‘Learning Reducer’ style concepts in the news

A couple of L&D pros have recently touched on some of the concepts I’ve tried to articulate in my ‘Reducer’ mindset. Links and recommendations for listening/reading below:

  • Krystyna Gadd on How Not to Waste Your Money on Training (Training Journal Podcast)
    • http://podplayer.net/?id=69264956
    • An interview on the TJ Podcast talking about Krystyna’s new book (which sounds like a more articulate version of some of my blog posts and ideas!)
  • BRUTALLY EFFICIENT: EXPLORING THE LEARNER SOCIAL CONTRACT WITH LORI NILES-HOFMANN (Totara Learning)
    • Full disclosure, I used to work with Lori so I’m always keen to read her latest thinking and the brutal efficiency focus does not disappoint. The piece is a really strong argument with parallels to the ‘reducer’ concept and some of the ideas in the podcast above.
    • I’d strongly recommend anyone who can go to the event to hear more from Lori does so.

Where I’d disagree a little with how Totara (on the second link) have analysed the issues would be that they continue to use ‘learner’ and consider things through an employer/employee contract position. I think we must try and shift this more to a realistic position where learning is owned by everyone, just facilitated by L&D teams – with organisations recognising learning needs as human (not learner/employee) needs. Yes, L&D teams should be upskilling their people, as in the Totara article. However, I would say L&D teams should be making opportunities available to all their audience(s) and then those individuals have a responsibility themselves to take those opportunities. We need to end the ‘arm twist to get you to do this’ culture of mandatory training whilst also encouraging people to contribute via social learning, coaching or other initiatives – even if they have no interest in career progression.

Do we just have to accept there is no going back ‘to the good old days’?

On many metrics the UK has flat-lined since the 2008 financial crisis, with arguably worse to come.

This week London and other cities have seen major protests from environmentalists.  So, do we have to accept that with climate change and other socio-economic crisis there is simply no return to the optimism of the millennium?

As an 80s child I perhaps feel this stronger than other age groups – having grown up in the mostly optimistic 90s with Cool Britannia, the end of the cold war, “things can only get better” and general optimism (even encyclopedia’s were optimistic bits of fun).  Yes, we had Captain Planet, Ferngully and other media warning us of the dangers of the future but overall I suspect there was far more cultural positivity than for those growing up now.  Current school kids have been globally connected from birth yet are seeing trade wars, cold (and hot) wars, migration crises and other threats to subdue their futures.

The Iraq War increasingly feels like the political turning point that was reinforced by the ‘credit crunch’.

If the future is indeed going to be bleaker then I suspect we need to relearn to ‘make do and mend’ – in this context I’ve recently been reading a lot about Jughad design.  I’m pretty sure this concept was new to me – although it has been used in the west for at least 20 years and there are a variety of books and articles on its application away from the Indian subcontinent.

At the same time we have to remember we have come along way and their are reasons for optimism – for that I would recommend the book Abundance that I have recently finished reading.

First thoughts on the “UK EdTech Strategy”

I’ve seen quite a lot of comments on Twitter about the lack of ‘learning’ focus in the UK’s announced EdTech Strategy.

Well, I finally got chance to look at the announcement today, some thoughts below:

  1. Productivity. One of my drivers in work is a dislike for waste and inefficiency. Therefore, I’m glad to see the focus on cutting teacher workloads. I’ve long argued that schools and (other public-purse funded) education institutions fail to drive enough efficiency in areas such as the below (all of which it would be nice to think are ‘in scope’):
    1. Shared resources – why does every teacher either build their own resources or buy from 3rd parties? If curriculum are comparable to exam standards then why not better sharing (and I do not mean for an individual teacher’s profit on sites like TES)?
    2. Manual marking – rather than switching to using automatic marking, question banks, adaptive content, etc.
    3. Expensive and wasteful school by school arrangements – for things like library licences, online learning environments, IT support, etc. The Teacher Vacancy Service has recognised the costs in recruitment, why not in other areas?
  2. 10million? Obviously this is a pretty minuscule drop in the ocean, especially given cuts to school budgets overall. Therefore, you suspect the approach needs to be to leverage existing tech better and spread practice from the likes of Microsoft education communities more widely. School funding cuts have gone to far but at the same time schools have not used tech for financial efficiency (as well as the kind of organisational productivity in point 1).
  3. Training/CPD for teachers. I recently commented on a popular education site saying the school sector desperately needs to move away from CPD=inset days to more continuous improvement. The problem is that teachers are timetabled to be in a set place at a set time teaching, with less flexibility for learning at work than many other professions. Sharing outcomes from the multitude of excellent informal learning that teachers undertake (Facebook groups, etc) that is not recognised widely currently would be a start. Sharing learning with other public sector bodies, such as the NHS and local councils would be even better. School’s are too often isolated in their communities as standalone institutions, failing to recognise that CPD and other areas is available via other companies’s CSR and other means.
  4. Tackling essay mills is obviously a worthy cause. Even better still would be better forms of assessment which were less reliant on essays in the first place.
  5. SEN supporting technology – this bit feels particularly where more cash might have been needed to make a real difference. That said, again, better sharing of practice would be a start – the promised ‘demonstrator schools and colleges’ might work as an approach to this in terms of developing communities and evidence based practice.
  6. The problem is too much tech? Anyone who goes to BETT (or is otherwise aware of the EdTech market) will probably wonder if we really need need more solutions in the identified areas such as “essay marking, formative assessment, parental engagement and timetabling technology”. What is really needed is the support in selection and implementation that JISC offers some of the target audience but BECTA used to for schools. BESA and LendED are mentioned in the statement for this kind of purpose but, of course, BESA and BECTA are quite different beasts.

Overall, no lack of good intent but a lot of work to do with little money. Consider, for scale, that assigned £10m versus the £146.2m JISC spent in 17/18.

What every Learning and Development professional needs to know about the International Baccalaureate (IB)

Having just recently started to work on IB programmes I have been really impressed, from a learning design perspective, with the intentions of the IB Middle Years (UK equivalent up-to GCSE) and Diploma (UK 6th form/A-Levels) qualifications.

A lot of what I have found interesting I’m going to share here – particularly for a Learning and Development (L&D) audience – as the growth of the IB has not really been recognised in my experience of the L&D profession. This might be as the IB has been historically ‘niche’ and for wealthy children in certain hubs of international business. However, there has been considerable growth in IB Schools since the year 2000 (see these slides for example). As these programmes grow in popularity (which is likely to continue with increasing globalisation) there will be potential implications in how we (companies and particularly L&D teams) encourage people to develop in the workplace…

Some Background:

IB mission statement

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

The IB Learner Profile

The IB includes a ‘learner profile’, akin to the kind of attribute/value set most L&D teams will be reinforcing at organisational levels. The profile aims to develop learners who are:

  • Inquirers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective

Approaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Perhaps more directly related to learning (and development) are the ATL. These are quite complex and have become increasingly important of late (see this blog for more). In many ways the ATL and learner profile encourage the kind of reflection and self-directed, lifelong, learning that L&D teams have long pushed for. The challenge for IB teachers with the ATL can seem similar to concerns L&D has faced, as Dianne McKenzie puts it on that blog post:

Why is…[embedding the ATL] such a hard thing? Is it because it has never been a priority? Is it because content has been king, with good pedagogy and skills coming in as the poor cousin?

http://librarygrits.blogspot.com/2015/05/repackaging-skills.html

As well as my previous experience in workplace learning these issues also ring a lot of bells for those who work in higher education. Indeed skills over content was a focus of an undergraduate module I supported and presented on a while back – yet Higher Education continues to be criticised as not fit for purpose by employers and other groups.

Similarly the Ways of Knowing and wider Theory of Knowledge attempts to install what feels like a detailed consideration of learning in students (and their educators):

language
sense perception
emotion
reason
imagination
faith
intuition
memory

Ways of Knowing

At what stage to develop all of this?

Personally, I suspect I’m not alone in getting to some of this level of self-understanding (around attributes like those in the learner profile) later than the IB age range at university and beyond. Indeed a recent alumni newsletter from one of my universities summed this up nicely:

My time at university taught me that your rewards are directly proportional to the effort you put in during your studies…
have a commitment to lifelong learning – never stop reading and actively keep up-to-date with your industry, following any changes and innovations.

Richard Robinson … Managing Director of holiday villa specialist, Sun-hat Villas & Resorts

The suggestion from the IB would seem to be that successful programmes would bring this through to school levels.

Therefore as well as L&D teams, university instructional design would do well to treat IB undergrads differently. The extensive Extended Essay research project of the diploma, for example, teaches many of the skills that libraries and universities spend time on in the first year of study.

So what might IB graduates expect of L&D teams?

If IB graduates are truly reflective, they should soon realise that ‘learning is work and work is learning’. So how might the IB graduates of the future understand the role of L&D if they are (even more than people in the past) used to managing their own learning?

Well, the IB’s definition of the school library is not far removed from L&D’s desire to shift to multi-modal facilitation of performance improvement:

The IB definition of a library is designed to focus on maximising its effectiveness: “Libraries” are combinations of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching.

Ideal libraries: A guide for schools (International Baccalaureate)

Indeed the role of the IB library is to support many areas that L&D professionals talk about for the workplace:

1. Curating

2. Caretaking

3. Catalyzing

4. Connecting

5. Co-creating

6. Challenging

7. +1 Catering

Six practices that energize learning and inquiry, and one that tends not to (from ‘Ideal libraries’).

All of the above will sound similar to the role L&D performs in many organisations, or at least try to carve out for themselves. Indeed the +1 to avoid (Catering) relates to just doing what the organisation wishes – or the classic, much maligned, L&D ‘order taker’.

The IB programmes also encourage inquiry within students in a number of ways that L&D pros often discuss as things they try to facilitate (with mixed success) in adults:

Social and emotional learning: relating to the growth and personal development of learners, and by extension the school community.

Service learning: relating to the knowledge and wisdom gained through serving the community.

Experiential learning: relating to what is learned through experience, experimentation, and reflection upon both (specific to the Diploma Programme [DP]).

Play: relating to the use of different forms of play and games, and reflection on the process and outcomes of them (specific to the Primary Years Programme [PYP]).

Ideal libraries (again).

With regards to the above, the IB’s Ideal Libraries report considers the resource centre as a form of conduit for learning, relating to the above forms of learning in addition to the dreaded (in some L&D circles) c-word – no, not that one…this:

Curriculum: relating directly to the content teachers are responsible to facilitate, and for students to learn. Research is a form of inquiry, and commonly associated with the curriculum.

Ideal libraries (again).

Therefore, an IB graduate might actually be more demanding of L&D than a ‘traditional’ school/university graduate as they are used to personalised support and facilitation of their own development from others (primarily teachers and ‘librarians’) whilst exposed directly to learning theory and concepts in ways others may not have been.

Learning and libraries: Will efforts to change always be Sisyphean?

A while back I tweeted challenging a view that L&D teams are still behind modern learner expectations:

Transformation is difficult in this world. For example, the need for libraries to be more open and engage with their communities exists – but a recent high-profile example shows the challenges. Whilst libraries may want to transform, do the users really want it? If the ‘customer’ does not want change then why are they trying it in the first place?

Here learning support services (such as L&D and library teams) have the challenge of trying to do what they think best versus non-domain expert/customer expectations. This is perhaps an effort that is so difficult, but needed, we have to recognise it is Sisyphean to some extent. One suspects it is an issue for all support staff? For example data protection pros slowly trying to improve practice, IT pros trying to get people to use tech better, etc. ??