evaluate information (Information)
  4. Understand complex interrelationships (Systems)
  5. Work with a variety of technologies (Technology)

How can we re-engage kids in their learning?

Just as with adults, learning needs to be relevant and it needs to be delivered in a way that attends to the individual’s personal learning style. The challenges of achieving these goals should be the real work of today’s edu/teacherpreneurs and learning designers.

  • Contextualize learning in real-life tasks that make sense at all ages of development. If we can enable and support tasks that necessitate acquisition of knowledge, learners will be much more immersed in these experiences than the abstract drill and practice that still pervades the classroom today.
  • Create pathways to learning that map to children’s interests. I can learn about physics through soccer-related exercises or through architectural planning, for example. There are plenty of computer programs that can access my interests and direct my learning accordingly.
  • Incorporate the tools for learning students already take for granted. The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement acknowledges that we need to “get students where they are at.” Smartphones in particular are great ways to engage kids inside and outside of the classroom in ways that they are comfortable and excel at.
  • Attend to each child’s style of learning so that she can pursue her studies appropriately. Neurodiversity is making a huge difference in how we understand thinking processes and deliver learning these days. There’s more work to be done to get this out to everyone.
  • Get kids out of the classroom. Not only do kids need to play and move around, but there are a wealth of resources available in your communities for extending mentorship to local businesses. Learning from actual practitioners can be a huge boost to engagement.
  • Add maker activities to your curriculum and maker space to your classroom if possible. The maker mindset is one that incorporates DIY (Do-It-Yourself) interactions with teamwork and an entrepreneurial spirit that speaks volumes about how things work in the real world. In fact, the maker movement is not limited to kids and has sparked a whole new economy unto itself.

If your child cannot engage in a traditional classroom, consider the alternatives.

This week’s previous blog covered this topic in more detail, but as part of today’s conversation around engagement, it should be noted that there are options for kids who despite whatever the circumstances, cannot engage in learning in a formal school environment. Online schools, alternative schools, transfer schools, homeschooling and unschooling are all ways to enable learning for kids cannot attend a traditional school. Learning does not stop once a kid leaves the building. We don’t think that about kids who attend traditional school; we should not think that about those who seek an alternative.

Curating Learning in the Workplace and as Part of Preparing for It

The 70:20:10 model for workplace learning has shown us that learning comes from many different sources. There is on-the-job (or experiential) learning, social learning, and formal learning. And as Charles Jennings has taught us, while the exact ratio of 70:20:10 is “a relic,” the mixture of these different sources of learning, with a large proportion of it learning by doing, is going to help people be most successful in the workplace. The same is true for our younger learners.

Just as many workplaces are looking to the role of “curator” to help workers engage more in their own success through more targeted learning experiences, so do we need to curate and design opportunities for learning that more effectively map to the mind of the P-12 learner.

“School” is by definition a formal place of learning, but we need to consider a different model to re-engage our younger generation.

Design for Resilience . . . in Education

We traveled to Boston from NYC this past weekend for a college audition, and walking around Back Bay found the above exhibit at the Boston Architectural College. From the exhibit catalog, “Design for Resilience asks us to think, discuss, and take action as we consider how to better connect ourselves to our ecology and our infrastructure to ready ourselves for the future. . . Rebuild by Design has been answering these questions of resilience – the ability to withstand, adapt, and recover from shock – with an innovative process that relies on unprecedented collaboration to create unique solutions for a stronger tomorrow.” The words struck me as particularly apropos to our kids transitioning from high school to college (or whatever alternative path they might select). How can we prepare our young people to move forward and be productive contributors to society, for their sake and for ours? How can we design the PK-12 experience to make such transitions less shocking?

  1. Incorporate more practical components into the curriculum. Some colleges include housing options for senior year that are meant to prepare students for leaving the relative safety and comfort of the campus experience to “the real world.” That’s not a bad thing, but let’s start sooner and teach kids about personal finances with exercises about budgeting, health care issues, etc. earlier on so that the shock of leaving home for college is not as severe.
  2. Prepare more directly for the rigor of college academics. So many kids arrive at college unable to manage the workload due to either the sheer volume of reading assignments, papers or projects; or due to a lack of preparedness around the specific skills required to attach such assignments. A focus on the specific research and writing skills required would be a great asset to kids before they leave high school. Whether a course or a toolkit for preparation and later use, kids need more tools at their disposal to make it out there in higher ed and then on the job.
  3. Focus more on the decision-making skills one needs to survive once away from home. From selecting courses, to taking on extra-curricular activities and dealing with the social aspects of college living, scenario-based learning exercises could go a long way to lessening the shock once faced with these realities.

“Designing for resilience” from an educational perspective means taking on a more practical approach to curriculum and learning design. By incorporating existing tools from what is currently available, or adding to them with more specific materials for this target audience, we should be able to provide helpful tools for moving forward. Just as workplace learning is now designing and curating learning experiences for employees to focus on more hands-on and continuous learning, so should we incorporate similar strategies into the PK-12 learning space.Backward planning from the workplace, to college life and even to the PK-12 years can help better prepare young people for the realities they will face. And we’ll all be better off as a result.

Stay tuned to Designs2Learn for more on how resilient learning design can better prepare students for a place in tomorrow’s workplace.

Design Help for Those Who Can’t Sit Still in the Classroom

In an earlier post, I wrote about Johnny, a student who couldn’t sit still and for whom I proposed a curriculum that included less time in his chair, more time spent on projects and out of the classroom, and the involvement of more outside expertise.

As many of us devote our time to considering potential curricular changes to help empower this generation of learners, there’s also a great team of people considering the environments in which people learn and work. Today I watched a wonderful webinar presented by Inside Higher Ed, called “Beyond the Classroom: Changing Culture Through Environment.” Representatives from Steelcase Education, The University of Southern Mississippi, and betauniversity shared examples of the types of design thinking and projects that focus on making space more effective for learners and employees.

Many of the examples shared during this webinar focused on higher ed and corporate environments. We can draw a few simple rules from the design thinking that goes into making these places more conducive to thinking (learning and working) and apply them to the ongoing evolution in PK-12 educational practices that we see today.

  1. Make the space adaptable. The range of activities that take place during any one day requires different types of interactions between the teacher and the class, between the teacher and any one student, and between pairs and groups of students. Furniture that can be moved around can help facilitate this range of activities.
  2. Create zones within the classroom for different types of engagement. Even while accounting for flexibility in desk configuration, for example, there is a good case for creating zones of learning to facilitate some of the major interactions that take place each day. We’ve talked about blended learning design before, where the curriculum includes individual, group, and full-class activities. The classroom itself should have spaces where such activities can take place.
  3. Allow for ambient stimuli to help the mind wander. I’m lucky enough to have my desk in a room with a window with a view of the Hudson. I get up many times a day to look out that window while working through different design and business challenges. If you’re not fortunate enough to share my view, or that of the treetops, or anything natural, then a small space with comfortable seating and pictures of peaceful environments might do the trick.
  4. Democratize the sharing of information. While removal of the “sage from the stage” has resulted in less lecturing and more engagement between teacher and learner, the physical placement of whiteboards and visual displays within the classroom environment can allow for equity amongst the group and encourage collaboration further. The height of such displays and the group’s access to them can make a difference in the learning experience.
  5. Vary the types of seating and provide opportunities to work standing up or even reclining. Just as most students don’t feel comfortable sitting in rows all day long, neither do they benefit from the stiff wooden desk that fill most classrooms today. A sofa, some bean bags, chairs that rotate to allow multitasking are just a few alternatives that may contribute to clearer thinking and more engagement.

Thanks again to Inside Higher Ed and particularly to Andrew Kim from Steelcase Education for the insight. You can check out the hashtag #powerofplace on Twitter for more on this topic.

Stay tuned to Designs2Learn for more on the application of design to positive impacts on today’s evolution in education.

Partnerships for Lifelong Learning

By default and most frequently by definition, most schools are designed to ensure success measured by graduation and college acceptance rates. And socially, we have been encouraged to measure our own success by these milestones and by the one that logically follows, the landing of a respectable job with a respectable salary. In “Is High School the Mother of All Event-Based Learning?” I questioned the emphasis on these specific goals at the potential loss to those lifelong learning skills such as the ability to identify, organize, plan and allocate resources; work with others, acquire and evaluate information; understand complex interrelationships; and work with a variety of technologies. Clearly, we need to continue preparing young people to enter the workforce with the appropriate level of skills. How can we more effectively provide the competencies that are going to help them through a lifetime of work and learning?

Project-Based Curricula in PK-12

In previous blogs, I’ve shared ideas around incorporating more project-based learning and Maker curriculum that require both individual and team effort to succeed. These projects not only bring teams of kids together with more thematically-driven material, but they may also bring outside expertise into the schools. Think of how flipped classrooms remove the sage from the stage and make the teacher more accessible to groups of learners as well as individuals. These partnerships around project-based learning broaden the range of role-models and potential mentors and also actively model real-life collaborations as part of the learning process. Here are a couple of examples of groups doing some of this great work today.

I’ve mentioned Tools at Schools before as one organization doing great work in this area. They partner with schools and companies and introduce design thinking as a means to problem solving around a specific real-world issue. Tools at Schools and the manufacturing partner then work with the students to develop prototypes of the design solution that is presented at a final “market launch.” The six-month project has teams of students working together steadily building many of the competencies associated with resources, information, relationships and technology.

Another group doing some good work in this area is team at The Future Project. The Future Project brings “Dream Teams” into schools to work with students to create “Future Projects” that may include clubs, websites, companies, etc. Not only do students complete individual projects, but the sense of esprit de corps and cultural changes resulting from the overall effort benefit the entire school community. Working with volunteer entrepreneurs and businesses, students create brands, budgets and project timelines for implementing their business plans. An annual Dream Con event showcases final projects. Here, too, those lifelong learning skills are addressed through the duration of the project.

Apprenticeships for Millennials

Beyond K-12, Enstitute is a very impressive group matching millennials with mentors and apprenticeships that engage them directly with the type of work they want to do. These year-long paid apprenticeships may enhance or provide an alternative to traditional higher education programs. Enstitute develops the relationships with the host companies, selects the candidates, and manages the year-long program.

UnCollege is another group providing a more hands-on alternative to a formal college experience. The group, started by unschooler author Dale Stephens, offers two main programs. The one-year Gap Program is a four-phased program that includes travel abroad, a U.S.-based residency, an internship, and a capstone project. It’s a skills-based program built on the principles of self-directed learning and connects participants with mentors and internships. A more streamlined “Hackademic Camp” provides participants with a three-day workshop drawn from the Gap Year curriculum. Skills development focuses on networking, building social capital, negotiation and more.

Today’s challenges in the educational arena require an extended network to ensure that we are developing capacity for a lifetime of learning rather than moving students from one milestone to the next.

Stay connected to Designs2Learn for more on how learning design today is helping to shape tomorrow’s workforce.

Mentoring for a Better Blend of 70:20:10 in Education

Advisement has received increased attention these past few years in large part due to relationships between performance (meaning retention and graduation rates) and federal funding. Interest in the role of advising at the college level prompted us to examine the state of the state in the world of education through a 70:20:10 lens. Whatever the current impetus, the results of increased advising could and indeed should impact positively on those students. Even better would be an increased focus on mentoring to support learners through the educational journey that eventually leads to employment.

Advising or Mentoring?

Over the years, many institutions of higher learning have “shifted the metaphor” from “advising” to “mentoring,” as this informative piece from Penn State explains:

“In our current historical moment, as we struggle with potential decreases in enrollment, increases in tuition, and a shift toward skills-based programs (Levine and Nidiffer, 1996), we must consider how we can help our students successfully complete programs of study in a timely manner and provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life as well.”

So, “mentoring” implies support that may include but clearly goes beyond traditional academic advising. There’s a couple of areas that are particularly important to the discussion of the evolving role of education these days.

Expanding Access to Expertise Along with Access to Information

As technology has provided us with ever-increasing access to information, the guidance required to effectively sort through and vet that information grows as well. Today’s teachers are needed more than ever to provide the support required to help students become discerning information seekers and decision-makers. Subject matter expertise plays an important role, but mentoring can take students beyond “capable” to “thoughtful.”

Informal Learning, Higher Touch

When we consider the best blend of learning to take today’s students to tomorrow’s world of employment, a very good case can be made for increasing the amount of informal learning that can occur within the mentoring relationship. Just as today’s workplace is seeing an expansion of the role of informal learning, so too should the world of K-16 look beyond the classroom. Today’s collaborative partnerships between the public and the private sector make the time just right to support:

  • Students in seeking out these relationships.
  • Schools in providing much needed resources.
  • Businesses, for investing in their own future.

Role of Technology in More Targeted Mentoring

There are plenty of tools that can support mentoring throughout the educational cycle. Companies like iMentor provide both the platform and the resources to support a volunteer network of mentors supporting students as they make their way through the college search process starting in the first year of high school. csMentorbills itself as an “adaptive college retention program” that helps first year students make the adjustment to college life through a series of targeted videos and regular surveys that both instruct and measure students’ responses to the challenges of college life. Chronus Mentor helps organizations facilitate the mentoring process through built-in workflows, guided engagements, etc.

In all these cases, technology can support the process but is not meant to replace the interactions between students or employees in the mentoring relationship. We can extend the relationships through carefully designed interactions, supporting resources and valuable tracking tools. As Sonia Sotomayer said “. . . a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.”

Visit us at Designs2Learn for more on the role of learning design across the continuum of the educational experience.

Putting Failure to Work in Education

My own educational philosophy is deeply rooted in the concept of learn-by-doing and an understanding of the role that failure plays in learning.  So, when the New York Times came out with its annual “Innovation” issue cloaked in the premise of failure, I was very interested. Adam Davidson’s “Welcome to the Failure Age” develops a curious, almost distasteful, narrative around failure through the metaphor of the Weird Stuff, the Silicon Valley reseller that has built its own success in large part off the failures of the high tech industry.  Don’t misunderstand me. It’s brilliant (both the idea behind Weird Stuff and Davidson’s depiction of it), but the entire piece takes on a somewhat post-apocalyptic hue that doesn’t map to my own . . . appreciation of failure.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate the role failure can play and believe that it’s time to put failure to better use in education. In the initial stages of my professional life, I spent 15 years teaching in a well-respected institution of higher learning where team teaching supported an environment of creativity, experimentation and continuous improvement. Quite honestly, failure was not highly tolerated, but the built-in mechanisms for peer engagement and feedback made for higher on-the-job learning curves.

Working for Roger Schank and developing simulation-based learning programs corporations and institutions of higher learning in the early 2000’s, I saw firsthand how technology-enabled instruction provides an incredibly safe means by which to leverage failure for positive learning outcomes.  Therefore, my own experience, from a practitioner’s and a designer’s experience, has made me keenly aware of the role that failure can play in the classroom and beyond in the ongoing evolution of educational practices.

We’ve seen change over the past few years but not all for the good. There are still some obstacles to the type of change that is needed in education. The failures of the past few years need to be leveraged in order to make room for positive change. In brief:

  1. Recycle MOOCs

I think Weird Stuff knows exactly what can be done with MOOCs. Let’s recycle the millions of megabytes of video and online quizzes and instead of those being the bulk of the course on their own, incorporate them into more of the high-touch, facilitated online learning programs we know people are really looking for.

  1. Lead with services rather than technology

There are fantastic tools being developed in the name of enhancing the learning experience, but let’s spend more time working with real practitioners understanding the root cause of today’s inefficiencies. Why build a better mousetrap if the mousetrap isn’t what we need?

  1. Revamp the school day

Given what we know about today’s workplace, it does not make sense to spend each of the current 13 years of school inside one building for 7-8 hours a day. Expanding the responsibility for learning beyond the walls of the classroom may be the single most important change we’ll see in the coming decades. It’s a 70:20:10 approach to learning that should be propagated throughout the entire educational continuum.


In his article, Davidson notes that “Education is facing the threat of computer-based learning posed by Khan Academy, Coursera and other upstart companies.” The threat that they pose is not in that their products will entirely replace what we know as education today, but they have shown us that people are hungry for change, access, enhancement, or revision of the status quo. But they themselves and all of the rest of us along the educational continuum have risked the potential for replacement if we don’t recognize and learn from our present failures.

For more on learning design and social impact, visit us at Designs2Learn.















Meeting Veterans’ Needs with Continuous Learning      

Veterans Memorial DayI’ve been fortunate in my career to be able to work with and for veterans, developing blended learning programs in entrepreneurship. On this Veterans’ Day, I’d like to walk you through an educational model that we’ve found can support veterans make the transition from military service to entrepreneurship through effective learning design. One of the hallmarks of this design is that there are multiple points of entry and the engagement doesn’t end with the completion of a business plan like most programs do.

Prepare Your Audience

We know that many of the traits associated with entrepreneurship are characteristics shared by the vast majority of veterans. Both are:

  • Good risk takers
  • Results-driven
  • Able to persevere through challenging circumstances

So, many veterans will come to entrepreneurship naturally, and many will come “pre-loaded” with some of the traits that can help drive their success as business owners. There are others who may need support in exploring their career options prior to transitioning out of the service, or perhaps after the fact.

So a model program in entrepreneurship designed for veterans should include readiness assessments and preliminary modules defining the entrepreneurial process. These topics are ideal for a blend of presentation and scenario-style learning and can be offered online, taken as needed for those vetrepreneurs just starting out.

Address Knowledge and Skills Gaps

Once having decided on business ownership as their career option, veterans need to fill certain knowledge gaps and develop a specific skill set to ensure success. On the top of this list are tasks such as:

  • Researching the market
  • Marketing your business
  • Financial planning
  • Exploring the legal forms of business ownership

Working on an investor presentation and creating financial models are probably the most challenging tasks a new business owner needs to engage in. Facilitated instruction in real time in these areas can help your veteran audience connect the dots more easily and encourage questions and discussions to enhance the learning experience. Webinars are a great format for this and can be recorded for those who miss the session or want to review it later on. Guest speakers consisting of practicing experts can expand the circle of expertise.

Form an Online Community Consisting of Existing Business Owners, Investors and New Entrepreneurs

In order to ensure continuous learning, all the learning modules, resource material and access to experts and should be accessible through a single platform. From the time the vetrepreneur begins the journey and as he or she succeeds in one or more businesses, this is the place to come to access the support and tools to help build the business. As one veteran becomes a success, he can then mentor others on their journeys.  This can take continuous learning to a whole other dimension.

If you’re interested in such a program for veterans, please visit my friends at VetToCEO. Their next program starts January 20, 2015.

For more on how effective learning design can make true social impact, see us at Designs2Learn.






Meet Johnny’s Teachers

In my previous blog, This is a School that Johnny Wants to Attend, I wrote about Johnny’s new school, an environment designed to optimize real-world learning experiences to better engage and better prepare kids for tomorrow’s workplace. In that scenario, Johnny spent a lot more time out of the classroom learning from community experts and also had more people coming into his class to share knowledge and guide Johnny and his classmates through different projects during the school year.

A key component to this new model is the vital role of the teacher(s) as Johnny makes his way through the educational continuum from elementary to high school; on the college and finally, to the workplace.

Who are Johnny’s teachers and what do they do every day?

  1. Classroom Teacher

Johnny’s classroom teacher is integral to his educational journey. The classroom teacher plays a central role in his everyday life at school, is his main point of contact in the system, and provides the bulk of the instruction and facilitation within that environment. Whether the classroom teacher is leading a flipped classroom activity, reviewing an assignment with the whole class or small groups, or is sitting and assisting students one-on-one as they work on individual learning programs as part of the school’s blended curriculum, her presence and skillset is significant.


The classroom teacher also interacts with students on e-learning days when the kids are at home and working on individual or peer group projects and also accompanies her class on the majority of the out-of-the-building visits to neighborhood businesses, museums, etc. The classroom teacher interacts with all the other people on this list as part of a team of teachers supporting Johnny’s educational experience.

  1. Curriculum Curator

At Johnny’s school, each grade has a curriculum curator who is responsible for coordinating the activities that comprise his and his classmates’ daily learning experiences. This curator works with school leadership and classroom teachers to ensure that learning objectives are being met and that a good blend of activities is being used to achieve this. This includes working with the instructional teams to target effective online instructional materials and to arrange for mentors and visits to local businesses, museums, etc.

  1. The Library Media Specialist

Formally known as the school librarian, the library media specialist plays a vital role in Johnny’s education. As today’s students have more and more exposure to information, the library media specialist must provide the guidance that kids need to navigate the digital landscape, making careful choices and selections along the way.


The library media specialist works with Johnny’s teachers and the curriculum coordinator to help build curriculum using the latest tools at their disposal and makes critical decisions in the design of the library space, helping to turn it into a more collaborative, “maker” environment.

  1. Mentor

Johnny’s mentor might be a local business owner, a digital game developer, doctor, etc. and plays a vital role in expanding Johnny’s universe beyond the school building itself. As part of his course of study, Johnny sees his mentor on a regular basis, as well as interacting with his mentor online, and gets support for projects he may be working on, college and career exploration, etc.

  1. The Community

In Johnny’s new school, the community plays a more integral role in his education. Now, on a more frequent basis, during the school day, he and his classmates are visiting local businesses and learning more about how they operate and what the different employees do. As Johnny gets older, he will intern at one or another of these places to get more first-hand experience. Neighborhoods and neighbors have traditionally played, to different degrees, a role in the education of its community; in this model, we are looking to incorporate this informal role of support into the experience of each child in order to extend the universe of support and experiential learning that each child receives during his or her school years.

  1. Outside Experts

In Johnny’s new school, his classroom teacher and curriculum curator plan for a number of projects that the students engage in over the course of the school year. The projects may include building a model village, designing and creating new products for a specific industry, preparing certain types of meals, developing a simple computer game, etc. The projects are managed by a single or team of experts in their respected fields. Their work with the students may take place within the school or at a local studio, museum, etc.

  1. Physical Education Teacher

Physical education is an important component of Johnny’s new school, and his physical education teacher has an evolving role as do the rest of his colleagues. In order for Johnny and his classmates to develop an overall healthy lifestyle, his physical education teacher works with the rest of the team to ensure that the kids are getting a balance of health education and exercise that is integrated rather than isolated from the rest of the program. He might be teaming with the outside chef doing a unit on healthy, sustainable cuisine; or he might be exploring new technological resources such as “exergaming” with the curriculum curator or others.


As learning models evolve, classrooms are flipped, and schools develop healthier relationships with companies supporting the educational process, the role of teaching must evolve as well. A single classroom teacher cannot and should not shoulder the weight of the learning experience for any one child. And as the classroom teacher’s role changes, so do the roles of others within the buildings as well. As those roles grow, introducing more resources becomes vital. Just as corporate learning specialists have acknowledged the need for a growing network of continuous learning support in the workplace, schools are beginning to recognize the value of expanding the resources they work with to provide a balanced educational experience for our children.

This is a good thing for Johnny.

Stay tuned to Designs2Learn for more on the changing educational landscape.


This is a School that Johnny Wants to Attend

school signJohnny is ten years old and has had his share of difficulties in school. He has a hard time sitting still for all of his lessons, and he can’t seem to focus on what the teacher is saying. He sits and stares at his worksheets in class and cries when his parents tell him to do his homework. He’s happier building model airplanes and playing video games. He appears to be disinterested in school, and everyone around him is frustrated and concerned.

I worry about Johnny, so I decided to design an optimal school for him. This school has:

  • More material that is introduced at home for homework. He accesses these lessons on his computer, working through interactive learning modules and videos, responding to online quizzes, all in preparation for a deeper dive in school the following day.
  • Less time in class listening to the teacher talking about a new topic, and more time asking questions of his peers and his teachers about what he reviewed at home.
  • Fewer days spent inside the classroom.
  • Some days at home or at a friend’s house on a designated “e-learning” day completing assignments online doing some individual assignments, and other assignments with a friend or two via Skype.
  • Physical Education programs that incorporate local sports clubs and self-guided activities geared to build confidence and individual accountability for one’s health.
  • Some days at a local business learning how paper is manufactured, cows are raised, food is prepared, architects build models, etc. In each grade, he is introduced to different industries and returns to some from previous years, building a more sophisticated base of knowledge throughout the years.
  • Museum days where he works in small groups on a long-term project lasting several weeks to several months.
  • Days at school, working in groups as his teacher walks around the room providing feedback; or working alone and getting one-on-one time with his teacher.
  • Days at school where different experts come into the classroom and work on coding projects, design projects, building projects, etc.
  • Service days where he volunteers with organizations in the community in activities that match or expand his own skills.

In Johnny’s new school, the responsibility for teaching is extended to a broader community of practicing experts, is enhanced by technology, and is individualized to further support his learning. His classroom teacher plays an ever important role guiding him through these experiences and providing feedback and support to reinforce learning from this wider range of resources. Teaching is as vital a role as ever in this scenario, but responsibility is shared with a wider circle of permanent resources providing more input into the experience than has been true in the past.

Some aspects of this new school are currently being integrated into curriculum across the country as teachers flip their classrooms and blended learning technology assists in the individualization of the learning experience. As partnerships expand with technology providers and practicing experts in a wider range of industries, curriculum design extends into a curatorial role within the PK-12 just as it has with learning and development teams in the corporate sphere. We back into the learning experience starting from the working world, providing over the PK-12 experience what learners need to know sooner and over a broader range of time. Yes, what people need to know changes all the time, but by extending the learning network to the community that includes the current workforce, the curriculum is more likely to refresh as needed over time. There’s less of chance of culture shock when people move on from PK to college and on to work. It’s 70:20:10 for the younger set.

I think Johnny has a better chance of being happier here as the lines between “school” and “life” become further blurred. He was never disinterested in learning, as he was teaching himself all the time. He has more opportunities to participate in and drive his overall learning experience, and more of a chance of making an impact on the world one step at a time.

Visit us at Designs2Learn for more on learning design for social impact.