Category Archives: Charles Jennings

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.

Revising Our Perspective on Change in Education

Do you consider the current changes in education to constitute evolution or revolution?

A few years ago, in a white paper titled “Evolution, Not Revolution” I examined the then current changes in educational technology and the impact on the profession overall, especially on teachers. At that point, I was convinced that while changes may seem startling for some, they were moving us incrementally toward a more refined practice in which teachers could finally do what they do best: support student learning. It is still my belief that by putting part of what is typically transferred in the classroom online, we can free up teachers to work more closely with students on specific challenges.

This past weekend’s New York Times Magazine included a piece titled “You and I Change Our Minds. Politicians ‘Evolve’” that deconstructs the use of the word “evolve” to downplay a politician’s change in position. As Mark Leibovich points out “You and I change our minds all the time, but not so our politician; to avoid being branded as flip floppers, they ‘evolve.’

Am I about to flip flop?

Softening the Blow When People Fear Change

Quite often we hear about people who eschew change in education and question either the introduction of technology or the development of new pedagogical approaches. Those few years ago, when I wrote that white paper, I had as part of my agenda the goal of assuaging concerns among educators that technology, particularly online learning, was not something to fear. So, I titled the paper “Evolution, Not Revolution” in part to ease fears regarding technological change.

When we look at education today, there are many change factors to consider along with technology. When all is said and done, what degree of change can we ascribe to this sector? Let’s take a look at some of the current change factors. How would you evaluate the impact of each?

  1. Common Core Standards
  2. PARCC and Smarter Balanced Testing
  3. Blended learning programs used in the classroom
  4. Redesign of classroom space to account for different groupings of students and different pedagogical approaches
  5. E-learning days in which students study from home
  6. Gaming technology used in STEM and other subjects
  7. Online platform for tracking student work and keeping parents in the loop
  8. BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices)
  9. Rise in the number of Charter Schools across the country
  10. Growth of home-educated student population

Once again, if you look at this list, is your sense of change somewhat incremental? Or is it revolutionary? What is the impact on today’s learners? On the profession? On the practitioners?

Observed Change versus Required Change

Our ultimate goal is to prepare learners to participate more effectively in society, leading more independent and productive lives, keeping the economy strong, etc. The SCANS requirements detailed the set of competencies and skills for that to happen, and many of these are referred to today when we talk about deeper learning:

  • Identify, organize, plan, and allocate resources (Resources)
  • Work with others (Interpersonal)
  • Acquire and evaluate information (Information)
  • Understand complex interrelationships (Systems)
  • Work with a variety of technologies (Technology)

Are we providing our kids with the tools to develop these skills today? Are the changes we see supporting a love of learning and preparing competent participants in the workplace of tomorrow?

Maybe the question we should be asking is not the degree of change we are observing in education, but the degree of change required in education.

What Further Changes Are Required to Increase Engagement?

One of the biggest issues in education today is the lack of engagement. 1.2 million kids leave school each year, many of whom claim they have become disengaged from their learning. 2 million students currently school from home, a population that is growing at the rate of 2-8% per year. In this very self-directed community, engagement is the main driver. How do we get that into the schools?

To re-engage students and properly prepare them for the adult world, we need to design curriculum that:

  • Contextualizes learning in real-life tasks
  • Creates pathways to learning that map to students’ interests
  • Incorporates tools for learning that “get students where they live” (i.e. cell phones, tablets, etc.)
  • Attends to each student’s style of learning
  • Takes students out of the classroom into their community to learn from local business people
  • Adds maker activities to the classroom and fosters entrepreneurism

We see as many as half of all teachers moving or leaving the classroom through disaffection or in order to effect change through new teacherpreneurial ventures that address much of the above. EdTech companies woo teachers as consultants to contribute to product development or help sell their products.

While the role of teacher continues to change, we still need skilled and compassionate teachers who can help nourish and guide learners through today’s redesigned classrooms.

Evolution or Revolution?

I guess I’m going to use the “E” word and say that my own stance on changes in education have evolved. It’s not about technology, although technology is a part of the solution. And we can no longer soft-pedal the need or degree of change required,

But what about you? How far are we from where we need to be? What tools and resources do we need to get there? I’d like you all to weigh in. What degree of change is required?

Is it evolution or revolution?

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.