Category Archives: Blended Learning

3 Ways to Avoid School-as-Usual

50.1 million children will attend school in grades PK-12 this fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of those, approximately 1.3 million will be entering prekindergarten.

Expectations and tensions run high in many families as their only or youngest child enters the public or private school system. Whether or not their child has attended pre-school prior to this, it is still a major transition, and most kids struggle with the change, as do their parents.

What’s different this year is the degree to which the basic premise of our educational system is being questioned and the number of alternatives being offered, explored or in the process of development.

Why question something so basic?

That we offer and avail ourselves of free, compulsory education in this country is something that most of us take for granted. But what we’ve also taken for granted for too long is the model itself: an essentially one-size-fits-all helping of test-driven “pedagogy” that is failing so many of the kids it is supposed to be serving. One indication of resistance to school-as-usual is the 20% of kids (roughly 200,000 of an eligible 1.1 million, or one in five) kids who opted out of the spring 2015 New York State standardized tests.

Is it all gloom and doom?

In addition to the vast amount of financial resources and brainpower being devoted to technology in the name of school improvement ($1.61B in funding for educational technology so far this year alone), there is a huge range of alternatives in the types of schooling choices that people are making these days.

1. High-Priced, Well-Designed Alternatives

One of the schools I’m rooting for is the AltSchool, which promises its attendees “personalized learning plans, real world application, community connection, and whole child development based on Social Emotional Learning.” I appreciate that this school believes in the power of technology to transform education, using digital tools to create Personalized Learning Plans; support collaboration between teachers, parents, and students; and to support student learning activities. But with an annual tuition of over $21,000 at its San Francisco location, for example, it’s accessible to everyone who might like to try it (tuition assistance is available).

But we should keep our eye on AltSchools. They will be having a big impact moving forward.

2. At-Home Remedies

Another alternative to schools-that-ail-us are the growing homeschooling and unschooling movements. According to the NCES, the number of homeschooled students has been increasing, with 1,770,000 students (or 3.4% of the school-age population for that year) reported homeschooling for 2013. This is a substantial increase over the 1.5 million reported for 2007, 1.1M in 2003, and 850,000 in 1999.

Homeschooling efforts are growing both nationally and internationally, supported by both online and local resources, groups, schools and communities. Some groups are fairly traditional in their approach to learning while others are contributing to increased support for learner-centric and self-directed learning.  

Concerns over transitions from a home- or unschooled environment to higher education or the workplace are dispelled by a lot of the research.Peter Gray’s study, for example, on families who unschooled their kids revealed that in 83% of families surveyed, their kids went on to college. Other studies show that kids who are educated at home tend to score higher on college placement tests and are more apt to complete college than other students.

3. Is there any middle ground?

I wouldn’t compromise too much when a child’s future learning is at stake, but it is fair to ask what you can do if you can’t afford an AltSchool or are not disposed to or able to homeschool, or unschool. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Charter schools: Intrinsic is another example of an interesting alternative, in this case in the form of a charter school, that is really pushing to make a difference. Located in Chicago, Intrinsic leverages technology and architectural design to support personalized learning. The overall design of the learning environment, called “The Pod,” includes the Coastline for independent work, the Shade for collaboration and project-based learning and the Big Board, for direct instruction and discussion. EdSurge has a great write-up on the story of how Intrinsic got built.
  • Schools with smart partners: If you don’t want your child to attend school-as-usual, look for schools that utilize technology to support personalized and blended learning, or who partner with great programs such as Tools at Schools, Beam Center or Breaker projects, to name a few.
  • Online alternatives: There are fee-based and public online alternatives. One well thought-out private, somewhat traditional online program is the Laurel Springs School. org offers classes (called “Camps”) that can be used to supplement at-school or home-based learning experiences.

Consider the alternatives if you are hesitant about the school your child is entering or already attending.  There are reasons to be concerned and there are options.


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.

Collaboration in An Hour of Code

I’m thrilled to participate in this week’s “An Hour of Code,” that is taking place as part of the annual “Computer Science Education Week.” “CSEd week” is celebrated each year in honor of programming pioneer, “Amazing” Grace Hopper. This year’s events speak volumes to the benefits that private and public sector collaboration can have across the spectrum of learning, and how that in turn can positively impact on the workplace.

An Hour of Code is the brain child of Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of, an organization dedicated to expanding computer science education by making it more available in the schools.

To date, 58,275,865 people (including me!) have tried An Hour of Code, with 77,213 Hour of Code Events around the world in over 180 countries. Tutorials are available in over 30 languages, with resources provided for teachers to expand on the activities themselves.

A Collaborative Effort

This effort has received the endorsement and participation of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sal Khan, President Obama (and pols from both sides of the aisle), Arne Duncan, and a host of other corporate partners and supporters.

The actual Hour of Code activities are exercises that can be done in class or at home to learn the basics of coding. There are simple block (drag and drop) coding exercises, and more sophisticated JavaScript activities. Themes include Angry Birds and Anna and Elsa from the ever popular “Frozen” and more.

To expand the reach of the event, organizers have included exercises that can be done without a computer, including on smart phones and pen and paper.

To motivate schools to get involved, prizes including the following have been offered:

  • A class trip to D.C. to participate in a “top-secret” hour of code.
  • 10 GB free Dropbox storage for every educator hosting an Hour of Code.
  • Free laptops for 51 schools
  • 100 classrooms to have video chats with “tech titans and tech-loving celebrities.”
  • Set of programmable robots for 100 classrooms.

To motivate schools to stay involved, follow-on courses have been developed and prizes including gift cards for Skype or a variety of online stores are being offered.

Corporate support includes Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Teach for America, Khan Academy and many others.

Shared Goals; Everyone Benefits

What’s most exciting about this event is the shared mindset that has brought together all these different parties. Partovi’s initial comments regarding the project noted that this was the right thing to do, “the gift that the tech industry owes America.”

But behind the very pragmatic goals of job creation and boosting the economy are those very first steps that all these different sectors have joined together to support:

  • The building of problem solving and critical thinking skills;
  • Reasoning the way code teaches in a way that is fundamental across industries;
  • “Trying to help the next generation navigate the modern world by understanding the technologies around them.” (Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn)

We applaud the collaboration that brought all these folks together to help expand everyone’s knowledge about the fundamental technologies governing all aspects of our lives today and to better prepare the next generation to enter an increasingly complex workplace.

I think it’s a lesson that “students” of all ages can benefit from. Go ahead and try it!

Visit us at Designs2Learn to learn more about our perspective on technology and education and how we can help you use learning design for positive social impact.

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.

Designing a Place for the PK-12 Student in Our Social Network

A recent article in the Chronicle by Judith Shapiro, The Value of a Shared Education, laid out the principles of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft as part of an intriguing discussion on trends in college curricula. The main question Shapiro poses is “To what extent are undergraduates moving through overlapping though largely differentiated networks, and to what extent do they share experiences, priorities, and goals?” Shapiro walks us through a series of considerations including individual achievement, the current interest in competency-based education, and the impact of information technology on how young people interact with one another.

When we think of changes in higher ed nowadays, most people go directly to the challenges of integrating or competing with technology itself. Shapiro brings us back to the more critical question of how we are guiding people through their intellectual pursuits as they move closer to adulthood and the workplace. Similarly, we should be re-examining how we are guiding our PK-12 audience prior to their entry into college. How do curricular practices these days impact on how the PK-12 student sees herself as part of society?

Our thinking on this goes beyond standard socialization practices within the classroom and playground to the greater scope of ongoing learning activities that have or can be incorporated into today’s curricula. Some best practices for consideration:

Blend the curriculum to balance group and individual learning activities.

Today’s blended learning designs included personalized, peer-to-peer and teacher-led activities. Students learn on their own, and receive automated feedback and personalized teacher support; they learn from their peers in small group activities or as a whole class with teacher-led activities. The range of activities in a well-designed blended learning program represents both individual and group learning.

Build more Maker activities into the curriculum to build esprit de corps.

Project-based activities that require team cooperation in the design and production of a final product can develop both individual competencies as well as team strength. More time spent on these group activities earlier on in the process will pay off later on.

Bring in the experts to provide a range of role models.

Practicing scientists, designers, chefs, etc. can all play a part in knowledge and skills development in PK-12. By increasing the sphere of expertise in the classroom, and by working on projects requiring shared expertise, the PK-12 audience can start building their network early on. These experts may bolster existing curricular units or might be part of the extended projects referenced above.

Learning design in PK-12 is evolving to a point where students can more effectively develop their individual capabilities while playing an important part of both school and extended society. While the argument can be made that “socialization” has always been a goal in the K-12 curriculum, it can also be said that with the intense competition of the past decades, the race for success tends to silo learners from a very early age. We can use our design skills to create the type of curricula that supports the concept of shared success from the start.

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

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.

E-Learning Days Support a Wide Range of Practical Learning Experiences

boy outdoors with tablet PCFall is an increasingly brief season here in the Northeast, so as temperatures finally start dropping, my thoughts move toward winter and a trend we started observing last year in which schools are replacing snow days with elearning days. During these days, students may attend webinars, Skype sessions, or work online completing on-demand learning modules. Living in New York City, where our new Mayor didn’t seem to know what a snow day was last winter, I’ve got a lot of sympathy for our kids having to trek through storm conditions to make it to school. Wouldn’t it be great if we had “E-Learning Days” instead?

Beyond the obvious benefits of reducing days missed when an actual snow day is called, or the challenges of getting everyone to the buildings when a snow day is not called, this approach goes a long way to building our kids’ skills at navigating technology-enhanced learning experiences and future workplace skills in both formal and informal ways.

1. Virtual Workplace Skills

Many of us have been working vitually for years. How many of you recall what your first virtual gig was like? By building in full-day “E-Learning Days” into the school calendar, we are prepping our young people for a world in which more and more jobs are either full-time virtual or at least some portion.

2. Online Study Skills

While nearly all school kids these days use the Internet for some portion of their homework research or support, working through activities designed specifically for the Web will contribute to computer and Web literacy. Building these skills over time through both formal and informal Web-based activities can help cut through some of the cacophony our kids are exposed to when left to their own devices (literally). These skills are essential to the 21st century workplace.

3. Independent Study Skills

Individual assignments can help to address specific gaps in certain academic areas, or can be used to allow students to explore certain topics in depth according to personal interest. Either way, E-Learning Days can be used to focus on individualized learning and help strengthen students’ skills and motivation. So much of what we learn on the job is individualized or self-directed. What better way to prepare for that than while still in school? A brief check-in via Skype with a classroom teacher could provide just the type of targeted feedback students need to progress with these activities.

4. Group Study Skills

Group projects seem to be the most challenging of all in the K-12 realm. But somehow, when we get to the workplace, we are expected to work in teams to complete projects and make money for our employers.

E-Learning Day group projects could be incorporated into a curriculum to help build these skills over time. Rubrics for and guidance in navigating team communications, team motivation, and creating a congenial group/team working environment could significantly improve the quality of not only the group experience but the actual project as well.

5. Online Communications Skills

Do kids really need this, you ask? Well, sure, most of our kids can text and use SnapChat, Facebook messaging, etc., but using an online chat tool, such as Skype, for example, to conference with teachers, group members, peer advisors, etc., could take these skills to new (and more productive) levels. All of us in the workplace turn to these tools as part of the daily process of getting our jobs done, in both formal (webinars, team meetings) and less formal (just-in-time support for an urgent work problem) ways.

“E-Learning Days” (and more than three of them a year) can bring us a lot closer to a 70:20:10 learning model in which formal and informal learning interventions and collaborative experiences are blended to create a more realistic and pragmatic K-12 school experience.

And that can bring our students a lot closer to being prepared to enter the workplace!

Keep watching us at Designs2Learn for more on the latest learning trends across the educational continuum.