I have to admit there are days when I long for a simpler time—when learning happened in school, when teachers were always right, and when homework happened at the kitchen table between 3 and 5.
When, as I entered the workforce, a secretary opened my mail and removed the “trivial” while putting the “important” into that two-tiered in-box on my desk. When I had at least 2 days to move things from “in” to “out.” When I had to go to the library or bookstore to read the newest thinking on a topic. And when I actually got to leave my office to attend training.
Those were the good old days—at least they were my introduction to corporate learning. I will bet that many of you have similar memories.
Our kids and the next generation of corporate workers will remember very different “good old days,” and this will influence what they expect from organizations they work for.
This week, I had an opportunity to experience firsthand how some innovative educators are shaping the next generation’s learning experience. Playmaker School, part of New Roads School, in Santa Monica, California, is focused on preparing students to enter today’s global workforce. Using innovative learning tools, Playmaker students are forming new expectations for the learning experience. We can be sure that they will bring these expectations into our organizations in the not-too-distant future!
Joe Wise, who is co-director of Playmaker School and director of the Center for Effective Learning at New Roads School, gave me a quick tour of Playmaker. I was struck by its innovative learning space: open tables, video cameras suspended from the ceiling in a large “adventure room” collaborative space, and two classroom-sized “ideation” and “maker lab” spaces. In the larger collaborative environment, a Playmaker educator is not situated in front of a class as a lecturer, but instead she roams throughout the space as a guide and advisor—walking on oriental carpets amongst learners sitting on the floor—listening in and offering advice and instruction as needed. Even more impactful is the obvious engagement of students: freely moving in and out of spaces, working in small breakout groups, and shooting quick video clips on their laptop in the parking lot.
After my tour, Joe and I sat down for an informal conversation about kids and learning today. It became clear that we are both struggling to evolve learning in an information-rich, fast-paced, and rapidly changing context. Here are four key themes that I took away from the conversation about how Playmaker and the Center for Effective Learning are innovating learning:
- Learning is an active and engaging process. Students use games, simulations, and inquiry to create meaning.
- Learning is collaborative. Students engage in active conversations with teachers, experts, parents, and one another.
- Continuous Learning is the objective. Students are exposed to best practices for lifelong learning, including conscious practice, openness, reflection in action, and experimentation.
- One tool for all users (teachers, parents, students). A real-time tool that enables collaboration, assessment, information sharing, and student management over time.
What does this mean for those of us who will inherit Playmaker’s learners as they enter the corporate world?
- Engagement is not optional. In many corporate classrooms today there is a captive audience. But learners are now beginning to expect that learning be informative and engaging. And their expectation will expand. We should endeavor to offer more engaging learning experiences: real-time projects, simulations, learning games, and apps.
- Collaborative learning over time gets results. As technology allows individuals and groups to extend beyond traditional boundaries, organizational learning (and organizations in general) will be expected to embrace true collaborative work processes. Get ready for your students to expect traditional role and hierarchical structures to disappear from the learning process. Call the CEO and get her take on the strategy? Sure thing!
- Individualized learning. If students in primary and secondary schools can complete an assessment and then plan their own learning curriculum (with input from their parents, of course!), why can’t learners in organizations do the same thing? Get ready for learners to want to sit in the driver seat and make learning choices. While strategy-driven curriculums will remain critical in the future, learners will likely expect a broader degree of freedom to engage in diverse learning experiences.
- Individual real-time feedback. When a Playmaker School student submits an assignment online at 10:05 A.M., the teacher may well review it and provide a comment or further direction at 10:30, and the student then might ask a clarifying question at 10:40 and revise the assignment by 1:15—all of this on the New Roads Learning Tool. Facilitating such a level of interaction with subject-matter experts will require corporations in the future to rethink how they curate the learning conversation—one learner at a time—and link individual learning to group learning.
I left my meeting with Joe feeling hopeful and energized about opportunities to increase collaboration with educators around the world. Let’s take our own advice and collaborate across geographic, corporate, and political boundaries—because “these are the good old days!”
Is your organization prepared for the next generation of workers? Leave your comments below.
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