The support staff role (again): considering the library role (again)

At a minimum, learners and teachers should collaborate with librarians to design the places, collections and services of the library.

Planning with the entire community helps to make the library a welcoming, active space for learning, research, and reflection…

It is important that librarians do not find themselves undervalued or isolated from the school community, which can happen if the system is not designed to play an active role in energizing the curriculum. Librarians should be included in planning, teaching and learning to the greatest effect, rather than being “the last people to know” what is going on in the school.

Ideal libraries: A guide for schools (International Baccalaureate)

Consider the six roles the IB has identified as archetypes of modern librarian role. Then compare L&D’s re-visioning for 70/20/10 and other changes. Here we have traditional support roles desperate for ‘a place at the top table’ as I’ve discussed before.

Added later: After working in the library area again for the first time in a while it really strikes me how much of the library discourse in on rules, regulations, security, etc. This is in part why I looked to move away from libraries originally, that the focus is too often not on the actual outcomes – in academic libraries that learning and research actually happens! In some ways this is comparable to L&D – with both having to wear more hats than they would have traditionally:

I’ve learned a lot for my current role from an excellent couple of networking groups (one a Facebook group the other a more formal site using their own version of Moodle). Neither of these sites are provided by my organisation or an L&D team, these are prime examples of informal Personal Learning Networks contributing to performance. They are point of need Q&A channels beyond what any bot could provide – as they offer advice and ideas from outside of your organisation – a combination of “how do others do this” and “help please!” Often when we think about the support services we provide we think we can do this via support resources, often we simply have no access to the people our people really need – peers outside the organisation.

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 too 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. ??

Some reflections on learning from recent weeks in a new role

Not working directly in a workplace L&D team for a little while has been nice in some ways.

It has allowed me to reflect once more on the nature of learning and what we are trying to achieve via investments in ‘workplace learning’ teams and initiatives.

This time has only reinforced in mind the reality that everyone at work is learning, all the time.  Those of us who might consider ourselves as ‘learning pros’ are really only able to support this through appropriate infrastructures/scaffolds, interventions, etc.  At the same time trying to ensure, from an employee engagement perspective, that people feel valued and supported.

As I am working in formal education again (albeit now in the 2-18 age range which is mostly new to me) I’ve also gained new insights into what we really mean by ‘learning’, ‘performance improvement’, etc.  It is also clearer to me than ever that the idea school teachers are educators stuck in didactic formal learning (sage on stage/chalk n talk type stuff stymied from change) couldn’t be further from the truth.  This, in part, reinforces my old view about how stuck-up/presumptive a lot of the L&D industry’s focus is.  It also makes the case for more interaction between schools, colleges/universities and workplaces to better leverage technology and better understand what we are all trying to achieve (or “business needs to stop complaining about talent and do more with schools and apprenticeships” as I’ve put it in the past).

More thoughts will no doubt come out of these experiences in coming weeks – first up is a feeling…

Corporate change and the hamster wheel

…A feeling that workplace learning conversations, continue to be stuck like a hamster on a wheel.  This has been triggered by seeing some of the old workplace learning arguments coming up once again on social media in recent weeks and also from a quick flick through of “Beyond Knowledge Management: Dialogue, creativity and the corporate curriculum” which I’ve recently picked up (Bob Garvey and Bill Williamson, 2002 – BKM from here on).

BKM’s forward (by Rosemary Harrison) suggests the book is a “response to…turbulent competitive conditions” and considers/suggests how to tackle this via “the competencies and ethical issues involved in working in a continuous learning environment”.  Here we effectively see the L&D staple of VUCA vs the need for learning organisations to tackle such uncertainty and continuous change.  The point though is that this is from 2002, before VUCA became the standard descriptor.  Consider that with another recent excerpt I got from a book:

href=”https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1092430958437883904″

The answer to the question in the tweet is 1975

The Hawleys were talking about the growing volume of media in the ’70s (TV, magazines, newspapers, etc.) but I thought the quote clearly felt contemporary in the ‘information overload due to the Internet’ era. 

Overall these examples show that, for decades, we’ve been talking about the same issues and really wasting effort in tackling them.  Another recent-ish tweet of mine considered how Mad Men picked up on this in showing that whilst some things have clearly changed, although in areas like racism perhaps not as much as we’d like to think, there are other aspects where the same conversations are happening ad nauseam.  The specific example in my tweet being the rise of the machines:

https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1089955996607434752

That issue being particularly appropriate given that AI, automation and associated technologies are very much the vogue topics in 2019.

The difference in BKM’s title to the more modern conversations would perhaps be that the “corporate curriculum” has come and gone in preference to learning ‘in the workflow’ via increasingly bitesize and flexible provision.  That said, I can consider my own personal experiences in the interim years with global curriculum management (2012-2015) and redefining a UK learning curriculum from local practice to national and accredited (2016-2018).  Compare those six years to someone delivering a traditional curriculum, for example, a traditional ‘trainer’ doing the rounds and you hit the classic of “doing the same thing for six years is one year’s experience versus doing different things for six years is six years’ experience”.  Thus, we hit another L&D trap – an assumption that ‘in workflow’ is the way to go rather than more formalized approaches.  This is in part the snobbery I mentioned previously where white-collar knowledge work is all anyone does (to be fair, BKM is specifically considering issues stemming from the rise of knowledge workers).

Working in a school I’ve already made the point multiple times to pupils that time is the commodity they do not realize is most important.  They will come to realise this in the workplace, of course, but supporting the international baccalaureate is an eyeopener in the specific focus on what we mean by knowledge/learning and what the profile of a learner looks like.  I’d be tempted to say every L&D professional should familiarize themselves with this as, if you are hiring IB graduates, you should have a very different breed of new-hire than if not.  Certainly different than I was at 18 and probably still so after the extra academic skills and instruction of university to 21 and travel/reflection to 22.

So what about dealing with that VUCA world?  Well it was interesting to see the 20th anniversary comments on Office Space (http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20190205-office-space-turns-20-how-the-film-changed-work) and the “Is this good for the company?” culture of the 90s versus the employee wellbeing and engagement culture that is increasing the case today.

One thing where we can be happy to stay on the wheel is in agreeing that learning is continuous, good for the organisation and good for the organisation’s people.