Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Jan 15 2018

Photo by  Patrick Hendry  on  Unsplash


"2018 Annual Letter to CEOs," by Larry Fink, Chairman & CEO, Blackrock

 "We also will continue to emphasize the importance of a diverse board. Boards with a diverse mix of genders, ethnicities, career experiences, and ways of thinking have, as a result, a more diverse and aware mindset. They are less likely to succumb to groupthink or miss new threats to a company’s business model. And they are better able to identify opportunities that promote long-term growth.

 "Furthermore, the board is essential to helping a company articulate and pursue its purpose, as well as respond to the questions that are increasingly important to its investors, its consumers, and the communities in which it operates. In the current environment, these stakeholders are demanding that companies exercise leadership on a broader range of issues. And they are right to: a company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth, which is why we are increasingly integrating these issues into our investment process."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

When the head of Blackrock warns CEOs that they will be monitored for diversity and social impact, you know something is shifting.

Pluralism (what Fink calls diversity) and Social Impact represent two of Basecamp's three core values. Organizations are stronger when we view diversity as strengths to be harmonized, and when we view social impact as a deep sense of purpose to motivate us.

In the future, schools that thrive will intentionally form students to see the moral, ethical, and practical value of pluralism and social impact.


"A Pernicious Myth: Basics Before Deeper Learning," by Jal Mehta, on Education Week

"You can see the appeal of this idea. Foundations before choice. Learn the notes before you play the concerto. But while it is true that most fields have some sequential ordering of topics, it is also true that what David Perkins calls 'playing the whole game at the junior level' has a lot of advantages. Perkins cites Little League as an example: we don't spend a year learning to throw, another to catch, another to bat; rather, we play the whole game of baseball from the beginning, just at the junior level. Playing the whole game gives young players a chance to see how the sport as a whole works, and, just as critically, it means that they get to see why one would want to play the sport. This engenders motivation, which is what provides the fuel to practice the parts. To return to music, even the youngest children play whole pieces of music in concerts, which is a critical part of what gives rhythm and meaning to the work.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

We have said it before, and we will say it again: "content" (i.e., the caricature of traditional learning) vs. "skills" (i.e., the caricature of student-centered learning) is a false choice.

Great student-centered learning is not about choosing one at the expense of the other. Great student-centered learning is about designing experiences that foreground skills and application as a way of engaging learners with content in deeper ways (hence "deeper learning" as a broad synonym for student-centered learning).

Student-centered learning often has a fractal quality: a learner can "walk the perimeter" of the entire problem, come up with a provisional answer,  at which point she discovers that the perimeter expands out into the next fractal. Same shape, same contours, but far more depth and breadth. Hence the analogy to Little League: kids can play the entire game, and as they mature in their skills and understanding they will end up going deeper and wider into the game.

In the future, schools that thrive will scuttle the pernicious myth of "Basics Before Deeper Learning." Instead, they will design student-centered experiences that animate every learner's desire to travel that fractal pattern of problem solving, going as deep and as wide as they want.


"While You Were Sleeping," by Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times

"Artificial intelligence 'is the opportunity of our time, and skills are the issue of our time. Some jobs will be displaced, but 100 percent of jobs will be augmented by A.I.,' added [Ginni] Rometty [CEO of IBM]. Technology companies 'are inventing these technologies, so we have the responsibility to help people adapt to it — and I don’t mean just giving them tablets or P.C.s, but lifelong learning systems.'

"To back that up, said Rometty, IBM designed Pathways in Technology (P-Tech) schools, partnering with close to 100 public high schools and community colleges to create a six-year program that serves large numbers of low-income students. P-Tech schools offer calculus and physics alongside workplace skills — problem solving, writing and job interviewing. These skills are reinforced through mentorships and internships with IBM and more than 300 other companies. Kids graduate in six years or less with both a high school diploma and an associate junior college degree."

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

There is a lot going on in this article by the author of the must-read Thank You For Being Late (2017), but Rometty's comments are especially noteworthy for schools. IBM, Google, and other major corporations are increasingly vocal about the disconnect between school and work. Artificial intelligence will accelerate and deepen that rift. Their solution is to create their own credentialing institutions (some of which may be called schools, like P-Tech; others, such as Google's new IT certification program, provide shorter, more discrete learning experiences). In the future, schools that thrive will be more nimble in designing and credentialing learning for an age of accelerating change.


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Christian Talbot