Some of the problems we can anticipate post COVID (for learning and working)

As someone who has long advocated for remote working and has worked on distance learning programmes (in various formats) for a while it feels like a hollow victory that the world has finally come to terms with these concepts only through forced circumstances.

So knowing what we know about remote learning and working, what problems can we expect to see post-Covid when the ‘non believers’ want to return to their old ways:

  1. Content management (or lack there of)
    • I’m sure there are thousands of learning pros, knowledge management and IT professionals currently having palpitations about the volumes of “stuff” currently being produced. This will include a lot of video content, either as videos or recordings of webinars/meetings.
    • Short term, they will be putting a strain on many organisation’s hosting arrangements but, longer term, risk becoming a big issue. Questions that will have to be asked include:
      • “How much of that content is exposed in the ‘correct’ places?” (vs hidden via email or other sharing)
      • “How much will be lost when people leave (for example due to auto deletion of OneDrive or other systems)?”
      • “How must has simply been posted once and instantly becomes both ephemeral (for example lost a long way back up a scroll in social media or Teams) but at the same time a permanent record of that meeting or activity which may be needed in the future for audit, court cases or more?”
    • For someone who was had roles particularly focused on digital content, especially in late 2012 and early 2013, I am of course more than happy to help if you are trying to get your head around this! Remember when we used to specifically refer to this stuff as UGC. Oh those were the days!
    • Also probably a good point to say I really do not recommend recording all your meetings – no matter what some vendors might say!
    • The “stop to think” tagline for my Learning Reducer idea is key here – many people have simply not stopped to think how to deliver online. The drive has been a continuation of service to parents, children, employees, etc. rather than thinking about the best way to layout and distribute content that minimises learning load. Universities “pivoting” (as seems to be the term of choice) are kind of okay with this as they will typically have set out resources on a learning management system already and just amend delivery. If this is good practice remains to be seen, not least through research comparing outcomes to previous years.
  2. Ignoring health and safety, worker rights and more
    • In a crisis it is probably fair to expect people to work from home in difficult conditions. However, if that is the new norm for your workers they should be supported with appropriate supplies – not least a decent chair. I gave up a properly ordered chair when I left a role in 2018, it was amazing and I had not appreciate previously how much that contributed to my back problems. Working from home should not (primarily) be a cost saving exercise by cutting office space.
    • The issues have also shown the lack of efficiency in many systems – not least education. If millions can join a single P.E. lesson why do we have 1000s of teachers creating their own resources? The content management mess is unlikely to be fixed in a way that encourages greater sharing and use OER and thus we will not have gained the economies of scale that organisations should have. This is in part teachers fighting against the machine – trying to avoid the inevitable decline in their responsibilities that will come through smarter AI, VR and other tech. They need to position themselves as guiding agents for learners, facilitators as the corporate world would call them, and not content producers – how many will be able to ‘pivot’ to expound rather than deliver remains to be seen but we can expect ongoing debate about the balance of teacher vs tech vs parents/guardians/environment. Whilst the role of the teacher is being appreciated like never before by parents locked away with their children it is also exposing the high volume of baby-sitting that makes up a traditional ‘teaching’ role. How this works out with the restrictions teachers unions have managed to secure (in the UK and beyond) will be interesting to see.
  3. Messy ecosystems
    • An attempt at an audit within my own team shows about 30 different apps, websites and other services requiring logins/passwords. Now, I think we are past everything needing central IT support, however, the consumerisation of IT has undoubtedly led to a mess of SAAS and cloud platforms with resulting difficulties. As some point these will need to mapped out for clarity (if only for succession and handover purposes).
  4. Sorry, the world HAS changed
    • Millions of people are being exposed to a different way of living (the shock of which has surprised me – see my comment here) and much like when the men returned from the wars of the past we will find that many things will have changed. There will be many who expect more flexible work schedules, school children who find the remote experience more useful for their study (more focus, less bullies, etc.) and more. How organisations and educations systems respond will be very interesting.

Some of the positives though will include that many educators who previously avoided tech in their lives have now had to crack on and make do. Whilst their current experiences are no doubt often not based on good practice or the research it should at least be easier to push on with appropriate technology enhanced learning in the future.

The obligatory Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) post: With virtual working and online learning on most of our minds

This post has been in different stages of draft for a week or more and I am just doing a quick edit of the below before pushing it out – well aware that anything written on this topic soon becomes out-of-date. For example, the Facebook group mentioned below has gone from about 8000 members to 44000 in the last week.

Seeking the positivies

I would imagine I am in the majority on Coronavirus – namely a group thinking the response seemed excessive but unwilling to speak out too loudly in case this really does spread and start killing a far greater percentage of populations.  As we now hit pandemic stage it feels more real – not least in furthering all appreciation of the incredible medical service staff we have around the world who battle on whatever the conditions. However, whilst turning the corner feels a way off yet we can see some real advantages starting to emerge.

From trade shows, MBAs, sports events and more we are seeing rearrangements and cancellations.  For those, like me, who have been banging the drum for a long time about the advantages of online learning and remote working this might be ‘our time’. 

Remote conferences, trade shows, etc.

For trade shows and conferences the downsides to restrictions are that we lose some of the advantages of events – for example, they can help us find things through serendipity and “on the fringes”, including through chatting and socializing.  This is more difficult when self-selecting webinars and other online events that act as the equivalent of conference sessions. One thing I am trying to do is to network in a wider sense, including reaching out to people on LinkedIn and attending webinars from organisations I have not previously engaged with. Ongoing communicating can replace some of this, not least through peer networking online.

It has always been a bit ironic that some of the biggest online players in their different fields also have huge people gatherings – such as Microsoft, Workday and Blackboard events. In some ways you have to hope the move of events such as the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference (BBTLC), for 2020, being moved online will further encourage improvements in the offers of those companies. On a side note, I think it is nine years since I last attended, and presented, at BBTLC! Time flies!

Remote learning

A Facebook group – Educator Temporary School Closure – is already showing the power of informal collaboration and networking in helping those impacted by school closures. This is a massive network already with sharing and supporting in a collaborative way. The disadvatnages are there though – not least Facebook’s poor file management and search. For those of who have been community managers, intranet editors, etc these problems can be frustrating and group owners are clearly playing a loosing battle with people just posting the same questions over and over again. Basically a knowledge management nightmare – but better than no social learning at all!

Of course a problem of the speed here is that people are “getting by” dealing with immediate needs – will organisations find time to breath and realize there are specialists available to help (such as online community managers)? I am torn here a little as I advocate simple solutions but also aware that there will be lots of bad practice – for example generating huge files, duplication of effort due to lack of sharing between organisations, eLearning that ignores accessibility standards, etc. For teachers this is rapid professional development and hopefully, as Donald Clark writes, they will be better teachers for the experience. This all said, it does feel like there are clear opportunities for learning technologists and other groups to help the overwhelming load of free offers and advice that is currently being pumped out (yes, including this article I know). For example, plenty in this image (that was shared with me this week) is debatable:

It is depressing that it has taken something like this to lead to a change for so many. For example a TES article describing this as a chance to start to experiment with flipped learning really got my eyes rolling – I was helping deploy such models at scale about a decade ago (and there are obviously plenty of practitioners with more experience than me).

Parents stuck at home with their children will hopefully also be more useful advocates for digital learning in the future – both for their children but also when back into their own workplaces. In addition, they will have seen many of the difficulties teachers face and we may have a better balance of teacher/parent expectations overall in global society.

Perhaps the real advantage for schools, universities and other education institutions is that this is offering something of a holy grail in education – control groups.  We often hear that you cannot deprive learners of opportunities.  Thus education research is difficult.  Here we have a perfect opportunity to compare, at scale, data against previous years and those not impacted by closures as control groups. We should have some real data about what kind of models work, provided people have some time to number crunch!

Remote working

Remote leadership, willingness to delegate and trust are challenges that have long existed for those who are used to working in virtual teams.  These are now ‘normal’ issues for many more people and we can reimagine work around outcomes, not time spent, and develop our online networking skills. Clair Lew and others have lots of great tips on what meetings can look like remotely and more.

Hopefully commuting will be increasingly seen for what it is (a waste of time and energy for many) and better ways of working will be established. Obviously this does not relate some of the wonderful people out there who will continue to be tied to their place of work in hospitals, shops and other fields. That said, interesting to see Microsoft’s new Teams offer to healthcare being launched at this point in history.

I have written before about my love of Teams and it seems, from browsing Twitter and other sources, that it does seem to have become the de facto platform for many. As Rachel Burnham says, Teams is now everywhere. This is where I would like to add a celebratory gif. Rachel hits a good point though that L&D teams seem to be reverting to thinking about Teams as an LMS. Similarly schools closed for Covid will think about “lessons”, “timetables” and more. These may be useful starting points but the platform can (and should?) be more transformational (of course many are firmly in the S stage of SAMR currently).

Saving the environment

Science fiction is full of examples where mankind has to face a major event to limit the damage it is doing to the planet, World War 3 in Star Trek for example.  The virus so far has cut pollution in China and offers to cull airlines following the collapse of Flybe and US-Schengen travel.  Many of us will have spent time in pointless or, at best, overly long meetings in the past and this might make us far more appreciate of the implications of travel.

Hopefully the numbers will remain not too bad

This site has some really good graphs and number crunching on the implications of the virus spread, even at this stage the numbers are relatively small and that is something of a positive to hold onto. Best of luck out there to those with health conditions, elderly relatives, etc who are at risk.

The often ignored realities of talent management (#6): leadership styles do exist

I will admit that I had forgotten about this little mini-series but the recent news over bullying allegations at the top levels of the UK’s government bring to the forefront once again the issue of leadership “styles” and the conflict that can come from different priorities and personalities in the workplace.

There will of course be lots of column inches on this story, even if “none of us really knows what transpired between Ms Patel and Sir Philip Rutnam“. What can be said is that this very public conflict highlights failures to lead in a democratic or consensus building way – which of course may well be deliberate.

Thus it comes to personality and, perhaps above all else, how you are willing to behave to others. The BBC’s take that this is a government “willing to rattle cages in order to get things done” makes it sound like a business bringing in ‘fixers’ to overhaul operations. The problem is that such forced or aggressive change in business tends to have to transition to a softer ‘end state’ when people can operate ‘normally’ again as a ‘new normal’ or BAU takes shape. This is difficult in government, at least in the UK democratic system where consensus building and concessions are typical practice and civil servants tend to last longer than their ministerial ‘bosses’.

In organisations too often leadership and management development and corporate values scratch the surface of issues. Ultimately we need to be clear what expectations are so as to not allow someone’s talent (normally meaning their revenue generation) to go against what we are trying to achieve in terms of behaviour towards other human beings.

Do we really “suck at training”?

If you do not know Clint Clarkson‘s work I would recommend his podcast. One of the features of his pod/YouTube are the #SundayRants where he lets rip on the (e)learning industry. I have found some of these to be funny, others quite familiar with what I have seen in my 15-ish years in the industry but also some where he plays to long standing tropes that (I would hope) are somewhat out-of-date. Overall, they are ‘close to the bone’ criticisms, many of which industry pros will have heard before at events like Learning Technologies, the Learning and Skills Group Webinars, etc.

On his pod feed was a link to a recent, five minute, video. For the rest of this post I am going to deconstruct his video, title “We suck at training” (link/embed below):

Claim 1: We have dehumanised learning

I think this is less about learning and more about the dehumanisation of big business. Humans are increasingly a cost to be justified in many industries, with increasing options for offshoring or automation of even traditionally ‘professional’ roles. This is the context that led to the CIPD show back in 2015 calling for a more ‘humane’ HR experience. As L&D often makes up just part of the ‘People’/HR offering it can be lost within that bigger picture, not least if the focus is primarily on compliance reporting. Thus the call here, for me, is to re-personalise our organisations overall – ESNs, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, etc. have rebuilt some of the damage from digitisation but forcing people through automated recruitment processes and then minimal human contact with distant leaders needs to stop. Advice from an old colleague comes to mind – most business problems would be solved if “people stopped acting like d*cks”.

Claim 2: “For the most part, learning doesn’t lead to better organisational performance”

It is noticeable that the slide shown in the video does not have this claim in quotation marks, the nearest I could find in the quoted source (Harvard Business Review) were a couple of different articles, neither of which I would necessarily disagree with:

(Clint does have the specific article on the slide but I can not see what it says from the video).

As for the claim itself, every learning professional (should)/will know this to be true. There need to be opportunities to apply learning, learning needs to be reinforced, individual engagement (and thus contribution to organisational performance) may not drop thanks to learning but that simply mean a steady hand on a tiller rather than improvement. This latter point is why I try to talk about “performance issues” as it may not always be about improvement per se. Indeed if we believe in an age of a ‘reskilling revolution‘ then L&D is really about transforming people’s lives and careers – no longer simply seeking improvement in existing roles. Even if you do not go along with the version of the future where large %s of people need reskilling we hopefully can agree that part of L&D’s role is to help and support people. That may be helping colleagues avoid stress related illness, feeling like they need to leave the organisation or a multitude of other alternative scenarios – L&D (can) rock! Too often though L&D end up being the ‘good guys’ in HR and to be humane we need other functions to come with us really – it is not about L&D catching up with others.

Claim 3: We need Ingenuity, Creativity and Courage

Yes, I think this really is fair and effectively mirrors the professional discourse. These could be seen as being aligned to (amongst other things):

  • doing more with less,
  • doing more better
  • and learning from mistakes of the past to challenge the future.

I have met very few L&D folks who would ever say they are happy with their offering and, in my experience at least, it feels old-hat to hint we have legions of L&D folks out there rehashing solutions without considering what is right for their organisations. This seems to be a trope on a lot of podcasts and other L&D media but it does make me feel how this can be the case – surely the 100s of people who attend Learning Technologies and other events are not then just going back to the office to be delivering what the business told them to?

Claim 4: “We start training today” with boring stuff

Really? Is this still the case? I see good examples where learning objectives are outlined, I see good examples where they are not. I know from personal experience that some organisations have insisted on learning objectives being outlined at the start of events but there can be justification for that – not least when learning management systems were poor and you had to access courses just to see what they were about and objective lists acted as a form of table of contents. As for the reference to Gagne, and whilst that was a theory in both of my learning related masters programmes, I think we all know that both in terms of learning theory and practice that the ‘grab attention’ rule is very nuanced. Indeed often the rules around this are enforced by regulators and accrediting bodies, it is not good learning but a single L&D team are unlikely to ever have the power to drag such bodies into the 21st century. But we can try through organisational channels.

Claim 5: It is a smart phone world

Unfortunately, having worked in a school for a while, my views of smart phones have changed. A year or so back I would say that people should be self-managing in their usage and that, as learning professionals, you should never ignore the power of having such a tool available to many. Unfortunately, observing behaviour in a school, you see the addictive behaviours that come from the device and the negative impact that come from that. Where I perhaps differ from Clark is that I doubt learning will ever be able to claim a learners attention in this environment, from a young age we are creating our bubbles of interests and training our brains to hope for dopamine shots from notifications, comments and messaging. I once ran a training session in Russia where the culture was that people could come in and out for phone calls and emails as the expectation was that people were still contactable despite being in face-to-face training. I feel now we really need to be harsh on the rules of what we are aiming for – for example I know I can double or triple task but also know that if I am sat concentrating, making notes, etc. I am more engaged in that webinar, call, meeting, etc. than when I am doing more than one thing at once. If the phone, tablet or laptop is there and on we have lost the battle – ground rules and contracting are more important for learning, meetings, etc. than ever before.

I can be very self critical in this area – I know I revert to games, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and other things when I should be doing something else. We all do it, L&D is not the only thing that (appears to) suck in the face of constant connectivity.

Claim 6: Shift toward human-centred (not just “rules-based”) learning

Now I suspect the establishment of “rule-based” learning is really an attempt at ‘evidence-based’ good practice, but, yes – as mentioned above – a slide of learning objectives is not good practice unless in makes sense in that human context. As someone who has authored guidelines, instructional design instructions, eLearning standards and more it is also the case that “rule-based” can be trying to simply aim for what “works” in the deployment environment you are working in.

Probably my worst ever workshop facilitation experience was where I had presumed the team I was with had been told the objectives/purpose by the manager. When I arrived (late thanks to the trains) I jumped straight into reflection sharing exercises, only for most of the most reflections to come back to me as variations of “sorry, why are we here?” It only really got worse from there thanks to dynamics in the room – knowing your audience, the human relationships, etc. are important (as mentioned in the video). This is tough at scale.

The need to be human-focused goes to the humane point but I feel the real challenge is that we are all different – again, learning design at scale is tough. There are ways to tackle this and technology continues to evolve to help, lets move onto how Clark thinks it can be done and I’ll address there…

Claim 7: Stories are more human than facts

The storytelling bandwagon has been going for quite some time and in general I do not disagree – real examples, interesting experiences, scary examples (especially for where things go wrong), etc. are all applicable learning experiences and tend to get the message across in memorable ways. However, I do think that it dismisses the fact some people are far more likely to remember facts and figures. Again, the experience of working a school has been illuminating for my thoughts on adult learning – from looking at younger learners (remember we were all there once) – there are people who simply work and learn differently to others. Simply calling for more storytelling, more gamification, etc. is saying we are going to target those %s of people we think this will help. I am obviously trying to avoid saying there are different learning styles at play here but numbers and facts are memorable – lets just think about some of L&D’s favourite theories, such as 70/20/10 and the faux %s related to learning by doing – these are easy to remember and stick in the collective industry consciousness.

Claim 8: Pictures are more human than text

I get the logic here but pictures (and other visualisations) are difficult to get right. Even worse you can distract from the main message. Text can be hugely powerful, not least in storytelling, and the librarian in me is always keen to point out to eLearning folks that we learned fine from books for a long time. In some ways, things have not changed since medieval times – you need people and/or resources to add value to your text and get the messages across that you need to get across. Then you can build into application, behaviour change, etc. In this regard traditional university eLearning (i.e. a series of resources often using the tutor’s voice across of mix media) can be superior to traditional corporate eLearning (packaged click-next SCORM stuff).

Is text “torment” as in the video? I admit I am certainly the world’s worse librarian for actually reading stuff – again we are distracted by our bubbles, smarphones, etc. I would actually advocate that part of formal education and L&D’s mission needs to be recreate in depth study for the modern age – this may well include reading, a lot.

Claim 9: Fun is more human than drudgery

Purpose is the key thing here for me – do people feel like they are contributing, are they aligned to what they are contributing, is training going to help them progress and contribute more. Fun is secondary to feeling value and feeling you add value IMO. Indeed we know that the science tells us things being hard can often improve retention – and that hard is not always fun.

“People show up for fun” – well this reminds me of the book ‘There will be donuts‘: I think I was given a copy for going to a meeting once. I would recommend a read.


I get that DisruptHR is deliberately funny and controversial event but I thought I would use it the other way to question if learning/Learning is really all as bad as (it is often) made out to be.

Some thoughts on ‘the schoolroom assumption’

I thought I had posted this a couple of weeks ago but just found it in my drafts so here goes…

As I have recently been working in a school for the first time, Donald Taylor’s latest post (The perils of the schoolroom assumption) caught my eye.

As is often the case with Don’s work there is a lot to reflect on, even in this relatively short article, I’ve tried to capture some of my initial response below.

Remembering the past

Don hits the nail on the head that the issue with adults reflecting on school is that there are:

“assumption[s related to]… the way we remember being taught at school”. 

(The emphasis, on “the way we remember being taught”, is mine).

Having worked in a school, even briefly, you see elements that bring back long forgotten memories.  This awakening of childhood familiarity crosses across what I now know as content, pedagogy, equipment and much more.  However, as an adult (or at least as someone with a learning profession background), you can see how the teachers are attempting to scaffold learning and develop student skills over time. 

This is no different, in many ways, to what I have worked on in higher and workplace learning – where we are tackling competency challenges over time.  The greater test for teachers appears in that there are far fewer assumptions that can be made about their audience.  Whilst we stream students in most of higher education via entry requirements and at work through interview processes, job grades, past experience and resulting remuneration there is no such process in a non-selective school.  This said, teachers have the advantage of regular contact with students to develop a picture of their audience’s capacity, preferences, etc.  In contrast this is often where workplace learning falls down, either that pre-work before synchronous sessions is not completed, the wrong people are on the wrong programme (see * below) or that incorrect assumptions are made in the instructional design (often due to the influence of managers and/or in-availability of participants for influencing design). 

Learning events vs support scaffold

Don highlights one of the issues, with learning events, as the *“I’m here because I was told to come” problem.  In this regard, of course, there are parallels with school.  Bad talent management, sending people on training they are unaware of or have little interest in, is effectively the corporate mirror of school’s enforced instruction where the learner has little choice in terms of location, duration, curriculum, etc.

Don’s demand is for L&D to be supporting “self-starting” learners and “fostering that attitude of responsibility”. However, realistically, managers control workers hours, restrict the locations work can be performed and much more.  Thus, I would argue that whilst L&D can support and guide, as Don’s blog post suggests, one has to be realistic that the ability to develop in the future has to be supported in, at least, a semi-structured way. This is, in part, akin to my previous argument that competency models can actually be helpful in helping people understand what they do not know and show how they might be able to up-skill for horizontal or upward career moves (even if the models can be a nightmare to build and maintain). 

The clear thing, from working in a school, is how limited self-motivation often is and I would suggest children are little different to the many ‘happy where I am’ workers who may (or may not) find themselves left behind as time passes.  Yet there is an assumption adults will leverage the support L&D offers.  Ultimately motivation is hugely important and schools, universities and organisations face the same challenge as we head into the 2020s – with such negativity about the future (with climate change, etc) how do we maintain positive energy and keep people wanting to learn and better themselves? Whilst the enforcement of “the adult-child power structure” (as Don calls it) school certainly still exists in schools, I would say this is far less about learning or teaching but instead the fact that compulsory education is, ultimately, enforced childcare that hopefully includes learning. Thus tackling the M(otivation) and E(nvironment) issues in a KISME analysis are huge for our talent management and sustainability of organisations but also makes the model useful for schools.

Schools as homes for learning

In terms of actual learning and teaching, I would say it is a massive simplification to think that large room didactic teaching for rote learning is the only form of classroom teaching.  However, this is how people often, as in the earlier quote, remember being taught. I’m not saying such instruction did not happen, for example I remember being dictated large volumes of content for copying into a book in GCSE history class, nor that it does not still exist.  However, my experience in the last year agrees far more with with another of Don’s points, that rather than focusing on didactic approaches:

“Most schools today adopt a variety of approaches to teaching, including discovery and debate”

Unless I am missing Don’s point, it feels like the wheels come off a bit in the article from here on as its seems to then ignore this statement about variety and reverts to instead considering classrooms as purely “conveying information into pupil’s heads”.  When suggesting that “there are good reasons why, under the current system, schools have to run the way they do” this is seemingly referring back to the “conveying information into pupil’s heads” approach rather than acknowledging the “discovery and debate” reality (never mind that discovery and debate existed back in the day but people tend to remember/focus on the rote aspects which seemed to be where the article was going with the original point about the way we remember being taught). Indeed the never ending ‘kill lectures’ argument within and about higher education also tends to forget the actual reality, for example I remember a number of highly valuable one-to-one and small group sessions, even as a first year undergraduate in a reasonably big cohort – lectures are rarely the sole model of learning in HE.

I will probably get to a post about ‘how I’ve changed in the last decade’ but one area I have changed is that I’ve become less vocal in my support for online learning ahead of all other formats. Indeed one area where I have come to as a conclusion during my time in L&D is that the following statement from Don’s post is certainly true:

“There are times when a physical environment is the best place to learn, and times when an expert instructor or facilitator is invaluable.”

My early career fanaticism for online (now digital – keep with the times) learning has died down in the face of reality, in part as I have worked with some excellent facilitators who really add value to learning sessions.  In a school environment this is only more so, the requirement for age and level understanding amongst staff is paramount – for example, I find myself using metaphors or cultural references that I am sure would be fine with a group of adults but just hit blank faces with children.

The assumptions actually have little to do with the schoolroom?

In terms of Don’s “insidious effects” from the “schoolroom assumption” there seem to be another couple of big logic jumps:

“First, there is the assumption that all learning – rather than some – should happen via a course in a classroom. Each of these can be useful for learning, but neither is necessary, or even optimal for all learning.”

Is this still true? It feels like something that I might have argued against during my ‘fanatical period’.  Surely most people will have moved on from this and realise it is not the case?  Students graduating from school and university in the last ten (or twenty?) years will certainly have experienced learning beyond the classroom (even if just watching YouTube videos and Googling answers) – if workplaces are still classroom only they are ignoring this as well as how people actually learn (i.e. the informal/formal balance).

“Second – and to my mind more importantly – are the implications for personal responsibility.”

The argument made that “adults usually know what they need to know” is often not true.  In my career, thus far, I have seen a lot of ‘I wish I had known that’ moments and ‘you do not know what you do not know’ types of issue.  At the same time those who know their desired end state, usually a specific job, will rarely know the detail behind how to get there.  That’s why those competency/capability models can be helpful as well as talent management by an organisation that incorporates ‘career advice’ (for want of a better word). More recently AI is starting to take over in helping identify workers unconscious incompetence and other knowledge and skill status. Thus, we could actually argue that all learners (including school children) should be able to delegate at least some of this responsibility (the key part of Don’s arguments) to technology.

Lessons from the 1990s

I’ve recently just started watching Teachers again on DVD.  I loved the show on Channel 4 originally and it is the second or third time I’ve watched the box-set since buying it 10-ish years ago. 

There are many things to like about it (I’m currently on season two), one is the presentation of the ‘adults’ issues via the experiences of the children and vis-versa. These cover topics such as identity crises, career choices, relationships, smoking, etc.  There are also lots of things to consider from a learning and teaching perspective – and it is now very much a period piece, the series showing blackboards in classrooms and a heavy reliance on photocopying.  The computer teacher is still ridiculed as an odd geek for his IT obsessions and I’m pretty sure there has been no mention of “educational technology” thus far.  Indeed the show contrasts an attempt at a vibrant debating style of pedagogy (from Andrew Lincoln’s English teacher character) versus more ‘get them ready for the exams’ instruction demanded by management.  In regard to the latter little has probably changed.  I’ve got a feeling I’ve blogged about Teachers before so I’ll shut up on that for now at least.

Now I would say schooling has failed to develop in some ways since the 90s that would seem to make sense, for example I’ve previously posted that Tin Can would surely offer a sensible way of tracking online activity for young learners yet seemingly exists only within the workplace learning bubble.

Ultimately if we strip back all the tech, issues of responsibility, etc. there has always been a challenge between approaches to teaching and learning and their purpose – to simplify this can be framed as: holistic education vs simply passing exams.

Ed tech to personalise the schoolroom?

Similarly to the Tin Can issue, personalisation via branching eLearning and other tools would seem to make sense considering the lack of homogeneity in school learning groups. Indeed the wide variety in our ability to learn was illustrated recently, when figures were released to show 1 in 5 entries received 25 per cent extra time in GCSE, AS and A level exams in 2018-19.  This is a huge spike to my own time at school where, albeit at a selective school I can only remember people getting extra time for physical injuries.  There is an argument, of course, that we are over describing childhood behaviours as ADHD and other learning issues.  However, the 1 in 5 figure goes to illustrate the huge number of students needing at least some kind of ‘special’ treatment in school – this is where perhaps rote learning in the past got a particularly bad name, i.e. those people for whom traditional learning environments were never going to work. However, this is an assumption and it would similarly be difficult to assume that school ‘works’ for four fifths or some other percentage. Ultimately it is very difficult to assume anything about our individual learning (something that is intensely personal in a way that perhaps nothing else is) – what we can assume is that governments and other organisations will need to support their people to develop to tackle the challenges in our shared futures and for that schoolrooms will continue to play some part.

Finally on teachers…

…this made me chuckle from the #OEB19 twitter backchannel: